Friday, November 29, 2013

Honduras Election: What Happened? What Responsibility Does the U.S. Bear?

I can still remember exactly where I was standing during the phone call.  I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, finishing up a consulting assignment. I was in the shopping arcade attached to the Pfister Hotel, about to go to dinner and relax.

One of my best friends from my childhood in New Jersey was calling to tell me with pride and also concern that his daughter was going to Central America to do research.  Sarah was about to write her senior thesis, and she had gotten funding to go to Honduras to do interviews. John told me about the experienced people who were helping her make sure her work in Honduras would be productive but also safe. I could feel him vacillating between immense admiration for her priorities and what she was trying to do, and fear that something might happen to her.  And it was complicated by the difficult decisions of a father of a grown child: Do you say everything you are thinking? How do you balance responsibility and respect?

I told John how important I thought Sarah's work was. I told him about my own nephew and his wife, who had both served in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, and about how they were both working now in the health field in Chicago. I reminded him that Sarah had spent a year in Argentina, so this wouldn't be her first time in Latin America. I joked that it was natural that our kids were going to be a lot more adventuresome than we had been, coming out of little ol' Chatham, New Jersey. But I stopped short of saying that I was sure there was nothing to worry about, because I knew that wasn't true.

Recent history:  The Coup of 2009

That conversation was taking place in the wake of a coup that overthrew the democratically-elected president of Honduras. At the time, I was aware that there were "difficulties" in Honduras: the president had had to escape the country, it seemed to be a coup, there were some kind of elections after that, but things still seemed up in the air . . . .  I didn't understand much more than that. (For more background, check out the article on the 2009 Honduras political crisis on Wikipedia.)

The immediate upshot of that telephone call was that everything turned out fine with Sarah's research trip: she successfully completed her thesis and is now in a graduate program in Albuquerque, focusing on Latin American affairs and public health.

Another upshot of that telephone call is that I got a clear message.  "This young woman is showing me what it means to see something important that needs to be done," I thought, "and she's structuring her life so that she can do something about it." What would it mean if I did that?

Accompaniment in Honduras

So now I've been called to action -- in a lot of ways you can learn about by reading this blog. One part of that means learning about Honduras, and the way events there and elsewhere in Latin America have been shaped by the hand of the United States.

A number of friends have participated in accompaniment programs in Honduras. The idea is that people from the U.S. and other countries need to go and witness what is happening there. It is hoped that there presence my do something to inhibit the brazen attacks against ordinary people. (You can support their work there: Donate to Defend Human Rights in Honduras)

One of those friends is Andy Thayer. For instance, in the fall of 2012 he traveled to Honduras on a fact-finding mission with Chicago-based La Voz de los de Abajo. His conclusion? "The government doesn’t respect its own laws, the judges are bought and sold by the few who can afford them, and all this is done to increase the power and wealth of that country’s 1%. And [the Obama] administration makes it worse by supporting this with guns and more guns."(See "An Open Letter to Barack Obama: Mr. President, You Are Abetting Murder in Honduras")

Most recently, Andy has gone to work with others to monitor the elections in Honduras, as part of the Honduran Equality Delegation, the first LGBTI-focused delegation to Honduras. Below are video links he has shared; the photos on the post are his as well. As Andy provides additional information, I will update this post.

(At this writing, the BBC is reporting, "[Juan Orlando] Hernandez, of the conservative National Party, won 36% of the vote, with results from 81.5% of polling stations tallied. The left-wing candidate Xiomara Castro won 29%, but she disputes the outcome." See "Honduras election: Hernandez declared winner".)

UPDATE NOVEMBER 30: From Andy Thayer:
Libre Party press conference going on right now, confirming many of the things our delegation observed and learned from witnesses in the polling places where we observed. Dead people voting, live people being declared dead and yet very much alive, and not being allowed to vote.

From the press conference:

30% of votes were by dead people or those who had emigrated from the country;

Roughly 10% of the election judges from the small parties were bought;

The biggest amount of fraud occurred in the transmission of votes from the voting "precincts" to the center, where the role of the bought judges was critical.

Libre Presidential candidate Xiomara Zelaya has just stepped up to the podium. "We do not recognized the legitimacy of any government which is a result of the fraud. We have evidence of the fraud that occurred on Nov. 24th."

