Monday, March 31, 2014

REAL Progressives Demand that the U.S. Come Clean on Drone Killings

Rep. Adam Schiff
Rep. Walter Jones
[UPDATE April 2, 2014: Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have now submitted a bill calling for drone transparency. See Natasha Lennard, "New Bill Aims for Drone Transparency," and Thomas Earnest, "Representatives Schiff and Jones Introduce Bill to Increase Transparency in U.S. Drone Program." 

[See also Joint Statement in Support of The Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act by Amnesty International, Arab American Institute, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Center for Constitutional Rights, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, National Security Network, Open Society Policy Center, Peace Action West, Reprieve, and Win Without War.

[SEE: hub page for all Resources to SUPPORT the "Come Clean on Drone Killings" Act (Schiff/Jones HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act)]


Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) have called the U.S. on the carpet for dodging the call from the international community to come clean about its drone killings.

Now it's time for all 62 other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to step up to the plate.

Grijalva and Ellison's initiative creates an opportunity for all of us to demand of our progressive representatives that they, too, take a stand. It's a simple yes-or-no, no-ifs-ands-or-buts question:

"Have you signed on to the CPC co-chairs' demand
that 'our intelligence agencies provide
an annual public accounting
of the number of civilian casualties
caused by drone strikes overseas'?"


The Grijalva-Ellison demand was provoked by a series of events at the United Nations.

First, in October, 2013, a pair of long-awaited reports by the U.N. special rapporteurs on counter-terrorism and on extrajudicial executions were published. The included an unambiguous demand for a full accounting of drone killings.

This was followed by a little-publicized General Assembly vote that use of drones in counter-terrorism must comply with international law.

By early 2014, people were beginning to realize that the government was succeeding in quashing debate about its extrajudicial executions simply through its silence. A consensus began to build around the key point of pressure: the need to bear down on the U.S. government to come clean about its drone killings.

When the U.N. Human Rights council convened in March to take up the matter of the drone killings, the U.S. government had a simple solution: boycott.

And thus it was the sight of the U.S. government fleeing a U.N. convocation into human rights that provoked the call by Reps. Grijalva and Ellison. "Instead of working closely with the international community to help strengthen current international standards on the use of drones, the U.S. government decided to boycott a discussion of the draft resolution. We are troubled by the ease with which dialogue and diplomacy—values at the center of the president’s foreign policy—were cast aside in this debate," they said in their statement.

"Today’s vote highlights the need for Congress to play a larger role in overseeing and regulating the use of lethal force abroad. Requiring that our intelligence agencies provide an annual public accounting of the number of civilian casualties caused by drone strikes overseas — a measure included in the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act — would be a good start," they said. (emphasis added)


Reps. Grijalva and Ellison issued their call in their capacity as co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  The clear next steps is for every other member of the CPC to join the call. This is a simple but unambiguous assertion by Congress of authority in the U.S. drone killing program, and it is vital that there be unanimous support by the CPC.

Please look at the list below and write personally to the member who represents you.  Now is the time for us to insist on public statements from every member of Congress that they unreservedly support the call for the U.S. to come clean about its drone killings.

And if you live in Arizona or Minnesota . . . you have a thank you note to send.

(PS - Raul Grijalva is now a -- CO-SPONSOR of HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act - Read more about Raul Grijalva's sponsorship)

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

(note: may of these members signed the May 10, 2012 letter to President Obama calling for drones transparency - 5/10/2012 letter)

CA02 - Jared Huffman @RepHuffman

CA11 - George Miller @askgeorge (5/10/2012 letter)

CA13 - Barbara Lee @RepBarbaraLee (5/10/2012 letter) - Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force. See "Rep. Lee Demands Administration’s Full Response on Drones" March 11, 2013 -- CO-SPONSOR! HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act

CA17 - Michael Honda @RepMikeHonda (5/10/2012 letter)

CA20 - Sam Farr @RepSamFarr

CA27 - Judy Chu @RepJudyChu

CA34 - Xavier Becerra @RepBecerra

CA37 - Karen Bass @RepKarenBass

CA40 - Lucille Roybal-Allard @RepRoybalAllard

CA41 - Mark Takano @RepMarkTakano

CA43 - Maxine Waters @MaxineWaters

CA44 - Janice Hahn @Rep_JaniceHahn

CA47 - Alan Lowenthal @RepLowenthal -- CO-SPONSOR! HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act

CO02 - Jared Polis @RepJaredPolis - See the call on No Drones Colorado for Jared Polis to support the "Come Clean" bill!

