Thursday, October 29, 2009

No One Else Will Stop The Killing

by Mike Ferner

In a statement directed to the U.S. House of Representatives, President Obama, and its membership, Veterans For Peace urged its chapters to demonstrate opposition to the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan by doing two things:

1) Take the actions listed below within the next several days, before President Obama decides to escalate the war in Afghanistan, and

2) Plan acts of even greater resistance during the two days following any such decision.


Continue writing and calling our representatives and demanding peace.

· If we’ve done that: take to the streets

· If we’ve done that: sit down in the streets

· If we’ve done that: sit down in Congressional offices

· If we’ve done that: sit down, clog up, incapacitate, call in sick, withdraw consent and generally bring the nation’s business to a halt, wherever and whenever we can, with any peaceful means available.

To President Obama and the House of Representatives:

As veterans of our nation’s wars, we insist you hear our call.

British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin spoke an unassailable truth when he said, “War would end if the dead could return.” If you believe that is true, Mr. President and Members of the House, you must heed our counsel well: we are the closest anyone can come to that truth the dead would speak. Stop the killing!

Because we personally understand what war truly means, we have written, called and demonstrated repeatedly for an end to the killing in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have protested at and have been arrested in House Office Buildings, the House Gallery, the White House and Congressional offices across the nation. We have pleaded, then demanded, that you stop the suffering in these countries. Although promised prior to the election, no combat brigades have returned from Iraq. And now we can smell the mire of escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nevertheless, we cannot cease to appeal to that spark of humanity in your hearts. We know wealthy, powerful interests such as weapons contractors, lobbyists and right-wing broadcasters daily make a deafening noise, trying to drown out the voice that insists, “Stop the killing.” We also know that no matter how quiet the voice of humanity might become, it can never be silenced.

So we lift up to you voices much more eloquent than our own, voices of soldiers who survived the worst fighting human beings have ever experienced, World War One. For nearly 100 years, the wisdom and compassion of their poetry has endured. Their words now stand as one of the world’s most powerful witnesses to the madness of war.

You must hear them.

And you yourself would mutter when
You took the things that once were men,
And sped them through that zone of hate
To where the dripping surgeons wait;
And wonder too if in God's sight
War ever, ever can be right.

– From “Foreword” by British ambulance driver, Robert Service


…If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

– From “Dulce et Decorum est” (It is Sweet and Right to Die for Your Country)

by British Army Lt. Wilfred Owen, killed a week before the 1918 Armistice.

More than that we cannot say to you, so we will address our former brothers and sisters in arms who are now our brothers and sisters in peace.

To members of Veterans For Peace:

At one time in our lives we bore the hardships and dangers of military service. We were not strangers to privation, or fear, or acts of courage. Although the America of our childhood history books has been shaken and some would say, shattered by what we learned in the military and since, we can still hear the call to service when it is clear and true.

Nothing could be more clear or true today than the need for us to do everything we humanly can to stop the killing. Not just stop the escalation – stop the killing. Bring all the troops home. Take care of them when they get here. Pay to rebuild what we have destroyed.

It is important for us to rededicate ourselves to the resolution we adopted at our 2008 convention: Afghanistan is not “the right war.” We must leave as soon as possible.

This is important to repeat because this administration and some in Congress would have us believe that we cannot withdraw immediately from Afghanistan, we must provide some stability and protection from the likes of the Taliban.

So we state without doubt: our occupation of Afghanistan is driving the violent opposition to it. More U.S. troops and more occupation will mean more anger and yet more violent reaction from those whose lands we occupy.

We must rededicate ourselves to ending this cycle of violence.

The Taliban recruit from the ranks of the unemployed and the poor. One important way to reduce unemployment, poverty and Taliban recruits is to fund programs that provide work and income. To say that the government of Afghanistan is corrupt and that economic development funds are wasted is to conveniently ignore the real reason we are in Afghanistan.

Throughout Afghanistan, grassroots networks are making a difference at the local and tribal level. This is where we should put our money.

