By Medea Benjamin
It would certainly be easy to do a piece about 10 horrible events from 2015, from the ongoing war in Syria and the refugee crisis, to the bombings in Beirut, Paris and San Bernardino, to the rise of Donald Trump and Islamophobia. But that wouldn’t be a very inspiring way to bid farewell to this year and usher in a new one. So let’s look at 10 reasons to feel better about 2015.
Medea Benjamin is an American political activist, best known for co-founding Code Pink and, along with activist and author Kevin Danaher, the fair trade advocacy group Global Exchange. Benjamin was also the Green Party candidate in California in 2000 for the United States Senate. She currently contributes to OpEdNews and The Huffington Post. See more at: http://peaceworker.org/2015/12/10-good-things-about-the-not-so-great-year-2015/#sthash.df5fDiAe.dpuf
VISITS IN HONDURAS AND COLOMBIA
by WILPFer Jack Herbert
August 2014: 10 days in Honduras with Witness for Peace Southwest:
We started in the north, on the south side of San Pedro Sula, then went east along the coast to and through the Aguan River valley and to the Garifuna (African and local indigenous blend) community on the Caribbean coast, then south up into the hills, visiting the Lenca indigenous community of Rio Blanco resisting a hydroelectric dam the national government plans for their valley, then south to the capital, Tegucigalpa. The communities are part of a nationwide coalition of resistance, the National Front for Popular Resistance (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, FNRP), organized since the coup in 2009 by the military, that set up elected governments complying with the policies of development pushed by the US government.
I believe that only people in the US can change US government policy in in a way that will enable people in other countries to determine their own government, once the US government and wealthy and military/police/paramilitary elites are dominating. The cost of the resistance is oppression, terrorism, huge suffering and numbers of killings to support the development and profiting demanded by multinational corporations and their enforcers—the US government and the local elites, using force and fraud.
We met with several communities and with journalists, politicians with the party formed by the National Popular Front, LIBRE, human rights workers and organizations, a judge fired for being just, who joined with other such judges, and at the US Embassy with the human rights officer, her boss, the former human rights officer in Colombia, and for a handshake for a few moments, the new US ambassador.
In the Aguan valley, the main development is to grow and harvest African palm. The indigenous communities would not grow it because, they said, it was bad for the soil. The other campesinos did. One group of campensinos had a contract to buy back their land at a huge rate of payments, believed by many outsiders to be impossible to meet, so they were making as much as they could from African palm harvesting. The wealthy in Honduras control the processing and sale of the palm oil, so the small, independent producers are on a financially risky course, while always at risk of violence, killing, and being driven off their land. [For a documentary about the fight for the Aguan valley, see http://jessefreeston.com/resistencia/ ]
We visited a campesino leader, Chabelo, who had been falsely convicted of murder. He was recently freed by a court and a couple weeks ago found not guilty in the third trial, which seems amazing in this country. He could always be murdered at any time, which is what has happened to so many leaders and other individuals. We stayed with his family. One member of our delegation, Greg McCain, has been living with his family, supporting Chabelo's case for years. Greg and Karen Spring are part of the Honduras Solidarity Network, which any of us can support, learn from, or join. The HSN staff in Honduras supports resistance, documenting and exposing oppression. Karen accompanied us part of the time. These folks are really worth donating to support. If you get on HSN's email list, you will get ongoing, daily descriptions of the oppression. The situation soon becomes very clear.
http://www.hondurassolidarity.org/about-us/ tells how this US-Canadian Honduras Solidarity Network was set up to support the Honduran resistance. It was formed after the June 28, 2009 military coup against President Manuel Zelaya as the Honduran social movement (the National Front of Popular Resistance, FNRP) denounced the murders, disappearances, threatens, and human rights violations of the Honduran post-coup regime, supported and financed by the US and Canadian governments. Over 5 years after the coup, the struggle of the Honduran social movement continues as further militarization and neoliberalism create ongoing crises in the country.
The rich landowners in Honduras are running drugs, and they're not getting stopped by the US; they make lots of money in the development that the US government is pushing for the multinational corporations. The Legislature since the coup has passed a law providing for setting up "Model Cities". Corporations are to be granted areas that they will rule, that they will govern.