CT03 - Rosa DeLauro @rosadelauro - See the call on No Drones New England for Rosa DeLauro to support the "Come Clean" bill!

DC00 - Eleanor Norton @EleanorNorton

FL05 - Corrine Brown @RepCorrineBrown

FL09 - Alan Grayson @AlanGrayson - See the call on No Drones Florida for Alan Grayson to support the "Come Clean" bill!

FL22 - Lois Frankel @RepLoisFrankel

FL24 - Frederica Wilson @RepWilson

GA04 - Henry Johnson @RepHankJohnson (5/10/2012 letter)

GA05 - John Lewis @repjohnlewis (5/10/2012 letter)

See the call on No Drones Georgia for Henry "Hank" Johnson and John Lewis to support the "Come Clean" bill!

IA02 - David Loebsack @daveloebsack - See the call on No Drones Iowa for David Loebsack to support the "Come Clean" bill!

IL04 - Luis Gutierrez @RepGutierrez (5/10/2012 letter)

IL07 - Danny Davis @RepDannyDavis

IL09 - Jan Schakowsky @janschakowsky Offered an unsuccessful amendment in late 2013 that would have banned signature strikes.

IN07 - André Carson @RepAndreCarson - See the call on Indiana Drones Project for André Carson to support the "Come Clean" bill!

MA02 - James McGovern @RepMcGovern (5/10/2012 letter) -- CO-SPONSOR! HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act

MA04 - Joseph Kennedy @RepJoeKennedy

MA07 - Michael Capuano @mikecapuano

See the call on No Drones New England for Joseph Kennedy and Michael Capuano to support the "Come Clean" bill!

MD04 - Donna Edwards @repdonnaedwards (5/10/2012 letter)

MD07 - Elijah Cummings @RepCummings

See the call on No Drones Maryland for Donna Edwards and Elijah Cummings to support the "Come Clean" bill!

ME01 - Chellie Pingree @chelliepingree - See the call on No Drones New England for Chellie Pingree to support the "Come Clean" bill!

MI13 - John Conyers @repjohnconyers (5/10/2012 letter) - See the call on No Drones Michigan for John Conyers to support the "Come Clean" bill!

MN08 - Richard Nolan @USRepRickNolan

MO05 - Emanuel Cleaver @repcleaver - See the call on No Drones Missouri for Emanuel Cleaver to support the "Come Clean" bill!

MS02 - Bennie Thompson @HomelandDems

NJ06 - Frank Pallone @FrankPallone

NJ12 - Rush Holt @RushHolt - - See the call on No Drones New Jersey for Rush Holt to support the "Come Clean" bill!

NV04 - Steven Horsford @RepHorsford

NY07 - Nydia Velázquez @NydiaVelazquez

NY08 - Hakeem Jeffries @RepJeffries

NY09 - Yvette Clarke @YvetteClarke (5/10/2012 letter)

NY10 - Jerrold Nadler @RepJerryNadler (5/10/2012 letter) - Watch Rep. Nadler on drones during a February, 2013, committee hearing.

NY12 - Carolyn Maloney @RepMaloney

NY13 - Charles Rangel @cbrangel (5/10/2012 letter)

NY15 - José Serrano @RepJoseSerrano

NY25 - Louise Slaughter @louiseslaughter

See the call on No Drones New York State for these progressive members of Congress from New York to support the "Come Clean" bill!

OH11 - Marcia Fudge @RepMarciaFudge - See the call on No Drones Ohio for Marcia Fudge to support the "Come Clean" bill!

OR01 - Suzanne Bonamici @RepBonamici

OR04 - Peter DeFazio @RepPeterDeFazio (5/10/2012 letter) - CO-SPONSOR! HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act - Read more about Peter DeFazio's sponsorship

PA02 - Chaka Fattah @chakafattah

PA17 - Matt Cartwright @RepCartwright

See the call on No Drones Pennsylvania for Chaka Fattah and Matt Cartwright to support the "Come Clean" bill!

