VFP Gainesville Chapter 14

Veterans For Peace

Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones | Informed Comment

Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones | Informed Comment.

As we mourn the tragic deaths of American children murdered in Connecticut, let us also remember that an even larger tragedy is unfolding as our secret foreign policy rains death and destruction by Drone attack over the Middle East. According to Juan Cole:

some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime.

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It’s Time to Stop Killing in Secret-The Drone Wars

The idea that the president can authorize the killing of a human being far from any traditional battlefield without any publicly accessible set of constraints, conditions, or requirements is unacceptable in a country committed to the rule of law. In his first and only speech on security and our national ideals, at the National Archives in May 2009, President Obama insisted that adherence to the rule of law is essential in the fight against terror, and to that end, promised to be transparent about his actions “so that [the people] can make informed judgments and hold us accountable.” Yet after four years and hundreds of killings authorized in secret, the most the president has been able to offer us about the scope of his most awesome power is a handful of vague paragraphs in a handful of administration officials’ speeches, which experts must then parse for clues as to what the rules might actually be.

via It’s Time to Stop Killing in Secret by David Cole | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

This secrecy is causing some severe problems for our Democracy. Here are four cited by the author David Cole in Its Time to Stop Killing in Secret :

1. Critics claim that the attacks have resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. The administration has suggested that these charges are exaggerated, and that the attacks are extraordinarily precise, generating only minimal collateral damage. But since the administration will not acknowledge even its decision to undertake any specific attack, it cannot give its side of the story in any credible way.

2. The administration claims it targets “imminent” threats to the United States, invoking the international law concept of self-defense. But as I have noted previously there are serious questions about how it defines “imminent.” The core idea of the imminence requirement is that a state should not attack unless there is no time left, so that lethal force is being used only as a last resort. Yet until now, we have yet to see a single report of a drone strike actually halting a truly imminent attack on the United States. Instead, the administration appears to have redefined imminence to be satisfied by the fact that an individual is a member of a group that seeks to attack the United States whenever it has the chance to do so. Thus, US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was said to pose an imminent threat even though there was no claim he was engaged in any sort of attack or preparations for an attack when we killed him in Yemen with a drone. Without public rules, we don’t know what criteria the administration is using for its decisions; and without acknowledgement of the grounds for specific attacks, we can’t assess whether those criteria are being properly applied.

3. The Times reports that the drone strikes, initially justified as focused on the senior commanders of al-Qaeda, have more recently been deployed against militants who are not part of al-Qaeda and do not directly threaten the United States at all, but who are enemies of states with which we are seeking to curry favor, such as Pakistan and Yemen. If this is correct, this would be a dramatic expansion of drone policy, one that veers far from any justification in the law of war. But again, because the policy is secret, we don’t know why the administration feels such strikes are warranted.

4. Finally, the administration apparently authorizes not only “personality strikes” to target identified and known individuals who have been placed on a “kill list” by an advance review process, but also “signature strikes,” in which drones are used to kill unidentified individuals who are acting in ways that suggest that they are combatants, that they belong to a particular militant or terrorist group. Such attacks might well have a place on a hot battlefield, where the law of war has never required soldiers to identify their enemies before shooting at them. But the president has also reportedly authorized “signature strikes” in Yemen, far from any battlefield, where we are not at war, and where it is much more difficult to assign combatant status to individuals based on patterns of activity.

The above issues illustrate why the article closes with:

The rules of the game need to be public, so that they can be debated and assessed, and so that we the people can hold our leaders accountable to the laws they claim to be following in secret.

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The ‘Red Dawn’ Case for Cutting U.S. Defense Spending – Businessweek

Despite its less-than-blockbuster performance, Red Dawn turns out to be surprisingly trenchant —though probably not in the way the film’s creators intended. In particular, the movie makes a powerful case for why the U.S. should take a sledgehammer to its military budget.

via The ‘Red Dawn’ Case for Cutting U.S. Defense Spending – Businessweek.

If you remember the original movie the US is effectively defended by a band of teenage drop outs.  So the question that comes up is why we need a roughly trillion dollar plus yearly defense budget. (I am including extras like the debt and war appropriations and other DOD expenses like the Drone program that are “off the books” black ops).

And the US public agrees:

In Harris polls since 2008 the percentage favoring defense cuts has risen from 35 percent to 42 percent. Of five areas of expenditure—Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid, and defense—the military was only area where a majority (60 percent) suggested spending should be cut to reduce the deficit. In a YouGov poll, when asked if they would support a tax increase to maintain America’s current military advantage over rising powers such as China, only 30 percent of respondents suggested that they would—with 50 percent clearly stating they would not

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Manning Testifies About His Torture; Was it Aimed at Turning Him on Assange?

Manning Testifies About His Torture; Was it Aimed at Turning Him on Assange?.

From the testimony as observed by Michael Ratner,

This report of the testimony at the trial comes from Michael Ratner President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

The main burden of the psychiatrists’ testimony—this was by the defense—was that they did not recommend that Bradley Manning should be put on suicide risk or on preventive injury risk, that he should be treated like the regular population. But, in fact, for this year, he was treated as if he was a suicide risk. And because of that, he was treated very badly, and probably even worse than people put on that are treated. Normally, those treatments are for four to seven days. The psychiatrists uniformly recommended that Bradley Manning should be treated as normal in the regular population. That was disregarded both—that was disregarded at Quantico in Virginia, where he was ultimately sent for about nine months.