As people in Honduras say, Honduras is a US experiment. We can see the direction. First, politicians are bought, elected with money from the wealthy class, the government works to serve the wealthy, more and more of the public resources are sold off to the wealthy and our public services privatized to them, then eventually, they get to run the local governments in the areas they are assigned to own and control. Maybe they will simply buy or take over the national governments by contract or whatever. It's an ever-increasing trend.
Businesses then legally conduct the government. That's what fascism was supposed to be or one step beyond it, as I recall.
July 16-Sept 2, 2015: about 7 weeks in Colombia:
July 16-29 with Colombia Support Network, http://colombiasupport.net/. The national government has decided to replace small, artisan gold and silver miners using small, individual tunnels, with multinational mining corporations, vastly expanding the land disturbance, polluted runoff of cyanide into the streams that are public sources of drinking water. Gold mining is prohibited in the upper watersheds where condensation from clouds occurs, called paramos, but the government plans to redefine the paramos, raising the lower limit from an elevation of 3,000 meters to 3,400 meters, allowing the large mines to come in and pollute the water on a much larger scale and directly in part of the water source.
Visited Bucamaranga, a city of 1 or 2 million, its watershed, the artisan miners below the watershed, and their local town, California (named to advertise themselves as a great gold-mining area). A Canadian mining company permitted by the national government there has renamed itself Eco Oro, claiming it would operate in an ecologically sound way, treating the water runoff to prevent pollution, but its large tunnels would produce large polluted runoffs into the streams. City people are organizing to protect their water purity, others organize to protect the natural areas of the mountains, and the miners have organized to protect their rights to mine, since the national government is not renewing their permits. We also visited another town, Marmato, where artisans in gold and silver have organized, and their leader came to California to advise them.
We visited the Putamayo River valley where local indigenous people are resisting a highway that the government is having built along the river in a steep-walled canyon above the valley they live in, causing landslides and a lot of sediment in the river, polluting their drinking water. The government is required by law to consult with indigenous people, but it declared that there were none there, so went ahead with the project with no consultation. The indigenous people were suing for the consultation. A dike directs the river around their valley, allowing them to farm it, but the road builders have taken rock from the river alongside the dike so that some of it has fallen into the river and it threatens to break, which would flood out the people, threatening to drown those who could not escape in time.
July 29-~Aug 2 with ASOTRECOL*, asotrecol.org, in Bogota with the General Motors workers there, illegally fired for being injured on the job. I was there with Paige Shell-Spurling, who met them on a Witness for Peace trip and has brought their leader to Portland and Detroit. After getting nowhere trying to negotiate with management, still getting nowhere with them after they demonstrated publicly asking GM top execs from the US to help and being told that Colombian management would now negotiate with them, the members of ASOTRECOL set up tents across the street from the US embassy ~ August 1, 2011. Workers from another city, Huile, also fired after being injured on the job, were staying with them while in Bogota applying to the Labor Ministry for the compensation they are legally entitled to for their injuries. The law requires the employer to rehabilitate their injured workers, keep them employed, and give them work that they can do. We attended ASOTRECOL's 4th anniversary meeting with other labor rights and human rights workers and accompanied their leader in meetings with a Senator at their tents, another Senator's staff, and a Representative, with the mayor's office several times, with other labor unions, with an environmental and human rights institute,...
Two of the ASOTRECOL members and their families faced foreclosure because of fraud by their bank, Scotia Bank from Canada. One family had been evicted. The other, not yet. Foreclosure fraud is rampant there. Victimas de Bankeros, Victims of Banksters, is an organization of these victims. A leader in this has learned the relevant law and helps others fight foreclosure; we stayed in his apartment. The courts are corrupt. The judges award the apartments (condominiums, I guess, since they are sold: people there call them their casas, which we translate as houses) to the banks, then show up with 100 to 200 riot police to evict the residents.
There are huge numbers of injured ex-workers fired from their jobs, in Colombia, we learned. Coca Cola injured, fired workers were organizing, too; there are other injured, fired workers associations in Colombia they are networking with. Shortly before we got there, Jorge Parra, the leader of ASOTRECOL was inadvertently invited to a meeting of corporations with the Labor Ministry at which they were to work on a law the Labor Ministry would propose to legalize firing workers injured on the job without compensation or rehabilitation. Jorge spread this news to labor unions and Legislators and they publicized the proposed law. So there was a lot of push back from workers, unions, and Legislators. Some Legislators held a hearing with the Minister of Labor, denouncing this proposed law.