RI01 - David Cicilline @davidcicilline - See the call on No Drones New England for David Cicilline to support the "Come Clean" bill!

TN09 - Steve Cohen @RepCohen - See the call on No Drones Tennessee for Steve Cohen to support the "Come Clean" bill!

TX18 - Sheila Jackson Lee @JacksonLeeTX18

TX30 - Eddie Johnson @RepEBJ

See the call on No Drones Texas for Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson to support the "Come Clean" bill!

VA08 - James Moran @Jim_Moran - See the call on No Drones Virginia for Jim Moran to support the "Come Clean" bill!

VI00 - Donna Christensen @DelegateDonna

VT00 - Peter Welch @PeterWelch - July 12, 2013Welch introduces legislation to limit domestic drones, protect privacy -- CO-SPONSOR! HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act

WA07 - Jim McDermott @RepJimMcDermott (5/10/2012 letter) -- CO-SPONSOR! HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act - Read more about Jim McDermott's sponsorship

WI02 - Mark Pocan @MarkPocan

WI04 - Gwen Moore @RepGwenMoore

See the call on No Drones Wisconsin for Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore to support the "Come Clean" bill!

Related posts

A 2013 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)?)

The reason the Administration is hiding truth about drones is that they don't have a satisfactory answer for how decisions about drone strikes are made.  As we have known all along, we need the public to think about how crummy the whole drone program is, and then they will be ready to be on our side. The best way to get them really thinking is to shine a spotlight on the secrecy, evasiveness, and deceit involved in the U.S. drone program.

(See Drone Killings: Come Clean )

An Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms: linchpin races, scandal, principle, drone testing, and some "special" cases.

(See Will the 2014 Midterms be a Referendum on Obama's Surveillance, Secrecy, and Assassinations?)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed

[One servant said] "I went and hid your talent in the ground."

[The master said] "[C]ast the worthless servant into the outer darkness."

             (Matthew 25:25,30)

Sometimes the stars align, and you see the world in a new way.  Here's how it happened for me.

First, as I started to describe recently, an initiative has been begun to propagate the idea that "war can be abolished." This is not to deny that people disagree about things, but only to say that no thinking person believes, anymore, that the desired way to settle disagreements is through force. (See Part of this initiative involves getting into the nitty-gritty problems, particularly the fact that nations tend to cling to the idea that fighting is "the" way for them, in the final analysis, to settle disputes; and the problem that, "sure, I want to renounce war -- but it's the other guy (group, nation, whatever) that's the problem!"

Second, I've been deeply impressed by the work of Mohamed ElBaradei in working against nuclear proliferation, as described in his book, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.Through this book, I have been schooled by ElBaradei in the little-discussed fundamentals of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, in particular, that the NPT -- and all the prevention of new weapons acquisition that it is aimed at -- is predicated on the elimination of nuclear weapons by the existing nuclear "haves"!

Third, I have been alerted to developments in Japan by my friend and colleague, the scholar and antiwar activist Kazashi Nobuo. In a Skype call just a few weeks ago, Kazashi urged me to learn more about the trends in Japan that may lead it away from its "peace constitution," and to tell others.

Finally, I attended a series of excellent workshops at this year's Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC, just last week. One was a session on "Costs, Dangersand Alternatives: Military and Economic Competition in Asia and the Pacific" led by Mark Harrison, Director of the Peace with Justice Program/UMC-GBCS, Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee, Chloe Schwabe, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, and Yuichi Moroi, Temple University. I was struck when Prof. Moroi projected the actual words of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution on the screen:
ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. [emphasis added]
The combination of all these influences made me see the words of the Japanese constitution in a new way. It suddenly occurred to me that the point of Article 9 has not been what it means for Japan, but what it means for the rest of us.  Article 9 is an invitation -- a creator of a special space -- in which we have the opportunity to consider what we want our constitution to say.  Do we ignore Article 9, and just carry on with business as usual?  Or do we rejoice in the space that Article 9 has created to allow us to consider renouncing the use of force as well?

I've posted here some pictures from Japan, reflecting various dimensions of the movement there to resist the impulse to war, as a reminder that Article 9 is not just a few words in a document.  It stands for an enormous amount of effort that people in Japan have invested over decades to emphasize their commitment to renouncing war and stopping the nuclear threat. (Have we been paying attention?)