But we are not in Afghanistan to give them democracy, even if that were possible. Neither is our purpose to build up that country’s smaller, more democratic institutions that serve the population. We occupy Afghanistan because America the Empire demands control of its resources and to have a strategic locations from which to project military power. As the Secretary-General of NATO said recently, “We need a stable government in Afghanistan, a government that we can deal with.”

And no one – NO one, but us is going to stop the killing; neither the President nor the Congress. We can beseech them, ask them, demand from them that they stop the killing and bring all the troops home. But until we exert the power of massive resistance to the Empire that only we can exert, it will keep rolling over Afghanis, Iraqis, Pakistanis and whoever else that is in its way.

We must continue writing and calling our representatives and demanding peace. If we’ve done that we must take to the streets. If we’ve done that we must sit down in the streets. If we’ve done that we must sit down in Congressional offices and if we’ve done that we must sit down, clog up, incapacitate, withdraw our consent and generally bring business as usual to a halt wherever we can, with any peaceful means available.

If we do not take every step we can we know what will happen. Combat brigades will stay in Iraq, drone attacks, Special Forces and the CIA will continue to kill and maim in Pakistan, and 40, 60, 80,000 more troops will be sent to Afghanistan where the suffering and death will increase dramatically – for years to come.

Even when we do all of the above we must anticipate that it may not be enough to stay the hand of death. The American Empire is a mighty machine. We will need to make common cause with all those living in the heart of Empire who are also its victims. We know who they are. We see them every day – on the streets, where we work, where we shop, where we pray, where we play.

They and we are the common folk, not possessed of significant wealth. But we are skilled and numerous and creative and tenacious. And we have nothing but time. The Empire may be mighty but it is also as of glass – the next blow against it may well be the one that sends a crack through its entire length, the next blow causing it to shatter. We cannot know when that will happen or whose blow may be the deciding one. Our job is simple: to never quit. To use a military analogy, as long as an army, no matter how tattered, remains in the field, the revolution continues.

That’s all we have to do. But we must do it. Starting now.

Ferner is a former Navy hospital corpsman and President of Veterans For Peace

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What If Every Church Had Been A Peace Church?

by Gary G. Kohls, MD

Christians have been the major perpetrators of homicidal violence against each other as well as against the world’s non-Christians for the past 1700 years, ever since the Roman Emperor Constantine co-opted Christianity (in its original form a pacifist religion), stopped the persecutions and ultimately made Christianity the state religion and thus beholden to support the politics, the violence and the brutal wars of empire.

The myriad of examples of this decidedly un-Christ-like Christian homicide would be the current (christian) Bush administration wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the covert US military operations in the Philippines, Colombia, Central America, Georgia, etc. Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants have been killing each other for generations and Rwanda, where Christians brutally massacred hundreds of thousands of their fellow Christians in the mid-1990s.

US Christian soldiers, with the prayers and blessings of their church clergy and lay-leaders back home, mercilessly destroyed, physically, emotionally and spirituality, hundreds of thousands of innocent Central American peasants during the Reagan/Bush era. That same church-endorsed military continues its destruction, which includes the spraying of lethal pesticides on peasants and their farms in South America, under the guise of a long-since discredited US drug interdiction policy. And the organized church, perhaps exhibiting a lack of faith in Jesus’ clear gospel commands to practice unconditional love of friends and enemies, remains almost totally silent on the mass slaughter that is modern war.

When one looks at the last 1700 years of Christianity through the uncensored lens of honest historians, it’s hard to feel anything but disgust at the cruelty that has been perpetrated with the knowledge and consent of the church of Jesus Christ, but Christian participation in war and killing has a long history.

The reality of the Crusades, where Christian soldiers killed without mercy the so-called "enemy of God" occupiers of the “Holy” Land, is a dark blot on the history of Christianity and has left a thousand year legacy of enmity between Islam and Christianity

The Inquisitions, where Jews, wise women and other "heretics" were tortured and burned at the stake, often during religious celebrations, went on for 600 years, with the blessings of official church leaders.

The reformation and counter-reformation wars were started in the 16th century by those in charge of church doctrine. All sides, Lutheran, Calvinist, Catholic and Anglican, believed that one could follow Jesus and simultaneously kill each other as well as any other member of the body of Christ who happened to have a different interpretation of the Bible.