How is it that a candidate who led easily in virtually every poll suddenly "loses" by 7%? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what went on....
Elections in Honduras - The Video Record

Andy Thayer has provided these videos from the election in Honduras:
LGBT in Honduras

Andy Thayer (center) with legendary Honduran
LGBT leaders Pepe Palacios (right) and Erick
Martinez (left). (Tegucigalpa, Honduras)
Election night with Presidential Candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya

Military Intimidation of the Media During Honduran Elections
One thing that Andy Thayer and other activists have helped me do is to understand the connectedness of injustices being experienced by people in diverse places, under diverse pretexts; and to see the way U.S. government actions form a common thread in those injustices.

Photos courtesy Andy Thayer. See full "Honduras: Day after stolen elections" photo album on Facebook.

Related posts

Diverse places, diverse pretexts . . . We will only deal successfully with the crimes being committed in places as disparate as Honduras and Pakistan and the South Side of Chicago when we understand them as part of the much larger war against communities of color . . . .

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color )

Is the School of the Americas (SOA) model now being transferred to Afghanistan? The SOA model is to use U.S. money and ideas to enable power holders in another country to persecute and kill ideological enemies, while denying that the U.S. is engaging in violence in that country, much less exposing U.S. combat troops to violence in that country, and making every effort to disavow the consequences of U.S. guidance of the violence (and crimes) being carried out in that country.

(See Is the SOA Coming to Afghanistan?)

Sometimes solidarity means taking to the streets where you are.  (And sometimes doing so reminds you to stick up for your own rights, as well.)

(See Can Chicago Walk Like an Egyptian?)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

12 Years a Detainee

For the next three months, people will be talking about the film 12 Years a Slave and its Oscar prospects. And well they should.

The film is about the experiences of the free man, Solomon Northrup, who was seized and enslaved for twelve years, and it may be the best thing ever to come along for enabling us to confront the true meaning of our history of oppression and racism in America.

But it's not just about history. How many viewers of the film will gasp and realize that the kind of kidnapping and living entombment depicted in the film isn't just limited to the America of our forebears?

Extraordinary Rendition

One minute he is with his family, and the next minute he is in chains.

Of course, this is the reality of every victim of American slavery. The peculiar hell of the protagonist of 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northrup, is that he thinks he lives in a time and place where it can't happen to him.

The portrayal of the kidnapping of Solomon Northrup matches the practice of "extraordinary rendition" by which the U.S. government has snatched people in countries all over the world and carried them outside the reach of help, or of the law. Many of those people still languish in Guantanamo.


12 Years a Slave is as much about the captors as the captured.

Everyone is dehumanized.

The most over-the-top character is the crazed slaveholder Epps. Perhaps the most calculatingly evil is the slave dealer Theophilus Freeman; slaveholder William Ford the most pathetic, carpenter John Tibeats the most despicable.  But the character that I found most compelling was the overseer who saves Northrup from lynching one minute, and yet the next has walked away leaving him dangling on the edge of suffocation. What is going on?

Everyone is embedded in the cruelty; everyone is complicit. ("Just doing my job.")

How many Americans -- at all levels -- have been dehumanized by their complicity -- directly and indirectly -- in the renditions, detentions, torture, killings, and other acts carried out by the U.S. government in our name in the "global war on terror" since 9/11?

Can We Act?

Brad Pitt plays a humane, indepdendent, and -- ultimately -- courageous white (Canadian) laborer, Samuel Bass. He has the two best lines in the film.

The first is when Bass tells the menacing Epps, "The law can't make a person a slave. The law could change tomorrow and make you a slave. That wouldn't mean that it was true."

The second is Bass' response to Northrup's request for help. "I'm afraid."

It is that second line that I can't get out of my mind. Is it possible that even heroes come to the rescue only after facing down their own fear?

Who is willing to stand up in America today and say,  "The law can't make a person an indefinite detainee. The law could change tomorrow and say you should be an indefinite detainee. That wouldn't mean that it was true" ?

The 2014 Oscar season, during which so many people will be talking about 12 Years a Slave, coincides with the 12th anniversary of the establishment of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center: the place America uses to demonstrate that even today it can seize anybody it chooses and pack them away indefinitely, dangling between life and death.

I can't help believing that the producers of 12 Years a Slave are sending us a message: "This is about today. Act."