I fear that we have not been good stewards of the opportunity that Article 9 has provided to us. Instead of taking that small beginning and making something glorious out of it, we have squandered it through inaction. I can't help think of the "Parable of the Talents" (Matthew 25:14-30):
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Source: Bible Gateway)
We have had a window of opportunity -- nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?

Whatever we have imagined, what we have done is . . . not much. And so . . . are we any better than the "wicked and slothful" servant?

We have not taken this parable to heart in anything even resembling the seriousness intended. I can't help thinking that we have not had the courage to imagine that we are called to be stewards of the fate of the earth. I regret that in the past I myself have, too often, heard this parable in the most literal and, frankly, trivial way.

But all that's changed.  I'm tempted to be angry, like the master in the parable. However, I realize that what I am called to do is to try to be "good and faithful" in response to the opportunities that do still exist, and to convince others to do so, too. (The alternative -- the darkness -- is not pretty.)

On November 16, 2014, many Christian denominations (such as the ELCA) that follow the common lectionary will feature the Parable of the Talents as the Gospel reading at their Sunday services.  I wonder how many ministers will be preaching on the 21st century variant of this story of wasted opportunity and the darkness that ensues.

UPDATE: September, 2014

I just read that "The war-renouncing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has gained recognition and honor in the Asian region while facing harassment in Japan where the Abe government is working to make a war-fighting Japan by reinterpreting the supreme law. The Malayan Second World War History Society, a citizen’s organization in Malaysia, has granted the first Asia Peace Award to a Japanese civic group working to have Article 9 win the Nobel Peace Prize, Akahata reported on August 29."

(See "Article 9 of Constitution wins first Asia Peace Award," Japan Press Weekly, August 29, 2014)

Related posts

You might think that each person is just another face in the crowd, but if you look closely, they're all carefully drawn to depict an individual, and it's all these individuals working together that is going to stop Japan's return to militarization and war.

(See People Power Against War in Japan: A Lesson for Us All? )

Soon, Kazashi was able to visit the U.S. again, and we had the opportunity to renew our friendship. He told me about his work: "When I obtained a position at a university, it turned out to be in Hiroshima," I remember Kazashi telling me. "So it was very natural that I became connected with the peace movement. I became a peace worker."

(See Obama in Japan: How About a Pivot Toward Peacemaking? )

It's time for us to get honest about the true costs of war, including the long term health consequences for people who serve in the military, and the corresponding long-term costs that our society must commit to bear.

(See How to REALLY Honor Veterans)

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry )

FLASHBACK: 2012 protests against NATO in Chicago: As the Obama administration expressed fury at Pakistani resistance to further NATO war operations and excludes Pakistan's president from the NATO Summit, members of the wider community gathered to memorialize people killed by U.S. airstrikes and drone attacks in Pakistan and in the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as U.S./NATO operations in Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere. Recognizing what veterans on Sunday called "the burden of blood that has stained these medals", Trinity Church opened its lawn to expressions of grief and remembrance by the entire community.

(See #NATOvictims )

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crimean War? Crimean Showdown? or Crimean Mediation? It's Time for Americans to Get Some New Vocabulary

An initiative has been begun to propagate the idea that "war can be abolished." This is not to deny that people disagree about things, but only to say that no thinking person believes, anymore, that the desired way to settle disagreements is through force. (See

Recent developments on Russia's border give us a good place to test this proposition.

See Wikipedia, "Russians in Ukraine"
The status quo involves force or the threat of force to influence the alignment of peoples and regions with one state or another.  Crimea is the crisis du jour, but South Ossetia and Abhkazia were a few years back, and Ukraine looks like it's just around the corner. (See the Miami Herald, "First Ukrainian soldier killed as Putin calls Kiev 'mother of all Russian cities'")

Conveniently, a large military alliance -- NATO -- bristling with weapons, has announced itself ready to step in and contest annexations of territories by Russia. For NATO, the measure of resolvability of conflict is firepower.

