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The Portland Alliance Portal to Tom Hastings' Submissions (Oregon Peaceworks)                               http://www.theportlandalliance.org/hastings

Yours for a nonviolent future,
Tom H. Hastings, Ed.D.
Director, PeaceVoice Program,
Oregon Peace Institute
http://www.peacevoice.info/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
member,
Whitefeather Peace House
3315 N Russet Portland OR 97217
503 327 8250
peace education notification list sign-up:
https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/peacejusticeportland
http://www.whitefeatherpeace.org/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
faculty
PSU Conflict Resolution MA/MS Program
724 SW Harrison Neuberger 221
Portland OR 97201
503 725 9173
fax 503 725 9174
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
http://hastingsnonviolence.blogspot.com/

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Yell

Helpless and hopeless: Text messages in Gaza-Sderot

by Julia Chaitin

826 words

When I woke up yesterday at 5 a.m. to the sounds of war planes overhead, I saw that I had a text message from my friend Maha in Gaza.  Since this war began, almost every morning, I see that she has sent me a message. From day to day, the messages have become more depressing. Every day she tells me what has happened to her family – the windows in her home were blown out by a bomb that exploded nearby, her cousin’s house was hit and relatives were injured. I sense in these text messages that her belief that one day she will experience peace and freedom is slipping further and further away. In its place has come the real fear that she and her family are next in line to be killed.

When I woke up today at 5:30 a.m., the birds were competing with the war planes overhead. A few moments later, my phone whistled that I had received a new text message from the regional home front headquarters: “There is a fear of Hamas infiltration and shooting. All residents are requested to stay indoors with their doors locked. There is no traveling on the roads.” For about an hour the booms were massive, very loud and very frightening. It turned out that 13 Hamas militants had tried infiltrating one of the border kibbutzim from a tunnel with heavy weaponry in order to kill and/or kidnap Israelis and take them back to Gaza. Later on, when we got a text message that we could back to ‘normal’ routine – that is normal for wartime – media reports said that at least 6 militants had been killed and the rest fled through the tunnel, back to the Gaza Strip.

Last night I had three text messages with Maha, Mohammed and Fatma who live in different places in Gaza. Although they do not know one another, they all stressed the same point: We fear for our lives; there is no safe place in Gaza. Last night, many of my students from the Sapir College, where I teach, and friends from the area – from Other Voice (our grassroots group that works to put an end to the violence in this area) – were no longer to be found in the area. They, too, feared for their lives. But unlike my friends in Gaza, my Israeli students and friends have been able to escape from the area and find some safer ground in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and in the north-central Hefer Valley.  I received a few text messages from them:  “I am in Jerusalem;” “I took my kids to my parents so that they could get away from the rockets.”

Yesterday, I actually had a phone call with one of my students from the Sapir College, and not just a text message. She wanted to discuss her seminar paper with me. My student was horrified to hear that I had remained at home on my kibbutz, which is located in the Eshkol region, even though we have no safe room in our house. She told me that there wasn’t a safe room where she was staying in Tel Aviv, but there was a solid stairwell, and there they had much fewer bombs than she had on her border kibbutz.  Her parting words to me were the words that have become our anthem here: “stay safe.”

Our area has been eerily quiet since the beginning of the ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ that began at 9 this morning and is slated to end by 3 p.m. I am quite sure that within the hour, we will begin receiving new text messages to remain alert, to stay close to our safe rooms (which I really wish we had), because the war is still on. On Channel 10, the newscasters are talking about a possible comprehensive ceasefire that will go into effect tomorrow (Friday) at 6 a.m. The BBC is reporting it, but so far no confirmation has come from the Egyptians, who are brokering the agreement, or the Israeli and Hamas governments, who need to agree to the terms of the ceasefire.  

In these days of text messages that leave me feeling helpless and hopeless, I hope that we will receive one message soon confirming the ceasefire, and the “return to routine.”  This means that instead of being frightened to death by incoming rockets, or of Hamas infiltration on the Israeli side, and massive bombing by Israeli air force on the Gazan side, we – the Israelis near the Gaza Strip – will only suffer occasional rocket and mortar fire and Palestinians – will only suffer occasional Israeli fly-bys over their tiny territory.

Though excitement over this “emergency routine” probably does not make a lot of sense for people who have not been living this nightmare reality of the last two weeks, for me, and my friends in Gaza, such a text message will give us a little hope that our time in this world is not yet up. 

--end--

Julia Chaitin is a Social Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at Sapir Academic College. She writes for PeaceVoice and lives on a Kibbutz nearby Gaza.



US Culpability in the Failure of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks  by Stephen Zunes

754 words

The murder of three Israeli youth by unknown Palestinians and the less-publicized but equally tragic murder of three Palestinian youth by Israelis, along with Israeli bombing of urban areas in Gaza and the arrest and detention of hundreds of Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces, serves as a reminder that Israeli-Palestinian peace is still a long way off.