The American Civil War resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 American soldiers, virtually all claiming Christianity as the faith of their fathers. Obedient soldiers on both sides participated unhesitatingly in the mutual carnage, with the clergy on both sides using the Bible as justification for total war, both against and for the institution of slavery.

Both World Wars I and II were started and fought by Christians against fellow Christians, with the pulpits on all sides ringing with flag-waving patriotism - the people in the pews shouting for blood, glory and victory for the fatherland.

The atomic bombing of Nagasaki (and the obliteration of that city, the historical and spiritual center of Oriental Christianity) is still regarded as totally pointless overkill by all credible historians; but the bombing was carried out by an all-Christian bomb crew, whose mission was solemnly blessed by its Catholic and Lutheran chaplains on that day, the infamous August 9, 1945.

The on-going genocide, both military and economic, of indigenous peoples since the arrival of Columbus, is still being perpetrated with the full knowledge, consent and participation of decent, "God-fearing" “bible-believing” Christians but with the violence justified by passages found mainly in the pre-Christian scriptures.

Most of the non-Christian world knows without a doubt that Jesus was a pacifist and preached active, courageous, nonviolent resistance to evil (rather than the justified violence against "evildoers" that is commonly preached today in most of Christendom). Outside observers know that Jesus was a merciful and compassionate teacher/prophet who renounced homicide and violence in all its forms. Given those facts, one has to wonder what has been going on inside the Christian churches for the last 17 centuries. (It is instructive to recall that Gandhi, a devout Hindu and widely considered the most Christ-like figure in the 20th century, often said that the only people who don't know Jesus was nonviolent are Christians.

And therein lies a serious spiritual problem for the church. History documents clearly that the Christian church of the first three centuries took Jesus' teachings of unconditional love of friend and enemies seriously. Indeed, the church that sprang up among the followers of the pacifist Jesus started out, as one would expect, as a true peace church.

So, if the church of the first few centuries was a peace church, and the latter churches of the last 1700 years have virtually all been either Holy War churches or Justified War churches, one has to wonder: 'What would the world be like now if every church had been a peace church?" A little clear thinking for those who know a modicum of history would come up with a multitude of tantalizing possibilities, including the following:

1) The baptized Catholic Adolf Hitler would have been raised within a progressive peace church, with peacemaker priests and nuns doing the ethical training. Little Adolf would have been raised by a strong pacifist Catholic mother who would have nurtured and loved and protected him from the cruelty of his father and the cruelty and anti-Semitism of the Austrian culture he grew up in.

2) The Lutheran Adolf Eichmann, the Russian Orthodox dictator Joseph Stalin, and the Catholics Benito Mussolini and Joseph Goebbels were also baptized Christians and most of the rest of those of Nazi infamy were also baptized Christians, but none of them were ever taught that the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule were central to the theology of Jesus and that therefore nonviolence was at the core of his politics.

3) If every church had been a peace church, the American Christian churches of the South would have rejected the brutal enslavement of black Africans, and the American Civil War would not have happened.

4) If every church had been a peace church, Christian European monarchs and their obedient Christian soldiers would not have raped Africa, Asia and the Americas into colonial submission over gold, silver and slaves, and the bloody armed revolutions of liberation a century later would not have been fought.

5) If every US church was a true peace church, a unified, benevolent United States would be working hard right now to nurture and reconcile with, rather than demonize and marginalize, the officially feared and therefore hated minorities such as Muslims, Palestinians, Jews, blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, and non-white foreigners of various ethnicities and religious persuasions.

6) If every church was a true peace church, there would not be the current crippling military budget which makes every program of social uplift, including health care and education, unaffordable.

7) If every European church had been a true peace church, there would have been no World War I, no oppressive Treaty of Versailles, no Nazi party and no World War II.

8) If every church was a true peace church American Christian children would not be cruelly bullying their weaker brothers and sisters in the Columbine high schools of this land, and the victims of bullying would have no reason to shoot back.

