U.S. Weapons Proliferation

July 31, 2007

Yesterday, the Bush administration announced that they would give 20 billion dollars worth of arms to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. According to the party line this is a viable attempt to bolster our relationships in the Middle East. This deal of course was opposed by Israel so to accompany the deal with the Gulf States the U.S. has increased military aid to Israel by 43%, adding 9.1 billion more dollars. Bush believes that heavily arming the Sunni Saudi Arabia will help the U.S. isolate Iran, a county supportive of the Shiite sect. This move is more of the same political posturing that will only further inflame the violence in Iraq and in the Middle Eat as a whole.

My first question is why are we friends with Saudi Arabia? Human rights violations alone should be enough to consider it a difficult state. But there is more. Saudi Arabia has been a negative influence on our occupation in many of the same ways that the President accuses Iran. A New York Times article recently pointed to U.S. intelligence which said, “Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.” Adding to this a senior administration official says he has seen evidence that Saudi Arabia is providing financial support to opponents of Mr. Nuri al-Maliki. Despite this the Bush administration continues to point only to Iran and Syria as counter productive to peace in the region.

My second question – how is giving weapons to sworn enemies going to promote peaceful dialogue? Israeli military forces, disabled after their loss last summer to Hezbollah, now see an opportunity to reassert their military influence in the region. Iran sees another example of the U.S. destabilizing the region to our own advantage – this will only further inflame radical groups in Iran and all over the Middle East. Even if this military power is only a perception at this point it emboldens one state to try to undermine another.

My third question – will we as citizens let our government use our cries for peace to further promote violence? The U.S., for its part, is set on political posturing and weapons proliferation – perhaps in an attempt to extract ourselves from Iraq and let the larger states in the region fight for control. I am sure that Bush sees this as an opportunity to show his popularity with some states in the Middle East and a way to boost the U.S. economy. Our leadership in this deal will bring nothing but blood.

Despite the political players and their influence on our occupation of Iraq proliferating weapons will never foster peace. This is a basic principle. The only way to engage the regional players in Iraq is through conflict resolution dialogue. A cold or hot war with Iran will be devastating – our actions in the past week will do nothing but promote that war.


THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA

July 25, 2007

If you follow the Bush administration’s line of thinking (at least the line they have used in their talking points) we have been having trouble with Iran for decades. In fact, it was highly publicized that the recent talks with Iran were the first since a 20 year diplomatic freeze between the two states. According to James Dobbins, who was the Bush administration’s first envoy for Afghanistan after September 11th, that is hardly the case. His insights in a July 22nd Washington Post column shed light on how we have and can continue to engage Iran as a partner for stabilizing the Middle East and fighting al-Qaeda.

“Many believe that in the wake of Sept. 11, the United States formed an international coalition and toppled the Taliban. It would be more accurate to say that the U.S. joined a coalition that had been battling the Taliban for nearly a decade. This coalition – made up of Iran, India, Russia and the Northern Alliance, and aided by massive American airpower – drove the Taliban from power.”

This was not an anxious alliance, Dobbins goes on to emphasize the openness of the talks in 2001 during the U.N. conference in Bonn, Germany. “The Iranian representatives were particularly helpful…then-Secretary of State Colin Powell authorized me to meet anywhere, anytime, on any matter with any Iranian official, as long as our discussions related to Afghanistan.”

Contrast this attitude toward Iran with that of the Bush administration in 2007 when talks on Iraq went into their second, most recent, session. “U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said he also challenged Iran over its suspected support for other radical groups in the Middle East such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran rejected all of the accusations, he said…. Crocker said there had been several “heated exchanges” in the seven hours of talks, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari described them as ‘very challenging.’” (Associated Press)

So what happened to our coalition against terrorists? “Only weeks after Hamid Karzai was sworn in as interim leader in Afghanistan, President Bush listed Iran among the ‘axis of evil’ – surprising payback for Tehran’s help in Bonn.” I can’t speculate on the reasoning for this change – I can only condemn it.

If we truly seek a democratic and stable Middle East region we cannot continue on this path. Iraq is a central place to bring our diplomatic relations back into reality. “None of Iraq’s neighbors was eager for the invasion four years ago ….All are now worried that the civil war in Iraq will serve as a breeding ground for terror and violence that will be increasingly exported to their own countries.” (Brookings)

Iran has the most capability to be a decisive force given its intimate ties to virtually every Shia and Kurdish politician, its geography and its economic connections.” Iran’s influence in Iraq is more than apparent. Their cooperation in the stabilization and re-building of Iraq is essential to creating a workable plan.