And the Obama administration deserves much of the blame for the failure of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

It had originally been hoped that the United States would present a binding framework along the lines of what moderate Israeli and Palestinian political leaders had agreed to in unofficial talks in Geneva in 2003: Israel would recognize a Palestinian state based roughly on the pre-1967 borders with mutual territorial swaps, which would leave the Palestinians with 22 percent of historic Palestine and allow Israel to keep the remaining 78 percent; the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and all irregular militias disarmed; illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory near the Israeli border —encompassing close to 80 percent of the settlers — would be incorporated into Israel while settlers in the more remote settlements would be required to return to Israel; there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, but there would be international assistance in helping them resettle in the new PUnless and until the Obama administration decides to end its unconditional backing for Israel's right-wing government and instead support Israeli and Palestinian moderates, there will be no hope for peace.alestinian state; and some Israeli troops would remain along border crossings between the Palestinian state and its Arab neighbors, eventually to be replaced by international forces.

The Palestinian government agreed to these terms. Israel rejected them. Rather than make public this framework, and thereby hope the Israeli public would pressure its right-wing government to compromise, the Obama administration instead insisted that "both sides" had shown a lack of will to compromise.

An interview with an anonymous U.S. official close to the peace talks in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest newspaper, confirmed numerous other reports that the Palestinian side made major concessions while the Israeli side essentially refused to make any, generally refusing to talk about any substantive issues.

A host of Democratic and Republican former officials — including a former national security adviser, secretary of defense, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, trade representative, and undersecretary of state for political affairs — went on record arguing that the Obama administration would have to challenge the Israeli government's hard line towards the Palestinians in order for the peace process to be successful. Unfortunately, the White House apparently had no interest in doing so.

Instead, Washington has focused on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's refusal to give in to U.S. and Israeli demands that he recognize Israel as a "Jewish state." While the Palestinian government, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the ruling Fatah party have all recognized the state of Israel for more than 20 years, the Obama administration has effectively moved the goalposts by declaring that recognizing the Israeli government, acknowledging its right to exist, and providing security guarantees is not enough, insisting that the Palestinians explicitly recognize the state of Israel's ethno-religious identity as well.

No previous administration has put forward such a requirement. President Carter never made such demands on Egypt, nor did President Clinton require this of Jordan as a condition for their peace treaties with Israel. Abbas has said that Israel can identify itself however it wants, but — given that 20 percent of the Israeli population is ethnically Palestinian Arab — it would be politically impossible to agree to something that would acknowledge second-class status for other Palestinians.

Never in history has any country been required to recognize the ethnic or religious identity of another state as a condition for peace. It appears, then, that the Obama administration's demand may have been an effort to destroy any chance of a peace agreement and leave an opening to blame the Palestinians — despite their agreement to virtually every other issue — for the failure of the peace process.

The Obama administration had been strongly pressured by Congressional supporters of the Israel's right-wing government, including area Congress members Sam Farr and Anne Eshoo, who supported a resolution calling on the president to push the Palestinians to recognize Israel explicitly "as a Jewish state." Meanwhile, a broad bipartisan effort is growing in the Congress to blame the failure of the peace talks exclusively on the Palestinians and to force the administration to cut all ties with the Palestine Authority.

"Unless and until the Obama administration decides to end its unconditional backing for Israel's right-wing government and instead support Israeli and Palestinian moderates, there will be no hope for peace."
  http://www.theportlandalliance.org/hastings

--end--

Stephen Zunes, a Santa Cruz resident, writes for PeaceVoice, is a professor of Politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.



The Tax Dilemma

By Jack Payden-Travers                                     Word Count: 707

Yesterday, I got my taxes off to the IRS and felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. You know the feeling, don’t you? Another year and somehow we managed to survive. Other than the car and the house which both belong to the bank for the next few years, the bills have been paid. Well not all the bills. Actually there is one left. It’s the $10.40 cents which I refused to pay of the “Taxes Owed” to the IRS.

This year the “Taxes Owed” came to a whopping $15.00 and so I wrote a check to the United States Treasury for $4.60. As I have every April since 1973 when my wife and I started filing our taxes together, we enclosed a polite note to our “Dear IRS Worker” informing her or him of our decision to withhold a symbolic portion of our income tax in protest as Christian pacifists to the military madness infecting our Federal Budget.

How else can one explain the fact that the majority of our Federal tax dollars are still paying to support present and past wars? Can you believe that the Treasury still needs to send checks each month to two survivors of Civil War veterans? 149 years later and we are still paying for the decision to settle that conflict by force of arms rather than seek non-military solutions to internal and international conflicts. There has got to be a better way to settle disputes.

How strange is it to us today to think of settling personal disputes by dueling with the intention of killing our opponent? And yet this is exactly what I hear proposed as soon as an international conflict arises. For some reason honor rather than reason, emotion rather than sanity takes hold and the drums of war start to beat. The kill, kill, kill of bayonet training becomes the fall back option and Dr. Strangelove rides again. Oh you think Ukraine is different from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Uganda, Columbia, and the list goes on.

During the Vietnam War my wife and I both came to an understanding of our Christian faith as one of nonviolence and thus a rejection of war. I actually chose to refuse induction and face a sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 rather than join the military. And yet each year in April we are faced with the decision to either pay for war and deny our Christian faith or to participate in war-making by paying our entire tax bill.

We choose to affirm our religious beliefs and to resist the payment of our taxes owed by withholding a symbolic amount. And what is more symbolic of the tax dollar than the Form 1040. And so we withhold the symbolic amount of $10.40 from whatever we owe and send it to a group that works for peace.