Related posts

My most prominent memory of my first viewing of the Guantanamo film, The Response, is of one of the stars of the film -- Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek fame -- participating in a panel after the screening. I was blown away when she said, "I did this because our civil liberties in our country have been gravely damaged and we all need to contribute to repairing them."

(See Understanding What Guantanamo Means)

We all wish to be judged by our good intentions. But the way people know us is through our actions. So ... what do people in the Muslim world know about us here in the United States?

(See They'll Know Us By Our Actions)

Make no mistake: the powers that be have know that they have cowed most of the public into being afraid to talk about Guantanamo, and that suits them just fine. Our power to act starts with talking widely -- beyond just our usual circles -- about the way in which we're being scared ... and why a government would possibly want to scare its own people.

(See Pentecost, Guantanamo, and the Moment When Talk Becomes Priceless)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Would a Global Movement to Ground the Drones Look Like?

The 2013 CODEPINK Drones Summit has made it clear to me that the global movement against drones is happening.

I opened my computer this morning to see this image:

Imran Khan addressing a massive crowd at the #PakistanAgainstDrones
protest at Peshawar yesterday. (Photo via @AhmerMurad)
This is a rally in Pakistan to stop US drone killings. (In fact, it has morphed into a movement to resist NATO military operations in the region.) Many of us who weren't in Pakistan participated in this protest by holding rallies where we were (for instance, in London), or by participating virtually via the #PakistanAgainstDrones campaign on Twitter.

A huge turnout outside the US Embassy in London. (via @SorayaAziz)
The New York Times gave front page coverage yesterday to the testimony of Faisal bin Ali Jaber from Yemen when he came to Washington, DC, to tell people first-hand about US drone strikes killing peacemakers in his home country.

Faisal bin Ali Jaber (NY Times)
Of course, some activists have an easier time getting a hearing than others.

Malala Yousafi at the White House: “I also expressed my concerns that
drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these
acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we
refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
(Source: ThinkProgress)
The CODEPINK summit itself, in addition to hosting Faisal and his colleagues, brought forward the voices of speakers from Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition, we learned about the efforts of activists in Germany to resist the US drone command center there that focuses on Africa. And, of course, we heard about the great work of Drones Wars UK to resist British drone militarism, particularly in Afghanistan.

So . . . where else in the world is the movement against drones taking off?

Related posts

Five big realizations I'm taking away from the 2013 CODEPINK Drone Summit "Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance" in Washington, DC.

(See The 2013 DC Drones Conference: 5 Big Takeaways )

The biggest idea coming out of the 2013 Drone Summit? We will only deal successfully with the crimes being committed using drones when we understand them as part of the much larger war against communities of color . . . .

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color )

A new U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.

(See 2014: The Year of Transparency (for U.S. Drone Use)?)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How Do You Say "Suicide Narcissus" in Chinese?

I was at the Suicide Narcissus show at the University of Chicago Renaissance Society two nights ago, and I was mesmerized.

In the notes on the exhibit, curator Hamza Walker says, "We flirt with extinction, an irrational provocation turned desire."

That flirtation makes no more sense than sitting still for the 28 minute video installation, Spatial Intervention I, by Nicole Six and Paul Petritsch -- though that's exactly what I did. "Although we know the end from the very beginning," says Walker, "the story is no less compelling to watch." A man, gloriously alone (except for his own reflection) on an ice-covered lake; the soothing pastel colors of the distant sky; and what seems surely to be a circle he is digging around himself with a pick-axe.

Solitude is something one seldom experiences in China -- or even the US -- these days, so it is at first jarring to imagine that Spatial Intervention I is a perfect parable of what is going on in both those countries today. And yet mesmerizing, self-absorbed species suicide is exactly what's going on.

The New York Times declares "U.S. and China Find Convergence on Climate Issue", but on closer inspection, the US and China "coming together" is nothing but dancing around the edges of the problem, like the man working away at his ice hole . . .
- Will some countries "win" and some countries "lose" in climate negotiations?

- Who will bear the cost of damage from rising seas and storms? ("loss and damage")

- How will steps taken to adapt to the changing climate be financed?

- What does a "fair" emissions reduction scheme look like?
This dodges root causes and reality:
The reality is we're on the cusp of everybody losing.

 The reality is we stand a better chance of scaring ourselves into action if we admit that "mitigating" rising seas ain't gonna fly.