9) If every church had been a true peace church, professed Christian presidents would not be trying to outspend their predecessors on lethal weapons systems, escalating current wars, nor would they become gleeful hanging judges with a need to disprove their suspected wimp-hood by sabre-rattling their nations into World War III.

10) And if every church had been a peace church, those who claim discipleship to the non­violent Jesus would be leading the world to peace, rather than into war.

And the Peaceable Kingdom would be at hand.

Dr. Kohls, from Duluth, MN, believes that “the church could lead the world toward peace if every church taught and lived as Jesus taught and lived” which is the working motto of Every Church A Peace Church ( He is a member of a local affiliate of ECAPC called the Community of the Third Way.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Review: Rules of Disengagement

Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent by Marjorie Cohn and Kathleen Gilberd. PoliPointPress/ 226 pages soft cover, $14.95

Reviewed by Will Shapira

Concern over the possibility of commiting a war crime is a valid reason for disobeying or ignoring an order in the military, say the authors. In a book that should be “must” reading for all young people considering entering the military and their parents and other loved ones as well as those counseling young people about the military, Cohn and Gilberd methodically document what little potential enlistees and those already in service are told about their rights to avoid becoming potential war criminals.

Each chapter in its own particular way makes cogent points about illegal wars, their conduct and the liabilities of those involved in them. In the Introduction, the authors tell us that “Rules of engagement limit forms of combat, levels for force, defining what is legal in warfare and what is not. In the modern world, the rules of engagement are defined by an established body of international law and, for American soldiers, by U.S law as well.

“When the government at the highest levels ignores these rules, when the conduct of a war and the war itself violate the law, as happened in Vietnam and is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers are forced into a legal and ethical dilemma. They must decide whether to abide by law and conscience---knowing the government does not---or to follow orders without regard to the law. ‘Rules of Engagement’ examines the legal and moral questions posed by these wars through the eyes of American soldiers, showing the effects the wars have had on the soldiers’ lives and those of their families.”

Whether you’re considering joining the military, know someone who is or has, or are deeply concerned with the moral and ethical issues of making and conducting war, this book is for you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


by Donald Gutierrez

“Air bombardment is state terrorism, the terrorism of the rich. It has burned up and blasted apart more innocents in the past six decades than have all the anti-state terrorists who ever lived”

--C. Douglas Loomis, The Nation (Sept. 26, 1994)

“That is really not a matter I am terribly interested in.”

--Colin Powell (on being questioned in 1991 about Iraqi casualties) The Nation (Feb. 2, 2002)


All Americans know that on September 11, 2001, thousands of Americans were killed by Mid-eastern suicide-terrorists. Further, the death of any American serviceman killed in action in Afghanistan is fully and prominently publicized in our media. All this publicity is understandable and deserved. What is not asked, though, is why Afghan civilian casualties are given little attention here. Perhaps our leaders can “regret” the deaths of the enemy’s civilians, but then such “collateral damage” is, we are informed, inevitable in war. The Pentagon claims it does all it can to avoid collateral damage and that it mainly practices surgical bombing. But one expert claims such bombing is impossible. That claim is reinforced by evidence that the United States has dropped cluster bombs in Iraq, Yugoslavia, as well as in Afghanistan, a practice condemned by human-rights groups as “indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction.” Further, one American general admitted that American planes intentionally bombed civilian infrastructure in Kosovo in order to motivate civilians to rise against their rulers.