Most of us are ignorant about the peoples and regions surrounding Russia, and the sentiment in those places. We don't begin to have an idea about the history. I know that I didn't know the first thing about Crimea before the current crisis -- except that it was part of the phrase The Crimean War. As I sit here right now, I'm not clear on all the arguments for and against Crimea being part of Russia vs. being part of Ukraine. But what I am clear on is that I have passively allowed the U.S. government to adopt the posture that (a) the U.S. gets a say in how the question is resolved; and (b) the U.S. gets to back its position up with force. 

Columnist Bob Koehler wrote today that it's time for citizens -- ordinary people like you and me -- to get involved in demanding a different way, building on a statement by the International Peace Bureau:
The statement cites a plea by Pax Christi International “to religious leaders and all the faithful in Ukraine, as well as in the Russian Federation and in other countries involved in the political tensions” – I would simply include in this plea every concerned human being – “to act as mediators and bridge-builders, bringing people together instead of dividing them, and to support nonviolent ways to find peaceful and just solutions to the crisis.”

The idea that the world we create at a personal level can influence if not determine the sort of world we create at the national and international level seems naïve, perhaps, unless one looks at the default alternative, consigned to us by the media: that our role is to be a spectator in the global wrestling arena.

Dialogue and diplomacy are extensions of mediation and bridge-building at the personal level. Perhaps if such work were regarded as a citizen’s responsibility, it could not be so easily dismissed in the reporting of global affairs – nor could war be declared by a few absurdly powerful leaders, with the rest of the world simply following along without choice and reaping the consequences.

(See Bob Koehler, "Make It Hurt")
See Wikipedia, "Russians in the Baltic states"
In other words, we need to become advocates for a whole different way of resolving the disagreements over the borders of European and Russia regions.  We're going to have to develop the courage to say, "I didn't know that," and "I need to understand this better," and even, "I guess I was wrong," and "I need to urge you to talk about this." What we can't do is continue to just throw up our hands and say, "Let the military sort it out."

There is a distinctly American attitude that says, in effect, "I'm much too important to spend my time working patiently to resolve conflict with you" and "Don't bore me with a history lesson" and even "You're pissing me off and so it's fine with me if you get hurt." And from that a thousand military budgets have been spawned.

But American "annoyance" can no longer be an excuse for military action.

And to bring about change, we're going to have to commit ourselves to some hard work. Peace work.

I recommend a good place to start is with first principles.

Do you believe the desired way to settle disagreements is through force?

Do you believe others are able to see things as you do?

What is stopping us from agreeing that "war can be abolished"?

Who can you share this message with today?

Related posts

Many people will argue that it was only because the U.S. made a threat of force that Syria offered to enter into an agreement on chemical weapons. The sequence of events certainly suggests some relationship between the two.

(See "OR ELSE!" (What the U.S. threat of force against Syria teaches us) )

With NATO coming to Chicago, how were we, as a faith community, to engage with this historic event?  Could St. Luke’s Logan Square be a place where we can work together to understand NATO, militarism, and how conflicts can be resolved without violence?

(See NATO: A Mighty Fortress is Our God? in the St. Luke's Messenger.)

Call me a demanding citizen, but I think the President should get off his butt and go talk to the leader of Russia.  (Yes, Putin.)  It's his job.

(See Obama: Go to Moscow!)

EXTRA! Chicago Community Votes to Reject Militarization of School

The email came in at 1:22 a.m. with the subject line "Democracy." It was from the coordinator of a citizen referendum to prevent the militarization of a school in Chicago.
"As I stand there getting calls from all the precinct captains thinking we have this??"
I skim quickly to find out more . . .
" . . . this is what democracy should look like . . . "

"Our issue that brought many together across the city.  I have had the privilege to work along side amazing people that gave it their all.... their evenings, weekends, and beyond.  With tears in my eyes watching the results . . . "
And finally,
"WE DID IT!!!"
This morning I found the confirmation on sites providing poll tallies: "Close to 67 percent of voters were in favor of Logan Square's Ames Middle School remaining a neighborhood school as opposed to it being converting to a military school." (See Progress Illinois, "LIVE BLOG: Polls Are Closed, Time For The Results In 2014 Primary Election")

Work remains to be done. The vote was an "advisory referendum," and not binding on the City. (Most mayors would see the clearly expressed will of the people in this vote, but we're talking about Rahm Emanuel here.)

