Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Drones- A Threat to Our National Security and Civil Liberties!


About 40 people joined in a spirited anti-drone protest on April 13 in New Paltz, NY. It was part of a nationwide day of action called for by ANSWER- "US Drones Out of Africa, Middle East, Asia and Everywhere".  Jack Smith (pictured on the right) and Donna Goodman from the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter were the organizers.

Drones are robotic, killing machines that now make up 1/3 of US warplanes. They are terrorizing civilians and wounding and killing children and innocent people around the world. It is estimated that over 4,000 have been killed by US drones and only 2% of them have been high level terrorists. At least 180 children have been killed by our drones. Many kids in Pakistan have stopped going to school for fear of being killed by one.

"Drones have replaced Guantanamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants."
                                      5/29/12 New York Times

They also pose a real threat to our civil liberties here at home. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 30,000 of them flying in US airspace. Consider the Argus drone which can fly three miles up and can zoom in on a candy-bar sized object on the ground with its 368 cameras with 1.8 billion pixels! Manufacturers also boast that these drones can be weaponized to deploy tear gas, rubber bullets, tasar technology and more.

Drones represent the murder of innocents,  war without time or geographical limits, illegal targeted assassinations, a permanent war economy and the end of freedom as we have known it.

People are rising up to say NO to these weaponized, intrusive spying machines.  Charlottesville, VA was the first city to outlaw them. In Seattle, the mayor and chief of police returned their two drones to the vendor after a public outcry.

Be a part of the outcry! Join the No Drones Network and get involved with ANSWER.

This event was co-sponsored by New Paltz Women in Black, Occupy Southern Ulster, Mideast Crisis Response, Real Majority Project, Dutchess Peace, Dutchess Greens, and other groups.

photo by Donna Goodman- all others by Barbara Upton
From our No Drones Action last October

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Terrorism, Heroism and the Long Suffering of War

From the Occupy Wall St Light Brigade and the Illuminator Collective

The rest of that quote from Martin Luther King is: 
"Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

Although my heart is still heavy after Monday's terrorist attack, I am drawing some hope and inspiration from the overall response from the American people and how it is different from the uber- patriotic, angry and aggressive tone after 9/11. With the exception of a handful of haters hurling anti-Muslim epithets, most are focusing on helping and honoring the victims, building community, caring for one another and helping each other to be strong and resilient. The emphasis is on healing, peace and love.

One of the Many Vigils in Boston and Around the Country       AP Julio Cortez
Alexander Brian (aka Carlos) Arredondo in his cowboy hat helping the injured
The face of caring in this tragedy is Alexander Brian (aka Carlos)  Arredondo, dubbed the Boston Cowboy. He was one of the first to leap over barricades to get to the injured and apply tourniquets from his own clothing to save lives.

Interestingly, I had written about Mr Arrendondo in 2004 because his story at that time was so dramatic and so moving.

On his 44th birthday, he saw a van of Marines pulling up to his house and thought it was a birthday surprise and that he'd soon be reunited with his son. When, instead, Carlos heard that Alexander had been killed in action in Iraq, he fell apart. He poured gasoline on himself and lit it. He suffered burns on over a quarter of his body and had to attend Alexander's funeral on a stretcher. After 10 months of recuperation, Carlos found a channel for his overwhelming grief- he began going around the country with a portable memorial to his son including a coffin covered with Alex's photos. He became a well known and respected peace activist taking the memorial to over 30 states. At an anti-war demonstration in DC he was attacked and beaten by counter-protestors, Gathering of the Eagles, but that did not stop him from raging against war and the terrible toll it takes on the troops and their families.

Mr Arrendondo traveling with the memorial to his son Alexander
It is hard to believe, but the tragedy did not end with Alexander's death. On the day the Iraq War ended, Alexander's younger brother Brian,who never got over his brother's death, killed himself. Today, Carlos says he and his wife are "broken people". He dedicates his life to honoring the memories of both of his sons. He did them proud on Monday.