It is commonly accepted that a nation at war, especially its military, is not humanely concerned about the fate of the enemy, either military or civilian. That perspective, apparent in warring nations, nevertheless overlooks another one usually ignored, and of which more people should be aware: that international covenants exist which state that the commanders of opposing warring forces are responsible for achieving their military goals with as little harm to the enemy forces as possible, that the captured enemy should be treated humanely, and that the military leaders of the victorious side should be concerned about casualties on both sides. This last position not only contrasts sharply with Colin Powell’s statement in the epigraph above; it suggest as well a standard of warfare which, if it strikes us as quixotic, thus also measures our own alienation from humane standards of war conduct. Public attitudes towards war ethics are generally shaped by a nation’s leaders and the mass media. If these two agencies can whip up enough fear and hatred in the country towards the foe, such conditioning will make it fairly easy for the government to effect such war crimes as Ramsey Clark and others indicate occurred in the Gulf War: “…killing tens of thousands of essentially defenseless soldiers, soldiers withdrawing without weapons; burying soldiers alive; using illegal weapons; disrespect for the dead and many others. The combat death toll alone—125,000 Iraqis to 148 Americans—reveals the defenselessness of the Iraqis and the dimension of the war crime. This was certainly a violation of the Hague Convention requiring that force used be proportional to a legitimate military objective.” Clark asserts that these crimes violate not only the Hague Convention but also the Nuremberg Charter and the Geneva Conventions and Protocols. International treaties restricting military behavior in war are designated by the Geneva Conventions of 1864 and 1901 which, Clark states, “provided protection for soldiers wounded in action. The Hague Convention of 1869, revised in 1907, was the first international codification of the laws of armed conflict.” The Hague Convention also prohibits the employment of excessive force.

The United States is obviously not the only major violator of those ethical international agreements concerning humane treatment of the other side in wartime. Many nations have brutally treated enemy forces and civilian populations. But the United States in recent decades has been extraordinarily destructive and imperious towards both. A 1998 headline in the Albuquerque Journal read “COHEN: ‘WE’LL POUND IRAQ!’” One assumes that Defense Secretary didn’t mean every square foot of that country, but the ubiquitousness of that threat suggests as much. Indeed, the United States might as well have bombed the entire nation as, according to Clark, it violated both the Hague Convention as well as the 1977 Addition to the Geneva Convention of 1949 by devastating the civilian infrastructure of Iraq. The United States, according to the Pentagon, flew 109,876 sorties, and up to 40,000 pounds of bombs were dropped during each carpet-bombing sortie by B-52s on military installations. ( “In Indochina,” Michael Parenti claims, “the United States dropped several times more tons of bombs than were used in all of World War II.” This includes “schools, hospitals, bridges, cement plants, TV and radio stations, and railway depots, shops, restaurants and homes.”) The 12-year sanction by the United States against Iraq clearly constitutes violations of civilian protection guaranteed by war-ethics conventions.

Further, the American use of weaponry like cluster bombs, and the carpet bombing and depleted-uranium shelling of Iraq, Yugoslavia and now Afghanistan constitute even more evidence of such violation. According to William Blum (Rogue State), President Clinton bombed the people of Yugoslavia for 78 days and nights,” taking the lives of many hundreds of civilians and producing one of the greatest ecological catastrophes in history…” Blum also mentions Clinton’s “illegal and lethal bombings of Somalia, Bosnia, Sudan and Afghanistan,” all attacks obviously including civilians.

Citing remarks about, and excessive action against, the enemy made by key American military and civilian leaders is apropos here. Directing the NATO aerial attack on Yugoslavia, General Wesley Clark, banging his fist on a table, shouted, “I’ve got to get the maximum violence out of this campaign—now!” General Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander in Chief of United States Central Command, besides continuing to slaughter Iraqis two days after the cease fire, is reputed to have said: “I want every Iraqi soldier bleeding from every orifice.” Henry (“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”) Kissinger was centrally if sometimes covertly involved in the misery and murder of millions of civilians through America’s interventions in Cambodia, Vietnam, Chile, Angola, East Timor, Iraq and Bangladesh. And of course American presidents like Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr. have been centrally responsible for catastrophic actions of often undeclared war against sovereign states involving the deaths and maiming of millions and the devastation of their military and civilian infrastructure.


Journalist Martha Gellhorn once said “I thought it would be fine if the ones who ordered the bombing and the ones who did the bombing would walk on the ground sometime and see what it is like” (The Face of War). Indeed, one would love to take the Pentagon brass, the President and Congress for a compulsory walk to look close up at what American bombing has actually been doing to Afghanistan and innumerable other civilians. Howard Zinn in a Nation article entitled “The Others” (February 2, 2002), provides that closer look at the “collateral damage” caused by American bombing in Afghanistan. First, he gives us various examples of excuses offered by the Pentagon for bombing “mistakes” (observing that such events get little attention on national television): “’incorrect coordinates had been entered,’” “’the village was a legitimate military target…’” (Zinn’s accounts, only a small sampling, derive from sources like the New York Times, the Times of London, Reuters, the Washington Post).