Nonetheless, this is a vote that should encourage people across the country who are working diligently to protect young people from the undue influence of the military, especially in our schools.

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 )

The hardest thing for me to understand about the whole effort to militarize Ames is, why would anyone want to go into a place that is dedicated to community involvement, creativity, and leadership development, and change the focus to "following orders"?

(See Military at Ames? No Sirree Bub!)

More than anything, I have a visceral memory of lying in the grass in Lincoln Park as a jet streaked east towards the lake, and the thought occurred to me, "This would be terrifying if I were a rice farmer in a paddy somewhere and I didn't know what this is all about." Yes, I confess, up until that moment, I had approached the Chicago Air & Water Show with very little perspective, or awareness, or empathy for others.

(See I { love | hate } the Chicago Air & Water Show

Monday, March 17, 2014

Level Up, Step Up, Grow Up, Man Up . . . Wake Up

Clancy McCartney in Leveling Up
The current run of Leveling Up by Deborah Zoe Laufer at the Steppenwolf had its final performance on Saturday night, but I'm confident audiences around the country are going to have opportunities to see future productions. Leveling Up is the creative work that demonstrates just how thoroughly America's new ways of warfare have become intertwined with the other dominant strands in our culture.

In this play, the phenomenon that so many of us in the antiwar movement have been trying to bring to public attention -- the conflation of innocent video gaming and actual war, especially drone operations -- plays a key role. An expert gamer is recruited by the government for his unique skills, youthful acuity . . . and naivety.

"Do you ever wonder if this thing was real?"

But this is not just agitprop for anti-drone activists. The play asks other big questions: What does it mean to have a relationship?  What constitutes fulfilling work? Do we really have to face the world "out there"?

From the after-performance discussion on Saturday night at the Steppenwolf, I could tell that this video-game-immersed young adult world of Leveling Up was revelatory for the parents in the audience and provocative for the teens there. As I reflected on the play in the days that followed, I started to wake up to how provocative  Leveling Up is for all of us -- even outside the trope of the video game.

Leveling Up  -- coming to a stage near you soon (if you're lucky).


Leveling Up- Trailer

Download the Leveling Up Study Guide

Steppenwolf for Young Adults Artistic and Educational Director Hallie Gordon welcomes you to Leveling Up

The History Behind and Future of Drone Warefare: Article by Steppenwolf For Young Adults Apprentice Lexy Leuszler

Related posts

There were so many places in this book where I thought, "Holy mackerel - he knows about that? It's as if he was part of the same anti-drone movement that I've been so deeply involved in for the past several years!"

(See 7 Ways the Ugly Facts About Drones Are Hidden in Plain Site in UNMANNED )

What are the 2 or 3 -- or 5, or 10 -- biggest lessons about "collaborating in peaceful mode" that we might be able to witness if we were to seek the answers in Minecraft worlds?

(See Go dig up the solution to world peace in a video game environment )

Grounded raises tough questions. I was hoping that the play would challenge the idea that killing people with drones is good. It's a reflection of the seriousness of this work that that is just one of the issues it raises; others include our society's willingness to destroy the people who we employ to "serve" ("serve our country," serve us in general), our culture's worship of violence / use of force, and the consequences of pervasive surveillance.

(See "Everything Is Witnessed": Searching for "the Guilty" in GROUNDED )

With drones, people become just dots. "Bugs." People who no longer count as people . . . .

(See Drone Victims: Just Dots? Just Dirt? )

The U.S. military is desperately trying to beef up the ranks of its drone pilots - to meet a "near insatiable demand for drones." There's only one way that's going to happen, and that's if we let our young people think that it's okay to sign up. The world of military service is more abstracted and foreign than ever. If ever there was a time that young people needed guidance from others about what military service might mean for them, that time is now.

(See Mothers Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Drone Pilots)

In Chicago on Good Friday, 2013 (March 29), a cast consisting of long-time Chicago antiwar activists was joined by a NY playwright (and defendant in actions against US drone bases), Jack Gilroy, for one of the events kicking off a month-long campaign of anti-drones events across the country: a performance of Gilroy's play, The Predator.

(See "The Predator" in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - "A Passion Play for the Drones Era")

Anyone who cares about stopping drone killing should take a friend and go see Good Kill, and then do it again, and again.