The reality is that financing is a red herring. The minute we outlaw environmental suicide, lots of money will be freed up from old uses to finance new ways of getting power.

The reality is we need to manage this problem at its root cause -- the urge to consume -- and not just its ultimate symptom (emissions).
It's way, way too late to amuse ourselves with debates about who's more wrong in the climate destruction derby. (Plenty of "superpolluting superpower" badges to go around.)

The reality is that the US -- and now China -- need a revolution in consumption habits and attitudes in order to get anywhere near on par with the reduced impact on the Earth that is required to maintain a habitable planet.

The movement to stop the climate crisis is heating up as the UN Conference on Climate Change in 2015 in Paris nears. Will 2015 stand for a real solution? Or should we just start handing out pick-axes?

Related posts

I have begun writing about how the fate of the Earth is intertwined with the ability of BOTH China AND the U.S. to reverse their addiction to carbon. I think this linkage is so critical that it deserves its own word: "chinaEARTHusa".

(See China + USA = Planetocide)

Oil companies are valued by the market based on their reserves. The problem with this approach is that the total reserves claimed by the oil companies is FIVE TIMES what can possibly be burned without driving up the temperature of the atmosphere up by a catastrophic amount and, as McKibben puts it, "breaking the planet." How can the value of oil companies be a function of reserves that can never be used?

(See The REALLY Big Short: The Jig is Up with Oil Companies)

One of the really interesting things about looking at how Rachel Carson used her writing to wake the world up -- particularly with her prophetic Silent Spring -- is that we can then go back to some of the earliest parts of the Bible and see them as living and urgent. And reading Silent Spring as well as Biblical stories like the account of The Flood points to the urgency of changes that need to be made here and now in the way we all live our lives.

(See Looking at Rachel Carson (at St. Luke's "School for Prophets") )

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color

Here's what I was thinking about as the 2013 CODEPINK Drones Summit concluded: "There is a wing of this movement that is concerned about surveillance; there is a wing of this movement that’s concerned about physical injury to people. If there is one area where there is not always full communication, coordination or agreement, that’s it. . . . If the people who feel most concerned about surveillance are actually successful at sitting together with the people concerned about physical injury, this is going to be an incredibly powerful movement." (See Drone Free Zone: At the second annual Drone Summit, Code Pink and Cornel West argue that all lives are equal. in In These Times quoted me the day after)

"This movement," of course, is the movement to stop drone surveillance and warfare. During the summit we need an enormous amount of progress in building the national (and soon-to-be global) network to stop drone surveillance and warfare. Are there really two different wings -- two different struggles -- or is it, in fact, a single struggle?

What do we mean by "surveillance"?

There is a full-blown effort by individuals and organizations to rein in the use of drones to do surveillance, with some notable recent successes.  A lot of this revolves around words like privacy, search, and warrants; and it is closely tied to NSA abuses and the ubiquitous stationery surveillance cameras in many cities.

Some activists are recognizing the important connections to the use of drones and other technology on the US border, and by government agencies working to repress political dissent.  People are even grudgingly recognizing the centrality of monster data storage and data processing capabilities in making the entire surveillance "octopus" functional.

I wonder if we don't need to go yet another level deeper. When I first began thinking about drones, I asked, "Does this possibly have something to do with what Foucault talked about?"

I'm not a very good philosopher, so it's taken me a long time to really understand the role of surveillance -- of the uninterrupted gaze -- within a large system of power and control.  I'm now beginning to understand that the idea that there are standards of "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" behavior, and that someone (who?) gets to set those standards, and then enforce those standards, is the inherent root condition that manifests itself in ubiquitous surveillance. (See Foucault and Drones: "Surveiller et Punir" Indeed!)

Think of that -- the desire and determination to be the "decider" about standards of "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" -- as the kernel that sits at the absolute center of the surveillance problem.

What do we mean by "injury"?

As I departed from the first drones summit -- the one held in April, 2012 -- the biggest realization for me was that the physical injury that the US inflicts on others is hidden from view, rendered invisible; and that the number one job of activists was to reverse that situation -- to make those injuries visible to everyone -- 100% visible!

The central importance of physical injury must never be lost.  At the same time, we are beginning to recognize the broader impact of drone strikes, and the daily presence of the hovering drone threat, in traumatizing whole communities, and whole sections of countries.  (See Living Under Drones.)