A family in the village of Madoo states that 15 houses were bombed. A young man named Paira Gul, deeply embittered that his sisters and their families were killed, says: “’ Most of the dead are children.’” The village of Charyhari on December 12 was bombed by an American B-52. The villagers claim 30 people died. One man, Muhibullah, had his daughter killed and son injured by cluster bombs, not to mention six of his cows and the loss through burning of all his rice and wheat, all this representing a catastrophic loss. Bombs began dropping around 7 p.m. near Torai village, killing 20 villagers: “’I saw the body of one of my brothers-in-law being pulled from the debris,’ Maroof said. ‘The lower part of his body had been blown away. Some of the other bodies were unrecognizable. There were heads missing and arm blown off…’” In the town of Kabul /Sunday/, a bomb hits a “’flimsy mud-brick house, “blowing apart seven children as they ate breakfast with their father…” Next we hear of a sobbing middle aged man “cradling the head of his baby, the rest of the baby’s body” lying beside the bodies of 3 other children….”

Perhaps the most chilling event occurred in Quetta, Parkistan. A man, awakened by bombs exploding, watches with his daughter as civilians “who survived the bombing run, including his niece and a woman holding her five-year-old son, were gunned down by a slow-moving…aircraft circling overhead' [italics added], leaving 25 civilians dead. According to the Pentagon, the village was a legitimate target. As for civilian casualties, one American official stated, "We don’t know. We’re not on the ground.” Finally, in one village (Kama Ado) that no longer exists, B-52s dropped dozens of bombs, killing 115 men, women and children. The Defense Department insists that nothing happened: "It just didn’t happen.” This cavalier dismissal looks all too much like the arrogance and contempt of the super-strong towards the super-weak. Even trees are not spared. “’Our trees,’ says Muhammed Tahir, ‘are our only shelter from the cold and wind. The trees have been bombed. Our waterfall, our only source of water—they bombed it. Where is the humanity?’”

By being poorly informed by our leaders about the casualties on the “other” side, Americans are denied a sense of the graphic reality of the experience of Afghanistan, Iraqi, Yugoslavian victims of Washington’s enormous violence. This of course is what the American leadership wants. It may, if pressed, insist it wants to protect the public from the concrete horrors of war. Its real motivation, however, is surely to still public protest about the White House-Pentagon war mode of extreme force. The media in turn helps the state to minimize coverage of military and civilian wounded and dead on the other side. CNN CEO Walter Isaacson, for example, issued a memo to his staff to downplay Afghan sufferings, or to qualify any data on it.

But, one is reminded, they “did” it to us. Moreover, al-Quaidan terrorists have shown themselves brutally indifferent to American-civilian casualties. Still, these charges clearly do not apply to these Afghan civilian “casualties.” The people killed on September 11 never deserved such a death. Nevertheless, is the occurrence of 9/11 sufficient grounds for killing what now amount to at least 4000 Afghan civilian deaths—or for projecting a war against Saddam Hussein in which probably many thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians will die? Besides increasingly alienating Western allies and allied Arab nations with its upcoming Iraq “plan,” Washington, according to Noam Chomsky, has likely used countries like Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan as testing grounds for its high-tech ordnance. If that sinister tendency continues, accelerated by our munitions industry and White House war zealots, the crucial ethic of humane treatment of enemy civilians and military will go on being misrepresented or ignored.

What will it take to make the average American realize that in modern wars, it is mainly civilians who get blown to bits by bombs, and that the civilian (usually non-White) “foe” obliterated are as human and as vulnerable to pain, terror and grief as we are? And what can be done to evolve social institutions that better inform its citizens of, and empower them against, massively evil violence perpetrated by Washington abroad? It is a strong possibility that more September Elevens can be avoided if America truly joined the “comity of nations” by not placing its geopolitical “National Interests” abroad above everything else.