We know, of course, that the IRS may eventually collect this amou

The Tax Dilemma

By Jack Payden-Travers                                     Word Count: 7

The Tax Dilemma

By Jack Payden-Travers                                     Word Count: 707

Yesterday, I got my taxes off to the IRS and felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. You know the feeling, don’t you? Another year and somehow we managed to survive. Other than the car and the house which both belong to the bank for the next few years, the bills have been paid. Well not all the bills. Actually there is one left. It’s the $10.40 cents which I refused to pay of the “Taxes Owed” to the IRS.

This year the “Taxes Owed” came to a whopping $15.00 and so I wrote a check to the United States Treasury for $4.60. As I have every April since 1973 when my wife and I started filing our taxes together, we enclosed a polite note to our “Dear IRS Worker” informing her or him of our decision to withhold a symbolic portion of our income tax in protest as Christian pacifists to the military madness infecting our Federal Budget.

How else can one explain the fact that the majority of our Federal tax dollars are still paying to support present and past wars? Can you believe that the Treasury still needs to send checks each month to two survivors of Civil War veterans? 149 years later and we are still paying for the decision to settle that conflict by force of arms rather than seek non-military solutions to internal and international conflicts. There has got to be a better way to settle disputes.

How strange is it to us today to think of settling personal disputes by dueling with the intention of killing our opponent? And yet this is exactly what I hear proposed as soon as an international conflict arises. For some reason honor rather than reason, emotion rather than sanity takes hold and the drums of war start to beat. The kill, kill, kill of bayonet training becomes the fall back option and Dr. Strangelove rides again. Oh you think Ukraine is different from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Uganda, Columbia, and the list goes on.

During the Vietnam War my wife and I both came to an understanding of our Christian faith as one of nonviolence and thus a rejection of war. I actually chose to refuse induction and face a sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 rather than join the military. And yet each year in April we are faced with the decision to either pay for war and deny our Christian faith or to participate in war-making by paying our entire tax bill.

We choose to affirm our religious beliefs and to resist the payment of our taxes owed by withholding a symbolic amount. And what is more symbolic of the tax dollar than the Form 1040. And so we withhold the symbolic amount of $10.40 from whatever we owe and send it to a group that works for peace.

We know, of course, that the IRS may eventually collect this amount along with interest and penalty from our bank or wages or more likely a tax refund. That is a price we are willing to pay for the sake of conscience. We know that we are not alone in our quest to live according to our religious principles. In fact $10.40 For Peace is a group that encourages conscientious reflection about the payment of taxes that support war. They host a website to assist people wrestling with this question: www.1040forpeace.com.

One option that I hope everyone will consider is to support the right of conscientious objection to the payment of war taxes through passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act of the 113th United States Congress. HR 2483 is a bill that would extend the right of conscientious objection to US taxpayers. Introduced each session by civil rights Congressman John Lewis, this bill would create a Peace Tax Fund in the US Treasury into which those opposed to war would pay 100 percent of their taxes. It could not be used to fund the Pentagon, nuclear weapons produced by the Department of Energy, Military Aide to foreign nations, national security, etc. You can join the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, which lobbies for passage of this bill, by going to www.peacetaxfund.org.

~~~end~~~

Jack Payden-Travers is the Secretary of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. He also serves as the Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.

07

Yesterday, I got my taxes off to the IRS and felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. You know the feeling, don’t you? Another year and somehow we managed to survive. Other than the car and the house which both belong to the bank for the next few years, the bills have been paid. Well not all the bills. Actually there is one left. It’s the $10.40 cents which I refused to pay of the “Taxes Owed” to the IRS.

This year the “Taxes Owed” came to a whopping $15.00 and so I wrote a check to the United States Treasury for $4.60. As I have every April since 1973 when my wife and I started filing our taxes together, we enclosed a polite note to our “Dear IRS Worker” informing her or him of our decision to withhold a symbolic portion of our income tax in protest as Christian pacifists to the military madness infecting our Federal Budget.

How else can one explain the fact that the majority of our Federal tax dollars are still paying to support present and past wars? Can you believe that the Treasury still needs to send checks each month to two survivors of Civil War veterans? 149 years later and we are still paying for the decision to settle that conflict by force of arms rather than seek non-military solutions to internal and international conflicts. There has got to be a better way to settle disputes.

How strange is it to us today to think of settling personal disputes by dueling with the intention of killing our opponent? And yet this is exactly what I hear proposed as soon as an international conflict arises. For some reason honor rather than reason, emotion rather than sanity takes hold and the drums of war start to beat. The kill, kill, kill of bayonet training becomes the fall back option and Dr. Strangelove rides again. Oh you think Ukraine is different from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Uganda, Columbia, and the list goes on.

During the Vietnam War my wife and I both came to an understanding of our Christian faith as one of nonviolence and thus a rejection of war. I actually chose to refuse induction and face a sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 rather than join the military. And yet each year in April we are faced with the decision to either pay for war and deny our Christian faith or to participate in war-making by paying our entire tax bill.

We choose to affirm our religious beliefs and to resist the payment of our taxes owed by withholding a symbolic amount. And what is more symbolic of the tax dollar than the Form 1040. And so we withhold the symbolic amount of $10.40 from whatever we owe and send it to a group that works for peace.

We know, of course, that the IRS may eventually collect this amount along with interest and penalty from our bank or wages or more likely a tax refund. That is a price we are willing to pay for the sake of conscience. We know that we are not alone in our quest to live according to our religious principles. In fact $10.40 For Peace is a group that encourages conscientious reflection about the payment of taxes that support war. They host a website to assist people wrestling with this question: www.1040forpeace.com.

One option that I hope everyone will consider is to support the right of conscientious objection to the payment of war taxes through passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act of the 113th United States Congress. HR 2483 is a bill that would extend the right of conscientious objection to US taxpayers. Introduced each session by civil rights Congressman John Lewis, this bill would create a Peace Tax Fund in the US Treasury into which those opposed to war would pay 100 percent of their taxes. It could not be used to fund the Pentagon, nuclear weapons produced by the Department of Energy, Military Aide to foreign nations, national security, etc. You can join the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, which lobbies for passage of this bill, by going to www.peacetaxfund.org.