Salima by Nanna Tanier
Years ago, my sister wrote a book called The Body in Pain. The subtitle was "the making and unmaking of the world."  The book said many things, one of which was that the behavior of power when it inflicts pain and injures bodies is often combined with efforts to more broadly destroy the world of the victim -- and by extension, those connected to the victim -- and that the physical manifestation (pain and injured bodies) and the more abstract manifestation (individuals and communities whose are destroyed) should be understand to be inextricably interconnected, and in the service of a single end: the exercise and reinforcement of power.

What happens to communities under the gaze of drones?

One of the biggest ideas coming out of the 2013 Drone Summit, in my opinion, is that we will only deal successfully with the crimes being committed using drones when we understand them as part of the much larger war against communities of color.  This message was brought home in presentation after presentation -- starting with the inspirational words of Cornel West, continuing with the testimony of representatives of Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries who came to tell their stories-- and reinforced by comment after comment by conference participants.

We need to commit totally to resisting that larger war.

There is a small number of people who enjoy privilege and supremacy.  They are a useful category for those who decide what is "normal" or "right" or "acceptable." Often, they image that they are autonomous actors in the power structure. But they are just a useful category.

A far larger number of people are marked for exclusion and deprivation -- and worse -- because they have characteristics that are susceptible to the whole apparatus of power:  they are easily recognizable as  NOT "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" . . . under the gaze of surveillance this condition is recorded and propagated . . . for perpetual recording and processing within the data centers of power . . . accompanied by intermittent acts of physical and cultural injury -- random, senseless -- to reinforce their unshakeable status.  

THIS is the war on communities of color.

(Thanks to Noor Mir at CODEPINK for inspiring this post with her recommendations about the direction of the national and global movement against drones.)

Related posts

Palestine 30 CE - were Jews a "community of color?" And what was Empire doing to keep the community within "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" bounds? And what happened to people who looked like the "wrong" type?

(See Was the Crucifixion a "signature strike"?)

In the city where I live, "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" has been given a brutal construction by the power structure:

Police encounter black man on street
Police shoot black man
Black man dies
(Business as usual in Chicago.)

 (See We need to get the police off the streets of Chicago. QED.)

In 2013 America, we have been conditioned to feel anything associated with Middle Eastern and/or Muslim men should trigger feelings of suspicion, fear, and hatred. And when those cues are triggered, all of our objectivity and healthy skepticism goes out the window.

(See Orwell and the Uses of Hate)

The outstanding aspect of the "global hibakusha" phenomenon that I learned about at the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima was that in situation after situation, great harm is done because someone has the attitude that "these people don't matter."

(See GLOBAL HIBAKUSHA: The Result of the "People Who Don't Matter" Mindset )

We live in a 24/7 entertainment and media culture, and it is a constant struggle to shift from being a passive participant in the dominant cultural narrative to being an active influence on the ideas circulating in our communities.

(See In 2016, Walk the Talk: "Anti-Islamophobia." (You can do it.) )

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ummm . . . do the people in the community get a say? (Update on the Military Coup at Ames)

Several weeks ago I wrote about the recent developments in the saga of the neighborhood school that Chicago politicians want to militarize. (See The Militarization of Ames: The Real Meaning of the DREAM Act )

I am frequently reminded that the case of Ames is not just an isolated matter. For instance, just yesterday, I attended a talk at the 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago, where activist and educator Prexy Nesbitt helped us zero in on how American militarism works, and to connect the dots between the war on communities of color domestically and around the world. (He calls it "race-ing guns and militarism at home and abroad.") Is it a coincidence that the Ames proposal involves militarizing a school that is predominantly Spanish-speaking?

Now this morning, I learned that the community group in the Ames neighborhood has just presented data at the meeting of the Chicago Public Schools Board, showing that the community overwhelmingly demands that Ames continue to be a regular academic school, and that they reject the proposal that it be militarized. The data is below. It seems to me that the only remaining question is: who controls the city, the citizens or the politicians?


The Results Are In!

Maldonado's Military Coup at Ames Even Less Popular than Anticipated

97% of Parents and 94% of Students Vote to Keep Ames as a Neighborhood School, not Military School

Last week, Ames Middle School LSC members held a vote among parents and students on the future of Ames.  Alderman Roberto Maldonado and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan in October to convert Ames into a 7th-12th grade Marine Academy-affiliated school.