Don Gutierrez is professor emeritus of English from Western New Mexico University. Since retiring in 1994, he’s devoted most of his research and writing to issues of social justice and human rights abuses (or what he calls political or state torture).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tortured Law

Alliance for Justice announces the release of its new 10-minute documentary, Tortured Law, which examines the role lawyers played in authorizing torture. The film is being used to spark debate across the country, and calls on Attorney General Eric Holder to uphold the Constitution and the law by releasing the Justice Department's report on the "torture memos" and authorizing a full investigation of those who ordered, designed, and justified torture. View the film. Sign the petition.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Speech at SDS event at UNC-Asheville to observe the 8th anniversary of invasion of Afghanistan

by Kim Carlyle

Benjamin Ferencz was just 25 years old in 1945. But by that time he had graduated from Harvard Law School, joined the Army, and had fought in every campaign in Europe. He was then transferred to the new War Crimes Branch of the Army to gather evidence about Nazi brutality. Shortly after his discharge from the Army, he was recruited for the Nuremberg War Crimes trial.

At Nuremberg, Benjamin Ferencz prosecuted Otto Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf was commander of Einsatzgruppe D, a unit that killed 90,000 men, women, and children, mostly Jews, in the Ukraine from June of 1941 to March of 1942.

Ohlendorf maintained that the Germans were acting in self-defense, attacking the Russians before they attacked Germany. Asked why they killed children, he told Ferencz that they had to kill the children because when they knew the Nazis had killed their parents they would grow up to be their enemies.


Eight years ago today as we invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. State Department said that the United States had a "clear right to self defense" following the September 11 attacks.

Here’s what the Bush Doctrine says:

“To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense.”

Please note that not one of the alleged hijackers of September 11, 2001 was from Afghanistan – or Iraq – or even Pakistan. The government of Afghanistan did not attack us. The alleged master perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, whose complicity in the crime remains unproven, was almost certainly in Pakistan – not Afghanistan – at the time.

The UN Charter permits the use of armed force under only two conditions:
1. Self-defense against an armed attack
2. With the approval of the UN Security Council.

The UN Security Council did not authorize use of force against Afghanistan prior to, during, or after the U.S. invasion on October 7, 2001. The U.S. justified its military aggression based on "self-defense."

Congress never passed a war resolution act against Afghanistan. The U.S. government acted, and continues to act, without legal authorization or justification.

Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter defined Crimes Against Peace as "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.“

Our country is engaged in an illegal war of aggression in Afghanistan.

The International Court at Nuremberg declared:

"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."


The self defense continues.

Two months ago, President Obama said:

“But we must never forget. This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again.... So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

President Obama’s unmanned, remote-controlled, drone bombers have killed more than 700 civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan so far this year – apparently in self-defense.


Benjamin Ferencz, the combat veteran and war crimes prosecutor, in September 2001 shortly after the attacks called for legal, not military, action. He wrote:

“The United States should draw up an indictment against Osama Bin Laden and all of the terrorist groups known to the FBI, alleging the commission of crimes against humanity, details of which should be specified.”

He went on to say:

“I have experienced the horrors of war and I cannot bear to see the destruction and the pained eyes of those digging in the ruins or the helpless relatives refusing to accept what they know is now inevitable. I have flashbacks of riding over the ruins of St. Lo in Normandy where the sky was black with American bombers and the earth rocked as a French city was reduced to rubble. I smell the smoke of Wurzburg burning when we dropped incendiary bombs that burned every house to the ground, leaving only ghostly walls standing. I recall the emaciated corpses at Buchenwald and Mauthausen and a host of other charnel houses. And I remember Berlin when the Russians got through with it. I see my remorseless Nuremberg defendants who killed over a million people... All this may help explain the trauma that drives me to try to prevent war.”

Unfortunately, the U.S. response to 9/11 brought these “horrors of war” to the people of Afghanistan, where they continue today.

Benjamin Ferencz has said, "The United States has turned its back on the Nuremberg principles..."