~~~end~~~

Jack Payden-Travers is the Secretary of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. He also serves as the Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.

nt along with interest and penalty from our bank or wages or more likely a tax refund. That is a price we are willing to pay for the sake of conscience. We know that we are not alone in our quest to live according to our religious principles. In fact $10.40 For Peace is a group that encourages conscientious reflection about the payment of taxes that support war. They host a website to assist people wrestling with this question: www.1040forpeace.com.

One option that I hope everyone will consider is to support the right of conscientious objection to the payment of war taxes through passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act of the 113th United States Congress. HR 2483 is a bill that would extend the right of conscientious objection to US taxpayers. Introduced each session by civil rights Congressman John Lewis, this bill would create a Peace Tax Fund in the US Treasury into which those opposed to war would pay 100 percent of their taxes. It could not be used to fund the Pentagon, nuclear weapons produced by the Department of Energy, Military Aide to foreign nations, national security, etc. You can join the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, which lobbies for passage of this bill, by going to www.peacetaxfund.org.

~~~end~~~

Jack Payden-Travers is the Secretary of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. He also serves as the Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.


The nonstop and perennial obsequiousness of many politicians and media to the US military is objectionable to those who have been occupied, hurt, raped and otherwise assaulted by the US military. Analyst John LaForge asks for some balance. Kindly let me know if you choose to use it. thank you,
Tom H. Hastings    http://www.theportlandalliance.org/hastings
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Salt and Terror in Afghanistan

by Kathy Kelly

In late January in a room in Kabul, Afghanistan, I joined several dozen people, working seamstresses, some college students, socially engaged teenagers and a few visiting internationals like myself, to discuss world hunger. Our emphasis was not exclusively on their own country’s worsening hunger problems.  The Afghan Peace Volunteers, in whose home we were meeting, draw strength from looking beyond their own very real struggles. 

With us was Hakim, a medical doctor who spent six years working as a public health specialist in the central highlands of Afghanistan and, prior to that, among refugees in Quetta, Pakistan.  He helped us understand conditions that lead to food shortages and taught us about diseases, such as kwashiorkor and marasmus, which are caused by insufficient protein or general malnutrition.

We looked at UN figures about hunger in Afghanistan, which show malnutrition rates rising by 50 percent or more compared with 2012. The malnutrition ward at Helmand Province’s Bost Hospital has been admitting 200 children a month for severe, acute malnutrition — four times more than in January 2012.

A recent New York Times article about the worsening hunger crisis described an encounter with a mother and child in an Afghan hospital: “In another bed is Fatima, less than a year old, who is so severely malnourished that her heart is failing, and the doctors expect that she will soon die unless her father is able to find money to take her to Kabul for surgery. The girl’s face bears a perpetual look of utter terror, and she rarely stops crying.”

Photos of Fatima and other children in the ward accompanied the article. In our room in Kabul, Hakim projected the photos on the wall. They were painful to see and so were the nods of comprehension from Afghans all too familiar with the agonies of poverty in a time of war. 

As children grow, they need iodine to enable proper brain development.  According to a UNICEF/GAIN report, “iodine deficiency is the most prevalent cause of brain damage worldwide.  It is easily preventable, and through ongoing targeted interventions, can be eliminated.” As recently as 2009 we learned that 70 percent of Afghan children faced an iodine deficiency.

Universal Salt Iodization (USI) is recognized as a simple, safe and cost-effective measure in addressing iodine deficiency. The World Bank reports that it costs $.05 per child, per year.

In 2012, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) announced a four-year project which aimed to reach nearly half of Afghanistan’s population - 15 million Afghans - with fortified foods. Their strategy was to add vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, folic acid, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin A to wheat flour, vegetable oil and ghee, and also to fortify salt with iodine.  The project costs $6.4 million.

The sums of money required to fund delivery of iodine and fortified foods to malnourished Afghan children should be compared, I believe, to the sums of money that the Pentagon’s insatiable appetite for war-making has required of U.S. people.

The price tag for supplying iodized salt to one child for one year is 5 cents. 

The cost of maintaining one U.S. soldier has recently risen to $2.1 million per year.  The amount of money spent to keep three U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2014 could almost cover the cost of a four-year program to deliver fortified foods to 15 million Afghan people.

Maj. Gen. Kurt J. Stein, who is overseeing the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, has referred to the operation as “the largest retrograde mission in history.”  The mission will cost as much as $6 billion.

Over the past decade, spin doctors for U.S. military spending have suggested that Afghanistan needs the U.S. troop presence and U.S. non-military spending to protect the interests of women and children. 

It’s true that non-military aid to Afghanistan, sent by the U.S. since 2002, now approaches $100 billion. 

Several articles on Afghanistan’s worsening hunger crisis, appearing in the Western press, prompt readers to ask how Afghanistan could be receiving vast sums of non-military aid and yet still struggle with severe acute malnourishment among children under age five.