The alderman’s plan got a powerful shellacking at the ballot box. The 808 voters sent a clear message – converting Ames into a selective enrollment military school goes AGAINST the will of the community.

Votes of parents and other adults from Ames and the two main feeder elementary schools, McAuliffe and Nixon, during Report Card Pick-Up on November 12: 

For Community School – 309 (96.5%)
For Military School – 11 (3.5%)

Votes of Ames students: 

For Community School-459 (96%)
For Military School-29 (6%)

In addition, 2,481 parents from across all schools in the 26th Ward and Logan Square signed a petition to keep Ames as a neighborhood school open to all students, not convert Ames into a military school.  These numbers blow away the 300-person survey that Alderman Maldonado purports to have.

Ames parents will present the ballots and the petitions to the Chicago Board of Education at the November 20th meeting.

What the Ald. Maldonado and the Mayor’s Office Say…
The Reality
Alderman Maldonado supposedly held “public forums,” but…
Maldonado has NOT ONCE come to Ames Middle School to meet with Ames parents. Maldonado’s one “forum” was 2.3 miles away from Ames Middle School.
Alderman Maldonado conducted a survey of 300 people, but…
Ames parents surveyed 357 Ames neighbors and found that 87% opposed a military high school at Ames. Maldonado’s robocalls targeted residents over a mile away from Ames.
The alderman says he is concerned about academic performance, but…
Ames outperforms the Marine Academy. In 2012, according to the State Board of education, Marine had only 26.6% of its students meeting or exceeding standards in reading and 32.9% in math. Compare this to Ames, which had 59.7% meeting or exceeding standards in reading in 2012, and 73.3% in math. 
“All CPS Military Academies have college acceptance rates over 90%.” But really…
The CPS website states that only 58.4% of Marine students enroll in college, less than CPS average. 
“Military academies have an 80% graduation rate,” but really…
Marine is a push-out factoryMarine graduated only 56.5% of the 122 students who entered as freshman 4 years ago.
Leticia Barrera, Logan Square Neighborhood Association (773) 727-9941
Emma Segura, Ames parent and LSC member (773) 531-9666
Delia Bonilla, Ames parent and LSC member (773) 708-9603 (Spanish preferred)
Maria Patino, Ames and Nixon parent (773) 410-3717 (Spanish preferred)
Ana Espinoza, Ames parent (773) 216-0539

Related posts

Ames serves a largely Spanish-speaking community. Is the militarization of Ames anything other than a signal of what the Democratic party means by equitable treatment for immigrants?

(See The Militarization of Ames: The Real Meaning of the DREAM Act )

For those not already familiar with the situation in Chicago: at a time when the City cannot be bothered to figure out how to run its own schools, but is instead closing dozens at a time, our leaders somehow think it's appropriate to let branches of the U.S. military have the run of the school and recruit kids -- and in some cases outright convert the school into a military academy. Parents in the Logan Square neighborhood are fighting a valiant effort to stop that from happening to the Ames School.

(See Stop Playing "Ender's Game" With Chicago's Young People)

A big Hollywood production of Ender's Game is scheduled for release on November 1. It's a perfect opportunity for us to ask: Are we happy seeing our schools turned into "Battle Schools"?

(See "Ender's Game" and the Militarization of Youth: Can We Talk About This? )

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Is Germany the Key to Resisting AFRICOM's Africa Takeover?

I've written about how the United States is embarking on a whole new chapter in its history of waging perpetual war - this time in Africa. So I wasn't surprised to be reminded about some of the African countries that have seen U.S. drone use (Somalia, Libya, Mali, Sudan) at the drones conference this past weekend.

What I was surprised by is the central role of Germany in all this.

At the conference, filmmaker and journalist Elsa Rassbach from Drohnen-Kampagne: Keine Kampfrohnen (Drone Campaign Germany: NO COMBAT DRONES) brought us up to speed on key facts, including the following:

(1) Africa HQ Role - Germany is the headquarters for US Command for Africa (AFRICOM) as well as being the European center for the CIA. At the AFRICOM Command Center in Stuttgart, 1,000 experts work on targetting.

(2) Ramstein - 1500 computers - Ramstein AFB is identified as the command center for drones.