The Bush administration would have us believe that staying in Iraq is the only option. Samuel Berger and Bruce Riedel would vehemently disagree. These Brookings scholars believe that Iraq’s neighbors cannot engage with the U.S. diplomatically before we end our occupation. Most notably, Iran fears Iraq becoming a base for the U.S to launch an attack against their country. Why would they cooperate if the feel threatened?

Creating a peaceful region without a permanent U.S. presence should be the number one priority of all involved. The first step toward this end is a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and cooperation with Iran akin to that of 2001.


Iraq Toll

July 25, 2007

Those who died in Iraq from Jul 15 to 21:

Eric M Holke  31  Crestline CA

Cpl Shawn Stankovich  20  Arlington WA

Maj Jaroslav Pozadzy  39  Poland

Pvt Brandon Bobb  20  Orlando FL

Pvt Ron Joshua Jr  19  Austin TX

Sgt Nathan Barnes  23  American Fork UT

CPO Patrick Wade  38  Key West FL

PO Jeffrey Chaney  35  Omaha NE

Pvt James Harrelson  19  Dadeville AL

Spc Zachary Clouser  19  Dover PA

Spc Daniel Gomez  21  Warner Robbins GA

Spc Richard Gilmore III  22  Jasper AL

Sgt Luis Gutierrez  38  Bakersfield CA

Sgt Ronald Coffelt  36  Fair Oaks CA

Cpl Brandon Craig  25  Earleville MD

Air Peter McFerran  24  Wales UK

Air Christopher Dunsmore  29  Leicester UK

Air Matthew Caldwell  22  Birmingham UK

Cpl Rhett Butler  22  Fort Worth TX

Cpl Timothy Flowers  25  No Ireland UK

Sgt Jacob Schmuecker  27  Atkinson NE

Cpl Christopher Scherer  21  E Northport NY

5 were seriously wounded.

105 wounded were returned to kill fields.

492 Iraqi sisters and brothers were killed.


Kevin Martin, PA Exc. Director on Pacificia Radio

July 20, 2007

The roundtable is about the need for real security and a drastic change in U.S. foreign policy.

Check it out:  www.uprisingradio.org


Iraq Toll

July 18, 2007

I recieve updates on the number of casualties in Iraq on a regular basis. As a tribute to their sacrifice and a reminder of the price we pay for wars we create I will regluarly post these names to the Peace Blog.

Those who died in Iraq from Jul 8 to 14:

Cpl Kory Wiens 20 Independence MO

Pvt Bruce Salazar Jr 24 Tracy CA

Sgt Gene Lamie 25 Homerville GA

Pvt LeRon Wilson 18 Queens NY

Cpl Christopher Read 22 Dorset UK

Pvt Jason Dore 25 Moscow ME

Cap Maria Ortiz 40 Bayamon PR

Sgt Jeffrey McKinney 40 Garland TX

Sgt Courtney Johnson 26 Garner NC

Sgt Allen Greka 29 Alpena MI

Pvt Christopher Kube 18 Sterling Hts MI

Sgt John Massey 29 Judsonia AR

Pvt Benjamin Bartlett Jr 25 Manchester GA

Spc Robert Varga 24 Monroe City MO

55 were seriously wounded and maimed.

82 wounded were returned to occupation.

625+ Iraqi sisters and brothers were killed.

Cf: www.icasualties.org

In peace and with the hope for a better future,

Barb


The Nuclear Question…there should be no question.

July 17, 2007

The recent tragedy in Japan, where an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 injured 47 people and killed 9, sparks another debate about the use of nuclear materials in our world. In the earthquake two nuclear energy plants, owned and operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), were near the epicenter and were damaged during the event. The following are excerpts from a Guardian Article describing the damage to these 2 facilities: 50 cases of malfunctioning and trouble have been found since the quake Monday.

In 5 reactors major exhaust pipes were knocked out of place and TEPCO was investigating whether they had leaked radioactive materials.

100 drums containing low-level nuclear waste feel at the plant. Some were found with their lids wide open.

Small amounts of radioactive materials, cobalt-60 and chromium-51, have been emitted into the atmosphere from an exhaust stack.

A small fire caused a leak of water containing radioactive material.