(See GOOD KILL: Struggling to Bring the Truth of Drone Killing Out of the Shadows )

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What if a Yemeni Sued the U.S. Government? (What if 56 of them did?)

"Relatives of Yemeni prisoner Abdel Rahman al-Shabati
being held at the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention
camp hold his pictures during a demonstration calling
for the release of prisoners outside the US embassy
in Sanaa, Yemen, on June 17, 2013." (AFP Photo/
Gamal Noman) See "Protesters rally against Gitmo
at US Embassy in Yemen"
The plight of Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo is turning a thought experiment into a cause of action.

The thought experiment runs as follows:

(a) Our system of law is predicated on the idea that wronged parties have means of obtaining redress.  

I was reminded of this principle just this morning when I read about the ruling of presiding judge of the criminal division, Cook County Courts, Paul Biebel, appointing Loyola University Chicago School of Law Dean David Yellen to search out additional victims of torture by John Burge and other Chicago Police Department officers. (See "Law school dean appointed to search for Burge victims still in prison" in the Chicago Tribune.) Judge Biebel said, "The individuals who are still incarcerated as a result of his wrongdoing deserve resolution."

(b) There are currently 56 Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release -- i.e. the U.S. can find no way to charge them with a crime -- i.e. after up to twelve years of detention, they have been found to have been held through no fault of their own.

For more background on this see "Yemeni Guantanamo Detainees in Limbo" on the Voice of America (VOA) website.

(c)There is a strong case to be made that these men were wrongfully imprisoned, and at least some of them tortured, and they need to have legal recourse to remedy the wrong done them.

(d) It is incumbent on the government to provide opportunity for plaintiffs to seek redress.  The failure to do so renders the notion of "remedy" moot.

The theoretical rights of Guantanamo detainees to redress tend to go out the window when those detainees are repatriated. First, the U.S. government coerces the detainees to "sign away" their rights before releasing them (though this coerced surrender of rights would certainly be annulled in any court). Then their home governments sweep those ex-detainees up into programs directed at "putting their past behind them."

The situation of the Yemenis, however, may have the effect of making real the possibility that survivors of Guantanamo will, in fact, be able to sue the U.S. government.

Nowhere to go

YEMEN: Humanitarian Snapshot
Download pdf for better resolution
The argument made by the U.S.government has been that the political, social, and ideological environment in Yemen is so volatile that it is the kind of place where ex-Guantanamo detainees may seek to obtain redress of their mistreatment by joining anti-U.S. groups.

Barack Obama imposed a ban on repatriations to Yemen, and then in May, 2013, decided to lift his self-imposed ban.  ("[T]he government is highly dysfunctional, but it is much more functional than it was a year ago or even two years ago." See "Obama lifts ban on Guantanamo transfers to Yemen," Associated Press, May 23, 2013.)

One might well ask if the real problem isn't that the U.S. keeps conducting drone strikes in Yemen, and that everyone in Yemen is mad as hell at the U.S. . . . .

. . . or that Yemen is in the grips of a humanitarian crisis that renders everyone vulnerable. (See map above right.)

Ban or no ban . . .  drones or no drones . . . humanitarian crisis or no humanitarian crisis . . . the U.S. government evaluation of "what might happen" and how "people might think" in Yemen has changed little and Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo are going nowhere. ("Marginal security environment" ... "susceptibility to re-engagement" ... See "Panel Says Yemeni Man Should Stay in Detention," New York Times, March 13, 2014.)

And all of this has the effect of putting a fine point on the question: What else are those 56 men supposed to do, considering they don't have the opportunity for redress of their mistreatment through the courts?

What have we created?

An observation has reverberated through my mind since I first heard it expressed in the film, The Response.  In the film, one member of a panel of three tribunal judges at Guantanamo says,
"If they weren't terrorists before, what does locking them up in this place for five years turn them into? What are we creating here?"
I don't know if these exact words have ever been spoken on the record by any U.S. officer. I'm confident, however, these words reflect the sentiments of countless members of the military.  And that is what has helped clarify for me that the question before us really is: How can we hustle these ex-detainees off to a place where they have no legal recourse to have their grievance against us redressed, and then complain if they pursue means outside the law to do so?