I hear this story and think  about the shattered lives of the mothers, fathers, widows, widowers, the children and all who loved the 6,560 US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think about the tens of thousands of veterans who suffer from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, missing limbs, and other grievous wounds and how it may affect them and their loved ones for the rest of their lives. I think of the fact that 22 veterans commit suicide everyday and am filled with sadness for all the grieving families who will never be the same. The suffering of war is long, deep and often invisible to most Americans.

After 9/11, we invaded Afghanistan and in a short time killed more civilians than died on 9/11. We also lost our moral compass and engaged in torture (on Tuesday, a report by a nonpartisan think tank said it was "indisputable" that the US tortured following 9/11 and that the highest US officials were responsible). As a member of New Paltz Women in Black, we began standing in a weekly peace vigil in November of 2001, calling for justice for the 9/11 attacks, not revenge. We have continued standing for peace every Saturday since then.

Many now see that a violent reaction to violence only breeds more violence. In Iraq, a country utterly devastated by our immoral and illegal war of choice, 60 were killed and close to 300 wounded in 30 separate bomb attacks on the same day as the Marathon bombing. Forty-five percent of Americans now say neither war was worth the terrible price paid in blood and treasure ($2 trillion and expected to rise to $4 to $6 trillion).

I hope we will have the courage this time to see where US policies result in unacceptable, civilian violence that alienates and radicalizes people in other parts of the world. Over 4,000 people (including over 160 children) have been killed by our drones; pilotless, flying, killing machines. It is estimated that only 2% of those killed were high value Al Qaeda leaders. Many children in Pakistan have stopped going to school for fear of being attacked. How would we feel if China was going after high value terrorists in this country and killed our children as they walked to school?

Honest exploration of what is being done in our name does not mean, in any way, that the people who were killed or wounded in Boston deserved what happened to them. Of course not. But, if we want a safer world, we have to draw on our greater wisdom, empathy and compassion and see the bigger picture. We need to open our eyes, get engaged and do all we can to ensure that our actions in the world bring no harm to innocents and that we hold our nation to the highest moral standards. This strengthens who we are, how we are perceived in the world and is where our true security resides.

My heart goes out to all who lost their lives, or were injured, or traumatized by the terrible attack in Boston and to their families. May the investigation uncover all those responsible and bring them to justice. May we all remember what it is that drives out hate.

Martin Richard the 8 year old killed in the Boston attack. May we honor his memory by heeding his words.
Update- Now that one suspect is dead and the other captured we find that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev "the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack."

Hundreds of thousands of people died in those wars and millions were displaced and injured.

The Boston Marathon attack happened days after an airstrike in Afghanistan killed 17 civilians, 12 of them children. It appears that the attack was carried out by a paramilitary group run by the CIA. The CIA agent who ran that group was also killed and 3 other CIA personnel were wounded. On Feb 16, a coalition airstrike killed 10 civilians, 5 of them children in the same province.

A former FBI Special Agent had this to say last month. "Iraq and other post-9 / 11 wars and war-crime abuses have only increased hatred of the United States, spawned new anti-American terrorist groups and served as a recruiting tool for existing ones. Recent polls show that more than 75 percent of Pakistanis view the United States as their enemy. Analysts estimate that during three years of drone bombing in Yemen, the Al-Qaida-inspired group there has grown from about 200 to more than 1,000."

Endless militarism kills innocents and imperils all of us.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Good News- Clean Energy, Fossil Fuel Divestment, Protests against Drones and Military Spending

The military represents 57% of all our discretionary spending!           sign by Shirley Warren, photo by B Upton
April 15 is the Global Day of Action on Military Spending

In 2011, while 21,000 children died needlessly every day from poverty, hunger and preventable disease, $1.74 trillion went to military spending worldwide. People are rising up on every continent to put an end to this immoral use of resources and the insanity of war. To find a global event near you-  http://demilitarize.org/

Look at what we spend compared to the next four biggest military spenders. There is clearly no existential threat to us from any country the way the USSR was in the Cold War. We could easily reduce spending without posing any threat to our security. Further, the Pentagon is rife with boondoggles like the F35 Joint Strike Fighter which cost US taxpayers $1.5 trillion and is still not deployed. This massive waste simply cannot be tolerated any longer.