However, a 2013 quarterly report to Congress submitted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan shows that, of the nearly $100 billion spent on wartime reconstruction, $97 billion has been spent on counter-narcotics, security, “governance/development” and “oversight and operations.”  No more than $3 billion, a hundred dollars per Afghan person, were used for “humanitarian” projects - to help keep 30 million Afghans alive through 12 years of U.S. war and occupation. 

Funds have been available for tanks, guns, bullets, helicopters, missiles, weaponized drones, drone surveillance, Joint Special Operations task forces, bases, airstrips, prisons, and truck-delivered supplies for tens of thousands of troops. But funds are in short supply for children too weak to cry who are battling for their lives while wasting away.

A whole generation of Afghans and other people around the developing world see the true results of Westerners’ self-righteous claim for the need to keep civilians “safe” through war.  They see the terror, entirely justified, filling Fatima’s eyes in her hospital bed. 

In that room in Kabul, as my friends learned about the stark realities of hunger¾and among them, I know, were some who worry about hunger in their own families¾I could see a rejection both of panic and of revenge in the eyes of the people around me. Their steady thoughtfulness was an inspiration.

Panic and revenge among far more prosperous people in the U.S. helped to drive the U.S. into a war waged against one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet, my Afghan friends, who’ve borne the brunt of war, long to rise above vengeance and narrow self-interest.

They wish to pursue a peace that includes ending hunger.

Kathy Kelly, Kathy@vcnv.org, writes for PeaceVoice and co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). For more information about The Afghan Peace Volunteers, visit ourjourneytosmile.com  
 

‘Best military in the World’ – Yeah, Right

By John LaForge

In response to regular reports of atrocities by US soldiers, drone controllers, pilots and interrogators, the White House routinely tries to help. Every president promises to honor our armed forces and says ours is the finest military of all, etc. At last year’s Veterans’ Day ceremony, president fill-in-the-blank boasted, “America is and always will be the greatest nation on Earth.” This Nov. 11th, Mr. Obama said that since 9/11 the US is “defining one of the greatest generations of military service this country has ever produced,” and, of course,“[W]e have the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped military in the world.”

Really? On Veterans’ Day 2001, one headline blared: “American Soldier is Convicted of Killing Afghan Civilians for Sport.” US aggression, occupation, torture of prisoners, massacres, drone attacks, offshore penal colonies and sexual assaults against our own service members, take the luster from our official self-image of ‘exceptionality.’

In a bold invitation, Human Rights Watch has called on 154 parties to the UN Convention on Torture to bring charges against US officials under explicit language in the treaty, ratified by the US in 1994. The treaty requires such action when reputable allegations are not prosecuted by the accused governments, and ours doesn’t need any more evidence, just some of which may be found in these mainstream US media stories:

• “US Practiced Torture after 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes” (Apr. 16, 2013)

• “Afghans Say an American Tortured Civilians” (May 13, 2013)

• “CIA Drones Kill Civilians in Pakistan” (Mar. 18, 2011)

• “GI Kills 16 Afghans, Including 9 Children, in Attacks on Homes” (Mar. 12, 2012)

• “Libya Effort is Called Violation of War Act” (May 26, 2011)

• “NATO and Afghan forces killed 310 civilians over the same period, mostly from airstrikes, the UN reports” (Aug. 3, 2009)

• “100,000 Iraqis killed since U.S. invasion analysis says” (Oct. 29, 2004)

• “U.N. Chief Ignites Firestorm by Calling Iraq War ‘Illegal’” (Sep. 17, 2004);

• “Iraq Says Blast in Baghdad Kills Dozens of Civilians: U.S. Blamed” (Mar. 29, 2003)

• “U.S. Presses for Total Exemption from War Crimes Court” (Oct. 9, 2002)

• “Pentagon Says U.S. Airstrike Killed Women and Children” (Mar. 13, 2002)

• “Bombing Necessary Despite Toll on Civilians, U.S. Envoy Says” (Jan. 9, 2002);

• “U.S. helicopters fire on women, children in Somalia” (Sep. 10, 1993)

• “US forces buried enemy forces alive” (Sep. 13, 1991)

• “200,000 died in Gulf War, and counting” (May 30, 1991)

The Military’s Dirty War on Women

Atrocities against people of occupied or targeted countries aren’t the only ones accumulating. According to a July 2012 report by the Pentagon, over 25,000 sexual assaults occurred in fiscal year 2012, a 37 percent increase from FY 2011. About “500 men and women were assaulted each week last year,” USA Today reported July 25. See: “Reports of Military Sexual Assault Rise Sharply,” NY Times, Nov. 7; & “Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm: 26,000 Cases Last Year,” May 7, 2013.

Throughout the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, according to the Pentagon, 74 percent of females report one or more barriers to reporting sexual assault. In addition, 62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault indicated they experienced some form of retaliation. This is why, according to US Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., more than 85 percent of all military sexual assaults go unreported. In fact, Sen. Baldwin says, “overall rates of reporting dropped from 13.5 percent in 2011 to 9.8 percent in 2012.”

In view of the staggering numbers, and to help end the cover-up and suppression of sexual assault reporting, US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, has proposed removing investigation and disposal of such allegations from the military chain of command and place these cases with military prosecutors. Currently, commanders — superior to victims and perpetrators — decide whether or not to prosecute an accused G.I. Commanders even have the power to reduce or overturn a judge or jury’s conviction. 

Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, S. 967, would give military prosecutors, instead of commanders, the independent authority to decide whether or not felony cases go to trial. The proposal has earned broad bipartisan support. It would reform the Code of Military Justice to make the system independent at the felony level.