The Bradley Takes the stand:

What you expected about Bradley Manning, particularly after all the negative press about all his problems, all his issues, about his sexuality and the military, etc., what you got was somebody very different. He opens his mouth, and you had this confident, bright, intelligent, articulate person who could really describe what happened to him, not nervous, straightforward.

And what happened to him was really outrageous. It was an essential effort to break him down as a human being. And I’ll just summarize it quickly. The first two months, roughly, he was held at a military camp in Kuwait. And here’s how he was held. He said he went into a tent, and there were two cages like they keep animals, each about 8-foot cubes. He was put into one of the cages. The other cage was empty. And he was essentially kept there almost the entire two months. Most of the time had to eat in those cages.

Ratner’s take on the Ideal Outcome:

the ideal case would be that Manning should be acquitted in this case and the government should be tried

So True!  This is well worth watching in its entirety (16 plus minutes) Watch the rest on the video above.

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What It’s Like to Go to War |Bill Moyers interviews Marine combat veteran on War and PTSD

Full Show: What It’s Like to Go to War | Moyers & Company | BillMoyers.com.

Karl Marlantes, Yale graduate and Rhodes Scholar, has written two books on his experiences serving in combat in Vietnam. A Marine who was awarded the Navy Cross,  He articulates the causes and consequences of PTSD clearly, drawing on his own battle experiences in a powerful way.  An excellent message for all those who are considering signing up for war or who have no experience of war.

Marlantes describes the essential breaking point of combat experience:

“’Thou shalt not kill’ is a tenet you just do not violate, and so all your young life, that’s drilled into your head. And then suddenly, you’re 18 or 19 and they’re saying, ‘Go get ‘em and kill for your country.’ And then you come back and it’s like, ‘Well, thou shalt not kill’ again. Believe me, that’s a difficult thing to deal with,”

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Breaking Private Manning | The UN Ruled it Torture

“[If] you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, D.C.… what would you do? … It’s important that it gets out…it might actually change something… hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms…”

via Breaking Private Manning | MyFDL.

The quote above is Attributed to Private Bradley Manning a 23 year old army soldier and whistle-blower.  So what exactly has the UN Special Rapporteur found to be cruel and inhumane treatment?

“Bradley Manning is being punished – and tortured – for a crime that amounts to believing one’s highest duty is to the American people and not the American government


bradley manning

Bradley Manning

By the time the 23-year-old soldier’s court martial starts on February 4, 2013, Bradley Manning will have spent 983 days in prison, including nine months in solitary confinement, without having been convicted of a single crime. These conditions include the nine-month period spent 23 hours a day in a six-by-eight-foot cell where he was forbidden to lie down or even lean against a wall when he was not sleeping – and when he was allowed to sleep at night, officers woke him every five minutes – and where he was subjected to daily strip searches and forced nudity. ”

And why was this done? To break Manning and force him to implicate Wikileaks and Julian Assange all to no avail.  The real story here involved not only Wikileaks and Assange but also the New York Times and UK Guardian which published parts of the classified documents released to them by Wikileaks who received them from an anonymous source.

The real story here is whether we can continue as a Democracy when our government constantly hides its business behind Secrecy Acts and prevents public knowledge of wrong doing with intimidation and torture of a US citizen who I and many others would call a true patriot.

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Scott Camil: A Winter Soldier Carries On

Scott Camil: A Winter Soldier Carries On | Web2Carz.

Great Article about our VFP coordinator, Scott Camil.  The article gives a good comprehensive history of Scot’s career as a Marine and a peace activist. It also illustrates Scott’s strength as a community organizer by combining an ability to bring many different people together with honest critical thinking about the problems we face.

The article quotes a Marine corps Fitness Report: Scott is praised for “his organizational skills, his fierce motivation, and his keen ability to instruct enlisted men and officers alike”.  These are skills those of us who work with Scott today are well aware of. In fact the article points out that
the military reviewers “couldn’t possibly have known that the 21-year-old sergeant would apply the same skills which made him a good marine to a tireless life of activism.”

The article turns around a reunion of Scot’s unit in Vietnam. Scott sums up their coming together in a very touching and hopeful way:

“What are amazing (about the people at the reunion) are the varying backgrounds, where we are politically, what we believe in and what we stand for is so different. But when we’re together, we’re fucking Marines first, Americans first, and the other bullshit doesn’t matter and that’s how our country should be.”

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The Drone War Continues

CHildren in the middle East under dronw attacks

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Bring Me Home: Is this the future Our Children Should Face?

POWERFUL! This 52 Second Clip Will Produce A Lump In Your Throat – Democratic Underground.

Many of our soldiers serving Afghanistan today were Elementary school students when the War started.  What will our present day 8 and 9 year old children be doing in 10 more years?


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Nobel Laureates Salute Bradley Manning

Nobel Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu,known as the conscience of South Africa< Adolpho Perez Esquivel, a champion of nonviolent solutions in South America and Mairead Maguire who worked to end conflict in Northern Ireland all salute the efforts of Bradley Manning and Wiki leaks to inform citizens about violence that their governments try to hide from them and protest the inhumane treatment of Manning in military custody.

As people who have worked for decades against the increased militarization of societies and for international cooperation to end war, we are deeply dismayed by the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning.
We have dedicated our lives to working for peace because we have seen the many faces of armed conflict and violence, and we understand that no matter the cause of war, civilians always bear the brunt of the cost. With today’s advanced military technology and the continued ability of business and political elites to filter what information is made public, there exists a great barrier to many citizens being fully aware of the realities and consequences of conflicts in which their country is engaged.

via Nobel Laureates Salute Bradley Manning | The Nation.

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