(3) Massive US Presence in Germany - All of this needs to be seen in the context of the massive US presence in Germany - 43,000 personnel, 40 bases.

The full scope of all of this has been laid out in recent months by investigative journalism in Germany.  See the Süddeutsche Zeitung series -- see, for instance, US-Streitkräfte steuern Drohnen von Deutschland aus.

Several other details from Elsa's report:
* there are stories of asylum seekers who come to Germany being plied for information that is then fed into the US drone program

* in general, Germany is trying to keep the presence of the drone command function quiet - after all, 18 different African countries already refused to host it
The good news is that the campaign against drones is taking off in Germany . . . as part of a larger questioning of the role of U.S. militarism in Germany . . . and there are political alignments in Germany that may be able to make progress in significantly resisting U.S. militarism and extricating Germany from involvement with what the U.S. is doing.

Related posts

To those of us who have worked hard to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, it is flabbergasting to see reports that U.S. officials see a "need" for someplace else to send troops and material: apparently, there's no such thing as demobilization, only re-deployment.

(See AFRICOM: The Heart of Darkness)

The U.S. has a modus operandi for conducting military strikes while slipping past any genuine public accountability. It's worth a look at the Tuesday, October 29, 2013, New York Times account of a drone strike in Somalia the previous day: "Pentagon Says Shabab Bomb Specialist Is Killed in Missile Strike in Somalia." It's a case study in what's wrong with the U.S. drone wars.

(See October 28 in Somalia: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)

Five big realizations I'm taking away from the 2013 CODEPINK Drone Summit "Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance" in Washington, DC.

(See The 2013 DC Drones Conference: 5 Big Takeaways )

Monday, November 18, 2013

The 2013 DC Drones Conference: 5 Big Takeaways

So much went on this past weekend at the  2013 CODEPINK Drone Summit "Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance" in Washington, DC -- before I head back to Chicago I want to emphasize the really big realizations that I'm taking away with me.

(1) The first-hand stories make this scourge un-ignorable

We're all inundated with facts and figures about the killings being carried out with drones. But it's the personal testimony of witnesses -- like the relatives of victims who traveled all the way from Yemen to tell their stories and ex-military personnel like former intel analyst Daniel Hale -- who play the most vital role in explaining why drone killing has to stop. (Listen for yourself.)

(2) A war against communities of color

In presentation after presentation -- starting with the inspirational words of Cornel West, continuing with the testimony of representatives of Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries who came to tell their stories-- and reinforced by comment after comment by conference participants, it is clear that we will only deal successfully with the crimes being committed using drones when we understand them as part of the much larger war against communities of color, and commit totally to resisting that larger war.

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color)

(3) The U.S. network against drones has taken off!

We held a session at 8:30 Sunday morning about building the U.S. network against drones. There was a huge turnout for a very effective session, and everybody left the room committed to pitching in to make the network successful. (Join the network yourself.)

(4) The global network against drones is coming

It's clear that the beginnings of a global network are coming into place.  My prediction?  2014 will be the year that we see truly coordinated activism by people worldwide to put a stop to the misuse of drones.

Bruce Gagnon from the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space concurs: "Clearly there is growing interest and organizing energy around drones and we are thrilled to see that."

(See What Would a Global Movement to Ground the Drones Look Like?)

(5) CODEPINK is awesome

This was a big event -- about 400 participants with many moving parts.  It came off flawlessly.  I can't say enough about what a great job CODEPINK did in putting the event together and carrying it out. (Watch for yourself.)

We're all fortunate to have CODEPINK doing this important work.

see also:

Related posts

As I headed into the 2013 drones summit, I was thinking about the need for more transparency, the role of the faith community, the possible impact of the 2014 midterms, and more . . . .

(See The DC Drones Conference: What I'll Be Thinking About)

To those of us who have worked hard to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, it is flabbergasting to see reports that U.S. officials see a "need" for someplace else to send troops and material: apparently, there's no such thing as demobilization, only re-deployment.

(See AFRICOM: The Heart of Darkness)

In Chicago, there is a push to convert the Ames middle school, which serves a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood, into a military academy.

What does this tell us about the real workings of the immigration policy that Obama and the Democrats have created?  What's the real meaning of the DREAM act?

(See The Militarization of Ames: The Real Meaning of the DREAM Act )