A related bill, the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act — S. 548 — sponsored by Sen.s Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would prevent those convicted of sexual crimes from serving in the military, improve tracking and review of sexual assault claims in the military, and help ensure victims have access to criminal  justice.

Presidential speeches can’t permanently obscure our record of military outrages. Some Congressional reform could at least confront the ones committed against women in uniform.

—end—

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its quarterly newsletter, and writes for PeaceVoice.
 

Getting Syria-s

By Tom H. Hastings

Finally, the Pentagon is getting a bit realistic about Syria and possible US intervention, with a report of options laid out by letter from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, to Carl Levin of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, and the Chiefs warn about expense, loss, and blowback.

The Cold War was a time of proxy wars, showcasing the relative strengths and weaknesses of the arms produced by the two superpowers, fought in other people's countries. Indeed, except for Hungary in 1956, no war was fought on the soil of white people the whole time, an indication of the deep cynicism of both sides. The US always had better big weapons and the Soviets had the daily weapon of choice, the AK-47. Soviet tanks were only good for rolling over friendlies in the Warsaw Pact and their nukes were big and dumb, but their AKs were the gold standard for violent insurgency.

Most of the world is less excited about being crash test dummies for the US and Russia nowadays, although Syria seems to be an exception. Basher al-Assad spends his entire allowance every week on new shipments of Russian warmaking gear to use against his own people. The rebels get their gear mostly from the US through Qatar and Saudi Arabia, often also via Turkey. Both sides fight dirty, ignore international rules of warfare, and yet the kneejerk reaction of many hawks in the US is to ship weapons to anyone fighting the Russian weapon-wielders. Just because the US-backed mujahedeen in Afghanistan used their leftover weapons given to them originally to fight the Soviets against the US later--hence the term blowback--let's forget that ever happened and give more guns and rockets and ammunition to insurgents who behead, execute, blow up civilian markets, torture, and in the most ghastly extreme case, a Syrian rebel leader is shown carving the heart out a government soldier and eating it. Those are the fighters Republicans in Congress want to support and many Democrats actually join this bloodthirsty insanity.

But even though Congress--and apparently President Obama to some degree--have mostly forgotten those lessons, some in the Pentagon seem to suddenly remember, especially as they see the sequester shine a more realistic light on the formerly illimitable funding picture.

The usual kneejerk kill-em-all-let-God-sort-em-out are attacking Dempsey. Will someone tell John McCain that if he keeps up with that apoplectic visage, one of these days it's going to become his permanent look--oops!

Too late.

The sad truth is that the nonviolent revolution was stolen from the Syrian people, who started their Arab Spring just as nonviolently as did Egyptians, and very soon after. When the US intervened in Libya, that made the violent ones in Syria assume they'd get US military help too, so they picked up arms. The nonviolent revolution was overwhelmed and defeated in no small measure by this Libya Effect, and that is indeed an Obama decision that resulted in lots of gratitude from Libyans (you could tell by the way they assassinated our ambassador) and also set total fear in Assad's heart and made him image Qaddaffi, bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. That made him totally commit to clinging to power by all means, including the ones that he uses so devastatingly on his own people.


Sun Tzu said build a golden bridge over which your enemy can retreat. That golden bridge is built by nonviolence plus negotiation, what we just saw as millions of people used social media to back up successful Norwegian efforts to get the United Arab Emirates to release Marte Deborah Dalelv, a woman from Norway who was raped and then jailed in Dubai for having extramarital sex! The Norwegian Prime Minister was diplomatic and delicate and it all worked.

In Norway, of course, Conflict Resolution and Peace Research experts consult with the highest levels of government. In the US, we listen only to the Joint Chiefs, so good thing they sober up on occasion.

—30—

Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and teaches in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University.

 

Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and teaches in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University.

--
Yours for a nonviolent future,
Tom H. Hastings, Ed.D.
Director, PeaceVoice Program,
Oregon Peace Institute
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
member,
Whitefeather Peace House
3315 N Russet Portland OR 97217
503 327 8250
peace education notification list sign-up:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
faculty
PSU Conflict Resolution MA/MS Program
724 SW Harrison Neuberger 221
Portland OR 97201
503 725 9173
fax 503 725 9174
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  http://www.theportlandalliance.org/hastingsA Bad Month for Privacy Rights

By Laura L. Finley

Justice Louis Brandeis once called the right to privacy “the right most valued by civilized men.” Sadly, it has become increasingly clear that, despite pronunciations about “change” and “transparency,” the Obama administration is continuing down the path so dangerously started by former President George W. Bush.

First, the Supreme Court decided that it is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment if police collect DNA from people who have merely been arrested, not convicted, of a crime. Although the Court specified that this practice, already occurring in more than half of the states, should only be done to those who are arrested for “serious” crimes, no definition of what constitutes a serious crime was provided. I wonder whether we should begin preparing ourselves simply to open our mouths whenever a police officer approaches. Whether you are rightly or wrongly arrested, your DNA from that cheek swab will go into the database and, as far as we know, remain there in perpetuity.