While TEPCO insists that no significant damage was done to the environment and they claim there are no health concerns as yet. Japanese Prime Minister took a less flippant view of the outcome saying, “They raised the alert too later. I have sent them stern instructions that such alerts must be raised seriously and swiftly. Those involved should repent for their actions.”

The effects of leaked nuclear materials are clear from the incidences at 3-mile Island and Chernobyl. The environmental and human causalities are devastating. In Ukraine birth defects and cancer are common even 21 years later.

Despite this, and the obviously catastrophic implications of a nuclear bomb, there are still people who refuse to support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It is beyond time for the U.S. to take a leadership role in nuclear abolition.

The future of our world is dependant on our outrage. Each time these poisons enter our water and air systems we jeopardize the health and safety of the next generation. We must remind our leaders that there is never a nuclear option.


Working the Political System

July 12, 2007

The Senate has let down the troops and the nation once more. Despite new pushes from both the Democratic and Republican sides of the isle the voices of moderation, peace, and patriotism were overshadowed by those of the war mongers and politicos. A bill, proposed by Sen. Jim Webb, one of the few Senators who have a child serving in Iraq, was centered on troop readiness: it said, “Men and women serving in the military deserved the same amount of time at home that they served overseas. The proposal died when the Senate voted 56 to 41 against moving to a vote, four short under the Senate’s rules.” (New York Times July 12, 2007).

A number of Republican Senators have come out and claimed “there needs to be a change of course in Iraq.” Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner (R., Va.) and former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar (R., Ind.), worked with the White House at the outset of the war; but, are drafting their own legislation to force the President to ‘change course.’ I would ask, what does this ‘change’ mean? Wall Street Journal – July 12, 2007

The same is true for Democrats who are hungry to set themselves apart as the peace party. Sen. Carl Levin, who is a Chairperson on the Armed Services Committee, has proposed a mandatory deadline for troop withdrawal by April 30th. Sen. Harry Reid and Levin have co-sponsored another bill demanding a complete withdrawal in 120 days after enactment.

Another piece of bi-partisan legislation, brought by Sen.’s Ken Salazar and Lamar Alexander, calls to change the mission in Iraq with a goal of getting troops out by the end of March. New York Times – July 12, 2007

Of course, none of these Senators are talking about the massive project of reconstruction in Iraq; the amount of work and money it will take to fix the mess we created in Iraq.

Part of what is keeping Iraq votes stagnant is the hard-line attitude of some Senators. “Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, sought to close ranks in advance of the vote {on Webb’s amendment}. In a private meeting, an aide confirmed, he urged members not to join the “wimps,” a term he used to describe senators who have broken with the president” (New York Times – July 12, 2007). On the other side, “Reid harshly dismissed the measure with the broadest bipartisan backing — a compilation of Iraq Study Group recommendations offered by freshman Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.). The Salazar proposal, which as of last night had attracted six Democratic and six Republican co-sponsors, “won’t change one thing that the president does,” Reid said, who is opposed to anything short of legislation ending U.S. combat operations.” (Washington Post – July 12, 2007)

 

Not one Senator legislatively acknowledges the impossibility of the situation in Iraq and the decades it will take to rebuild the countries infrastructure, government, and culture. Bush wants to wait until September to judge the situation — but even from oceans away we, the people of the United States, know the situation is grim. It will be grim in September and for the next few decades. All we can do it push for responsibility and peace.

It seems our representatives are in need of some guidance from the public. Peace Action has prepared a tool for you to contact your representatives during this critical time. We have pre-written a letter based on our priorities but I encourage you to change it to suit your view. Most importantly please remember to speak out. “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate tireless minority keep to set brushfires in peoples minds” (Samuel Adams).


Dying to Get Paid in Iraq

July 5, 2007

The issue of Iraq is not one that is only debated in our halls of government. Corporate interests have a heavy say in the war through private contracts vetted by the U.S. military. A recently Los Angeles Times Article (one heavily quoted in this blog) said, “The number of U.S. paid, private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government’s capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.” The contracts given for the missions in Iraq were given to private companies with links to the Bush administration in 2003 without a proper bidding process required by law.