In other words, is the problem conditions in Yemen? Or is the real problem the absence of redress of grievances in the U.S. legal system?

Isn't it time we started to ask, "What did you do to these people to make you so sure they will be bent on revenge?"

Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that the Obama administration is stonewalling on the release of the Yemeni detainees.  Maybe this gives us an opportunity to demand that they be given asylum in the United States -- and be given the full opportunity to have their grievance against those who kidnapped and tortured them redressed through the rule of law.

UPCOMING: Join members of the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo for a program on the evening of Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at 7 p.m.: Yemeni Detainees at Guantanamo - Why Are They Still There? (Grace Place, 637 S Dearborn, Chicago)

Related posts

Even if the current Obama administration approach of releases were to succeed in bringing about the release of everyone at Guantanamo, it would not have begun to address the wrong that has been committed.

(See US to its Humans Rights Violations Victims: "Shut up and take what you're given!" )

I think the U.S. is in the midst of a big shift.  I think that for over a decade following 9/11 people have been so enmeshed in fear that their instincts weren't working properly. I think that we are in the midst of a slow process of awakening: people are emerging from the shadow of fear to a wider range of sensibility -- and they are realizing there are some things that are out of joint.

(See Too Much State Power? (Asymmetric Warfare and Asymmetric Policing))

It is clearly the time for an annual dose of stealth maneuvering by our government's "national security" apparatus, led by the President.  They're hoping that they can make it look like Guantanamo is "going away." According to the Administration's script, Americans are supposed to yawn and go back to sleep. Instead, we need to be saying: how do we take responsibility for the injury we have caused?

(See A Modest Proposal: Resettle the Guantanamo Detainees in Chicago)

Monday, March 10, 2014

No Statute of Limitations for War Crimes (Henry Kissinger in Chicago)

On March 20, 2014, Henry Kissinger will be in Chicago to keynote a humanitarian awards dinner. It would be more fitting if he were arrested for war crimes.

A group of organizations is preparing a protest of the Kissinger award - see Henry Kissinger, war criminal, in Chicago.

The list of Kissinger crimes is long, but the one that is most prominent in my mind is his role in the U.S. bombing of Cambodia.

William Shawcross' book Sideshow Kissinger, Nixon,and The Destruction of Cambodia documents the way in which Kissinger and others in the Nixon administration decided to carry out the massive and secret bombing of Cambodia.

Also important to understanding the consequences of these crimes are works such as the film, The Missing Picture, which depicts  the period when the Khmer Rouge ruled over Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. You can see The Missing Picture at the Music Box Theater March 14-20.

For people of my generation, images and news reporting of the war in Vietnam was something we were exposed to daily. But there is a confusing empty space relating to the events that followed, in the '70s, as the U.S. pursued its wars in places like Cambodia and throughout Latin America. We feel as if we should know much more about what was going on, and wonder why we don't. We seldom stop to realize that under Kissinger and Nixon a whole new way of carrying out killing, occupation, and domination out of the view of the public, in secret, was being institutionalized.

Can there be any doubt that Obama and his administration, who think it is their right to wage war in secret, kill anyone they want to, and destroy whole societies, took their cues from Kissinger and Nixon and their "Imperial (and criminal) Presidency"?

Photo courtesy FJJ.

Update: January 30, 2015

CODEPINK attempted a highly-publicized citizen's arrest of Henry Kissinger yesterday at a Senate Armed Forces Hearing in Washington, D.C.

Members of CODEPINK attempt citizen's arrest of war criminal Henry
Kissinger during Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing - January 29, 2015.

Committee Chairman John McCain invoked Robert's Rules of -- er, well, no, actually he said "Shut up or I’ll have you arrested….. low-life scum"

"Disgraceful . . . outrageous . . . despicable . . . ." All appropriate adjectives.

(More images and discussion on Facebook.)

Related posts

With drones, people become just dots. "Bugs." People who no longer count as people . . . .

(See Drone Victims: Just Dots? Just Dirt? )

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)?)

If the public will join us in asking the question "Who decides?" about drone executions, I believe they will rapidly come to realize that they are utterly dissatisfied with what the government is saying.

(See Who Decides? (When Drones are Judge, Jury, and Executioner) )