What are we the people to do? Work through the system? Engage in nonviolent direct action?

Whatever we do, it will be more effective if we educate our neighbors. Many Americans still believe Afghanistan is a good war, “a war of necessity.”

Tell your neighbors that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were war crimes.

Tell them our militarism has made the world less safe.

Tell Americans that the people of Afghanistan don’t want us there.

Tell them our soldiers are dying in vain.

Tell them that war in general is futile, destructive, and enormously wasteful.

Here is a tool that will help you to educate your neighbor. This is the War Crimes Times. It is published by Veterans For Peace Chapter 099 here in WNC and is distributed nationally.

Based on his experience as a soldier and a war crimes prosecutor, Benjamin Ferencz said, "There will never be a war without atrocities ... but war is the biggest atrocity."

Eight years ago he wrote, “We must try to understand the causes of the violence and try to diminish the hatreds that encourage people to kill or be killed for their particular cause. This requires new thinking, a willingness to compromise, compassion and tolerance, a greater respect for the goals set down in the UN Charter and infinite patience. I am now approaching 82 and I have not given up hope.”

Those of us younger than 82 should not give up hope either.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

WCT Reader Alert: "The Kill Company"

submitted by Will Shapira

I wish to alert WCT readers to an article in the July 6/13 2009 issue of the New Yorker, "The Kill Company," by Raffi Khatchadourian. It’s about U.S. Army Col. Michael Steele and an incident in 2006 during which several captured insurgents were shot by men of Steele's brigade.

In painstaking detail, the author traces Steele's background which undoubtedly will resonate with many WCT readers and asks implicitly: What, exactly, constitutes the commission of a war crime in the field and who may be judged culpable?

I will leave it to you to decide but one thing is sure: more reporting like this from the field is just as necessary as making the case against the then-commander-in-chief and his staff.

Guidelines for submissions to WCT

The ideal article for the quarterly print version of The War Crimes Times: 600 to 1200 crisply-written words on a topic relevant to our mission.

We also welcome high resolution photos, cartoons, poetry, and letters to the editor.

Third party material will be considered only with the express permission of the copyright holder.

The WCT editorial team will consider all submissions. If your submission is selected for publication, we will notify you. If your submission is rejected, please do not be discouraged. Many criteria — such as timeliness, style, freshness, relevance to the WCT mission or the particular issue's theme, and content of recent issues — are used to determine WCT content.

Submissions are due no later than the 1st of the month that the paper is printed: March, June, September, and December. EARLY SUBMISSIONS HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF BEING CONSIDERED.

Send, in electronic format (preferred), to or to Editor, WCT/VFP, PO Box 10664, Greensboro, NC 27404. (Note: due to size constraints, all submissions may not be used in the print edition, but all will be considered for posting on this blog.)

War Crimes Times Statement of Purpose (revised 06/2011)

The War Crimes Times provides compelling, ongoing information on war and the war crimes that invariably accompany war, the many costs of war, the effects of our war culture on our national character and international reputation, and the need to hold accountable those who initiate and conduct illegal wars. Additionally and importantly, we also report on the efforts of the many people who sacrifice their time, money, and comfort to work for peace.

When national leaders initiate hostilities they create the conditions—the extreme use of force coupled with limited accountability—for the war crimes which invariably follow. War crimes are therefore an inherent part of war. The suffering caused and the enmity aroused by war crimes must be regarded as costs of war. Since these and other costs far exceed any benefits of war, we seek to end war as a tool of international policy.

Towards this goal, we believe that holding war criminals accountable will send a strong message to all current and future heads of state to very carefully weigh all the consequences of the decision to go to war. While we recognize that United States has long relied on unlawful military force to further its foreign policy goals, we are particularly concerned with the blatant and egregious violations of international law committed by the United States beginning with the Administration of George W. Bush and now continued and expanded under President Obama.

We endorse any efforts, including impeachment, which would bring war criminals of any administration to justice. The War Crimes Times has resolved to see that Bush, Cheney, Obama, and other government officials and military officers who have committed war crimes are prosecuted—no matter how long it takes.

There is no statute of limitations on war crimes.