Also, there is growing awareness that the costs of a war span generations. For instance, we spend over $40 billion a year on veterans benefits. Twenty-two billion of that is currently going to veterans from the Vietnam War and $5 billion is going, 68 years later, to families of WWII vets! Healthcare benefits for vets from Iraq and Afghanistan won't peak for another four decades. Our veterans deserve health care and all the benefits they need, but the next time cheer-leading begins for another war, we need to remember the long term costs in human suffering and in the economic devastation that war brings http://www.nationofchange.org/tax-day-consider-hidden-costs-war-1365608006

Guardian of the Forest                                  B Upton
More Trees in US Today than 100 Years Ago

Hard to believe, but true and encouraging. Do you see the guardian above?

Maryland Abolishes Death Penalty

Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty and six states have ended capital punishment since 2007. 

Of 300 exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing,  25% were convicted of murder. 


Renewable Energy Leading in 2013

Renewable energy accounted for 82% of all new domestic electrical generating capacity so far in 2013! http://www.nationofchange.org/renewable-energy-provides-82-percent-all-new-us-electrical-generating-capacity-first-quarter-2013-13


Students Demand Divestment from Fossil Fuels across the Country

In just the last couple of weeks, students from American University, Brown, University of Massachusetts, University of Michigan, University of Florida, Northwestern and more, all voted overwhelmingly for their schools to divest from polluting, fossil fuel companies. Colleges and universities have over $400 billion in endowment funds to invest. 

Students, faculty and alumni are demanding that they use this financial power to responsibly invest in a way that is sustainable, socially just and in alignment with their school's values.

To invite The Responsible Endowments Coalition to your school, contact them at http://www.endowmentethics.org/resources-for-students/

Clean Energy Candidates Triumph!

2012 showed that candidates who ran on clean energy and protecting the environment defeated their dirty energy opponents. 

Voters want candidates who stand up to polluters, favor higher fuel efficiency standards and who reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

Read the full report here

Nationwide Actions to Protest Drones

Innocent children and adults are being killed by drone warfare and it is igniting hatred and a desire for revenge in many around the world. More Americans are waking up to the immorality of drones terrorizing innocent people in Pakistan and other countries and to the threat they pose to our civil liberties. No Drones Network is coordinating dozens of actions in April across the country to end drone surveillance and warfare. http://www.nationofchange.org/anti-drone-movement-takes-flight-1365609271   

ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) is calling for April 13 to be a National Day of Action to say, "U.S. Drones Out of Africa, Middle East, Asia and Here!" http://www.answercoalition.org/

If you live in the Hudson Valley, take part by attending this event in New Paltz!
Anti-Drone Collage                                                                              B Upton

From the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter

Saturday, April 13, NEW PALTZ: A demonstration against pilotless drone warfare abroad and intrusive domestic drone surveillance at home will take place today starting at 11 a.m. with a rally and vigil in front of the Elting Library (93 Main St.). At 12 noon the participants will march with signs and leaflets through the downtown area, returning to the library. Many will stand with signs visible to heavy weekend traffic until 1:30 p.m. The event is being organized by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and is co-sponsored by New Paltz Women in Black, Occupy Southern Ulster, Middle East Crisis Response, Real Majority Project, Dutchess Peace, Dutchess Greens and other regional groups. Bring your own sign if you wish. Some signs and lots of leaflets will be available. There’s parking on Plattekill Ave., just south of main street and farther down the street at Village Hall. There will be nationwide anti-drone actions today, sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition. The largest will take place in Washington, with a White House rally and march. Information, jacdon@earthlink.net, http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/