Government officials claim that some duties are contracted out because they provide necessary services giving military personal time to engage in combat operations. The problem, of course, is that private contractors, unlike military personal, are not subject to the same rules of engagement and code of conduct the U.S. military is said to enforce. “At one point in 2004, for example, U.S. forces were put on food rations when (contracted) drivers balked at taking supplies into a combat zone.” These logistical contracts are primarily owned by Kellog Brown & Root (a Houston-based oil services company) and its parent company Halliburton Co.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the security contracts held by Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Erinys. “We don’t have control of all the coalition guns in Iraq. That’s dangerous for our country,” said William Nash, a retired Army general and reconstruction expert. Military policy experts report that on several occasions “heavily armed private contractors have engaged in firefights when attacked by Iraqi insurgents.”

This brings to light the question, why are civilians engaging in activities mandated to the military? The answer is, as always, money. Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar said, “This is not the coalition of the willing. It’s a coalition of the billing.”

This ‘billed coalition’ is counter productive to keeping troops safe and getting them home faster. Because they are not subject to any law, they help to create dangerous situations for themselves and U.S. troops. Democracy Now has been following a case against Blackwater whose contractors were brutally killed in Iraq. Jeremy Scahill, author of the New York Times bestseller, “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, said, “We have to remember that when those four men were killed in Fallujah, dragged through the streets, strung up from a bridge, the Bush administration responded by laying siege to the Iraqi city of Fallujah, carrying out some incredible 37,000 air strikes. Hundreds of people were killed. Thousands were displaced from their homes. In many ways, it was the week that the war turned and that the anti-occupation resistance exploded.”

So, as our Representatives on both sides proclaim their disdain for the war and refuse to take substantial action to end it, let us be reminded of the links between corporate and government interests. We cannot allow our leaders to maintain the status quo while people are dying by the thousands, money is wasted, and our reputation as a country is flushed down a million dollar toilet. Find out who paid for you Reps re-election campaign and you just may have some insight into why they consistently vote against the will of the American people. As activists, we are derelict in our mission if we don’t engage this topic in our work.


Taking Action for Peace: 50 years in the making

July 3, 2007

Below is our press release about the recently released book on Peace Action. We love to hear about your take on the peace movement over the past 50 years. Tell us how you have been active and how you would like Peace Action to continue for the next 50 years.

AMERICA’S LARGEST PEACE NETWORK PUBLISHES ANTHOLOGY

(Silver Spring, MD) Peace Action: Past, Present, and Future is a collection of lively essays written by prominent leaders and supporters of Peace Action and its two important predecessors—the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.

Editors Glen H. Stassen and Lawrence S. Witter survey a half-century of the work in the peace movement by three of the largest and most influential peace organizations in American history. With a foreword by Representative Barbara Lee, this book provides a unique resource for understanding popular protest against nuclear weapons and war in the modern era. It also illuminates the local, national, and international role of Peace Action today.

Peace Action: Past Present and Future is published by Paradigm Publishers, and will be retailing for $16.95 through the publisher and Peace Action.

Glen Harold Stassen, Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary, in addition to Peace Action: Past Present, and Future has edited Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War, and authored Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Peace and Justice, Living the Sermon on the Mount, and Kingdom Ethics. He is a long respected activist and scholar and is a board member of Peace Action.

Lawrence S. Wittner, Professor of History at the State University of New York at Albany, is the author of Rebels Against War: The American Peace Movement, 1933-1983, Cold War America: From Hiroshima to Watergate, The Struggle Against the Bomb (an award-winning trilogy), and of numerous other books and articles. He is a prominent historian who serves on the national board of Peace Action.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was elected to represent California‘s ninth Congressional District in 1998. She is the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, First Vice-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and a Senior Democratic Whip.

This book is dedicated to the late William Sloane Coffin, Jr. and produced in conjunction with Peace Action’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Contributing authors: Sandy Gottlieb, Monica Green, Marcus Raskin, Andrea Ayvazian, Cora Weiss, Jim Wallis, David Cortright, Jon Rainwater and Kevin Martin, Peace Action Executive Director.

Peace Action, with over 100,000 members and nearly 100 chapters in 34 states, works to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs.


Military Targets Rev. Lennox Yearwood of Hip Hop Caucus

July 2, 2007

An Open Letter to America:
“Now is the time for us to stand up and stand together”
By Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.

July 1, 2007

My Fellow Americans:

The power of our voices against the U.S. occupation of Iraq is reaching the top echelons of the military and the administration.  Our government is persecuting Americans who speak out against the U.S. military presence in Iraq.  The U.S. military has launched politicized attacks on its own military members and moral leaders who oppose the war to discredit their voices of dissent. 