While defenders maintain that the practice will help exonerate innocent persons, the risks are huge. Ultimately, the power goes to police, a scary kind of power in the hands of those who do not always use it fairly. In January, President Obama signed into law the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act, which creates grants to help states pay for the expanded DNA databases, and thus we can expect that more will indeed do so. Once again, we have put our faith in a technology at the expense of civil liberties.  Further, DNA evidence is only as good as the people collecting, maintaining and analyzing it.

Then, the Guardian broke the story that the FBI has been granted the power to obtain from Verizon information from all calls made within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries from April 25 and July 19 of this year. Supposedly a tool to keep us safe from terrorism, the authorization for this type of spying on citizens who have done absolutely nothing was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court through the USA Patriot Act’s “business records” provision.  While actual conversations are not covered, details including the phone numbers, location, duration, time and other identifiers about the callers are included in the order. Verizon has close to 100 million customers. We also have no way of knowing whether the NSA or FBI has sought similar orders of other phone companies, as all are prohibited from disclosing.

Just days later, the Guardianrevealed that the NSA has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants. Under a program called PRISM, the NSA collects our search histories, the content of our emails, file transfers, live chats and more.

These types of blanket surveillance are not only an invasion of privacy but also ineffective to do what the government claims. Someone has to analyze the tremendous amount of data collected from these records, the vast majority of which will be completely innocuous. Not a smart use of resources, I would argue. 

Clearly, poet John Perry Barlow had it right: “Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.”  Those interested in a more peaceful and just world must become even more vocal advocates for privacy, what Justice William O. Douglas called “the beginning of all freedom.” 

—30—

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.


 

We Could All End Up Like Bradley Manning – Marking 1000 Days in Detention

by Erin Niemela

“I wouldn’t want to end up like Bradley Manning.” Those words were the beginning of an outpouring this week by an associate of mine who claimed to have experienced government and corporate corruption that many only read about in alternative media reports.  I sat for hours listening to stories of unbridled corruption on the taxpayer’s dime, conspiratorial advances of arms industries into consumer markets,  sexually predatory behaviors deemed an acceptable part of institutional culture, and a resulting pessimistic world perspective that would make a seasoned peace activist cringe.

Having ostensibly had higher security access than common America, yet not nearly as open access as either our high-ranking politicians, our official military personnel, or some war-contracting corporate executives, my associate’s proclaimed experiences were tame in comparison to what’s likely happening at the very top, he explained. Although he felt morally inclined to report the abuses, he insisted he didn’t want to “end up like Bradley Manning.”

Among notable whistleblowers, Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, on suspicion of leaking diplomatic cables, war logs and video footage of civilian murders by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to Wikileaks, remains a steadfast example of what happens when one blows the whistle on the American government.  So, how did Bradley Manning end up? What would my associate so desperately wish to avoid?

Today marks the 1,000th day Manning has been locked in detention without trial. One thousand days without due process, 1000 days without having his voice heard―arguably a fundamental human need―1000 days without the comfort of his friends and family. Birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Year celebrations missed because his government, and fellow countrymen, declared him an enemy of the state―and, for what? For doing exactly what our foreign and domestic security policy demands: See something? Say something.

How did Bradley Manning end up? Enmified. He’s been called a traitor, treasonous. He’s dehumanized; as my associate says, “Bradley Manning is a rat.” How did he end up? Betrayed. His own country threw him into a deep dark cellar along with his supposedly God-given constitutional rights. Likely, it’s the same deep dark cavern where we place our collective guilt and shame for compliance in the very crimes he helped expose: the state-sanctioned murder of unarmed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No, I don’t believe I’d like to end up like Bradley Manning, either.  Then again, I have no whistles to blow.  I am not suffering under the weight of my conscience every time I witness an abuse of power, war crime or illegal act that my acknowledgement of would lead to certain vilification.   For those Americans who continue to witness the corruption and abuses our government officials commit on a daily basis, where do they turn? Supposedly, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 provides a buffer from reprisal, despite the blatant weakening of a later “enhancement” in 2009. And yet, in the gutters of our hearts we all know this and other protections are as thin as the veil of propaganda that suggests our country is simultaneously and constantly in imminent danger and altogether safe.

We are living in an America where front-page headlines squawk of FBI sexting and CIA prostitution scandals, secret drone kill lists and indefinite detention bills. Completely ending government abuse and corruption is, of course, incredibly important. Until that dream is realized, we can at least take care of those fellow citizens who, feeling just as betrayed by those “in charge” as we are, have the integrity to identify wrongdoing and the courage to speak out. We can at least, in addition to upholding whistleblower protections and our constitutional rights, make certain that we care for such people and their families.  Heroes and hero-enablers, respectively. We must yearn for an America where citizens are not afraid to report abuse for fear of “ending up” betrayed, enmified and isolated for 1,000 days―with the possibility of decades in a military prison cell, something we would rightly scorn and label tyrannical if done by North Korea or Cuba.

We could all end up like Bradley Manning.  We don’t know what transgressions may arise in our presence. We don’t know if or when our “clearance” will offer us a glimpse into worlds, normally veiled in secrecy, that benefit few and harm many. But, should that day come, wouldn’t we like to know that our fellow citizens, leaders, and families supported and protected us?

Give Bradley Manning his due process – that’s the least of what he deserves. Better yet, free him. Show the world that America stands for accountability, integrity, and human rights.  Unlike depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, whistleblowing is not, and should not be, a crime.

―30―

Erin Niemela is a graduate student in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and a PeaceVoice syndicated journalist.


To all of you who helped pull off our little singalong benefit for Oregon PeaceWorks last night, thank you thank you! It was a fantastic time, really great music, and we raised $1,039! Oregon PeaceWorks gets a lot of mileage from every dollar raised, so it was a great success. Peter, Mark, Max--great music. Terri--Happy Birthday and to you and Dawa and others who brought percussion instruments, what a great drum and shaker corps! Riya, Joanie, Jeanne and others who donated silent auction items--great stuff, generating almost all the income! And Manny and Mary and Susan and Michael and all who bid up these items, thank you.

Let's do this next summer--we've been doing these house concerts with Peter Bergel and others since 2007 at Whitefeather and last night set a new fundraising record for this event. Let's break it next year!

--

Yours for a nonviolent future,
Tom H. Hastings, Ed.D.
Director, PeaceVoice Program,
Oregon Peace Institute
http://www.peacevoice.info/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
member,
Whitefeather Peace House
3315 N Russet Portland OR 97217
503 327 8250
peace education notification list sign-up:
https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/peacejusticeportland
http://www.whitefeatherpeace.org/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
faculty
PSU Conflict Resolution MA/MS Program
724 SW Harrison Neuberger 221
Portland OR 97201
503 725 9173
fax 503 725 9174
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
http://hastingsnonviolence.blogspot.com/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Difficult Days Ahead in Afghanistan and at Home

By Judith Le Blanc

On May 1, in a televised address from Afghanistan, President Obama said, “There will be difficult days ahead. The enormous sacrifices of our men and women are not over.”

That’s an understatement.

In fact the current US policy in the region demands of the Afghan people a massive sacrifice as well.

Without a new strategy — not the slow downsizing of the Afghanistan war over the next decade — there will indeed be difficult days ahead.

Instead of helping, the continued US presence jeopardizes the Afghan people’s future, as it does our future here at home.

The future of the Afghan economy and its people’s aspirations is stalled by the unwillingness to leave sooner rather than later. Corruption and graft are bred by US funding and the occupation.

Furthermore, the US has no clear strategy for a negotiated peace or a framework for sustainable economic development in Afghanistan.

Today, two-thirds of the US people across the political spectrum want the war to end now. In poll after poll they readily connect the government’s ability to deal with the economic crisis in our communities to ending the war.

The longer the troops stay in Afghanistan, the more desperately needed resources will be withheld from our cities, schools, libraries and hospitals.

The projected 2013 price-tag for the war will be $88 billion dollars, while unemployment hovers at 10 percent and triple that among young people of color. The current Pentagon budget is $800 billion a year without a real cut in sight.

As long as the troops stay in Afghanistan, and the US pursues a militarized foreign policy, the possibility of US sustainable economic development and a stronger democracy is as impossible here as it is in Afghanistan.

The White House fact sheet issued along with Obama’s speech emphasized that the Strategic Partnership Agreement itself “does not commit the United States to any specific troop levels or levels of funding in the future, as those are decisions will be made in consultation with the U.S. Congress.” And funding from Congress will be requested on an annual basis to support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of Afghan National Security Forces.”

The agreement just signed leaves us with the yearly Congressional fight over funding the war. A full-throated, massive pressure campaign is needed.

That’s where we have to draw the line and make the fight in the next few weeks to cut the Pentagon budget and for a negotiated peace, not a prolonged downsized war.

The Congressional elections will be the battleground for exerting the popular opinion of ending a war that is not only unwinnable but in fact is a roadblock to both the US and Afghan people from achieving a decent life, schools, healthcare and jobs.

President Obama said in his speech to the nation, “Others will ask why we don’t leave immediately. The answer is also clear: we must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize.”

But the underlying problems in Afghanistan are little served by foreign armies and military “solutions.” The reality is that until the US and NATO forces leave Afghanistan both the Afghan and US peoples will have more than a few difficult days ahead. We’ll have difficult years ahead.

  Judith Le Blanc is the Field Director for Peace Action, the largest peace group in the US.  jleblanc@peace-action.org