We have seen them target Cpl. Adam Kokesh to stop him from exercising his freedom of speech, after risking his life in Fallujah, Iraq.  We have seen them threaten Sgt. Liam Madden for publicly stating the legal fact that the U.S. invasion is a war crime according to the Nuremberg principles.  They have targeted Cpl. Cloy Richards, a soldier put in the media spotlight when his mother Tina Richards worked to get him the health care he needs after returning from Iraq eighty percent disabled.  These are not happenstance targets.  These young men are leaders of the Iraq Veterans Against the War and they are speaking out in a strong and coordinated way. 

And now I have been targeted. 

Who am I?  Many of you know me as a reverend, an activist, an architect of Hip Hop politics and a freedom fighter, but I am also an Officer in the United States Air Force Reserve.  I have long been in the struggle for peace and freedom and I serve proudly as a leader of faith.  I joined the military as part of the “poor peoples draft” – to help pay for my education.  In May 2000 I was commissioned as an Officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and was accepted into the Chaplain Candidates program.  In 2002 I graduated from Howard University School of Divinity, Magna Cum Laude.  I was ordained a Reverend and Elder in the Church of God in Christ shortly after my graduation and today I remain in good standing in the Church.  In May 2003 I completed the Chaplain Candidates program, but I decided not to pursue a career as a Chaplain in the Air Force.  I have been in the Air Force Reserve Individual Reserve program ever since. 

On March 26th of this year I received notification from the Air Force that they are taking action to honorably discharge me on the basis of “behavior clearly inconsistent with the interest of national security.”  Ironically, this letter arrived six days after I announced the launching of a national “Make Hip Hop Not War” Tour at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

On July 12, 2007, when I leave Robbins Air Force Base after my discharge hearing, whether I remain an Officer or not, I will be a leader always, and a patriot evermore committed to ending this immoral war.

In February 2003 I felt the sense of urgency many felt in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq to speak out.  Even though I was only a Chaplain Candidate and a 2nd Lieutenant, when I had the opportunity to preach at Andrews Air Force Base, the home of Air Force One, the message that I preached was “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”  Since then hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans have lost their lives and we now face a state of permanent warfare in our world. 

This moment in history is our generation’s lunch-counter moment – Iraq is our Vietnam and New Orleans is our Birmingham.  Our generation could be the generation to defeat racism, poverty and war, but only if we come together as people of conscience.  In the movements of the 60’s, solidarity among the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement was never truly achieved.  As the “Hip Hop generation” – a generation where the sons and daughters of former slaves work side by side with the sons and daughters of former slave owners – we have the ability to bridge the gap and link movements for peace, justice, civil rights and the environment in true solidarity. 

We will not make the world safer – or achieve true national security – by starting wars that put our humanity at risk and we are certainly not making our country safer by intimidating veterans who courageously speak out.  Policies that address the issues of poverty, racism, climate change, the economy and jobs are at the core of national security.  I will continue to speak out against the war, seek justice for Katrina survivors, fight against racism, struggle for equality and advocate for a healthy planet.  I hardly think that this sort of behavior is “inconsistent with the interest of national security.”

My brothers and sisters, opposition to this illegal war and occupation is not a cause – it constitutes a response to a state of emergency.  It is our urgent responsibility to stop this war.  According to the Book of Psalms, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  I know it looks bad now and our hope seems to wane and sometimes we want to give up.  But, if we can all come together – black and white, brown and yellow, rich and poor, male and female, straight and gay, republican and democrat – whether you still love this country or are withdrawn in anger, not only can we defeat this war and restore justice and democracy, there will once again be joy in the morning.

My mother in the movement, Cindy Sheehan, will be with me on July 12th at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and I urge you to join me on the 12th as well.  I also urge you to continue to increase your activism.  This is our lunch-counter moment. 
<!–[endif]–>

For Future Generations,

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is President of the Hip Hop Caucus.  Much needed donations to his legal defense fund can be made at:

Online donations: www.hiphopcaucus.org

Checks, money orders or cash can be sent to:           

Hip Hop Caucus

1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600
,
Washington
, DC 20036.

You can contact the Hip Hop Caucus at 202.787.5256 or at info@hiphopcaucus.org.

Please visit iraqmoratorium.org, ivaw.org, declarationofpeace.org, unitedforpeace.org grassrootsamerica4us.org, worldcantwait.org, votersforpeace.org, democracyrising.us, codepink4peace.org, and impeachcheney.org. 


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