*Asociacion de Trabajadores Enfermes de Colmotores, the Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of General Motors of Colombia.
Dahr Jamail | Domestic Military Expansion Spreads Through the US, Ignites Dissent Monday, 09 March 2015 By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report
What if you lived in a country that allowed its Navy to fly the loudest aircraft in the world over your home day and night, generating sonic booms that rattled the windows of people living in a neighboring country, and test new weapons in areas that would knowingly harm, or possibly kill, humans and wildlife?
Welcome to the United States, which has a military with an increasing domestic expansion that may soon be coming to your town, city or national forest.
That the US military knowingly tested new weapons on US citizens (possibly in the thousands), wildlife or even its own soldiers is nothing new. Publicly available documents reveal how the US military has even released nerve gas in public areas, as well as farms, to see the effects on civilians and animals. This occurred during the 1960s, when the United States secretly tested both chemical and biological weapons on US soil, including releasing deadly nerve agents in Alaska and spraying bacteria over Hawaii.
Mysterious, loud undersea explosions that are possibly linked to the Navy's undersea warfare training exercises are mild in comparison to some other impacts of its training.Hence, the fact that in recent years the US Navy moved ahead with increasing its sonar testing (which is presently ongoing, off the coasts of California, Hawaii and the Gulf of Mexico), despite reams of evidence showing its extremely harmful impact on whales and dolphins, is but one example of the military's tendency to expand in any way it pleases, damn the consequences.
The US Department of Defenses' 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review minces no words when it comes to the Navy's expansion:
"Through an aggressive effort to reduce acquisition costs and temporary ship lay-ups, the Navy will modernize its fleets of surface ships, aircraft, and submarines to meet 21st century threats," its executive summary says. "We must ensure that the fleet is capable of operating in every region and across the full spectrum of conflict."
The "full spectrum of conflict" includes the now ever-expanding field of electromagnetic warfare training.
The Navy is already using the sea and airspace of literally every US coastal state for its training, and in many of them, its war gaming.
By way of example, the far northwest quadrant of the United States provides a clarifying example of what the Navy is doing, how government agencies tasked with protecting wild lands and wildlife are enabling and assisting its expansion, and how citizens are standing up to resist it.
In a country where military spending already accounts for 55 percent of all federal discretionary spending and military expenditures are greater than all the military spending of the next 10 largest countries combined, the Navy's domestic training footprint, along with other branches of the military, is growing ever-larger and taking on frightening new forms.
An Expanding Naval Footprint
The US Navy, along with the Air Force and Army, are currently engaged in and expanding their warfare-training exercises across the United States. Right now, however, the Navy's expansion appears to be the most pronounced, given the US military "pivot" toward building up its forces in the Asia-Pacific.
The Navy's warfare training expansion is to be particularly extensive along the West Coast states of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, but will also include Idaho. Trainings are set to expand across the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
"The Navy has taken the position that they can train anywhere they want, using any methods. And they don't want this in the national news."Warfare training regions and the 12 training ranges began to expand in 2007 in scope and size, as well as the amount of activity, according to Rosalind Peterson, a researcher and co-founder of California's Agriculture Defense Coalition, who has been tracking the Navy's training ranges since 2009.
"The Navy is conducting bombing and gunnery exercises, submarine warfare exercises, drones, missiles, and other 'live-fire' exercises in many of their ranges," Peterson told Truthout.
The Navy's Northwest Training and Testing Area includes undersea warfare centers, explosive ordnance disposal areas and vast amounts of air space for their warplanes. Their Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Area is equally massive.
A 2009 Navy document makes it very clear why their ranges are expanding, and how they intend to train:
Realistic training is the single greatest asset the military has in preparing and protecting Navy personnel ... "Train As We Fight;" is not just a phrase. It is a statement of the absolute necessity to train the men and women in uniform for the precise conditions in which they may find themselves while protecting the nation. Realism requires access to areas and environments that closely match the locations where our Sailors may face.
According to the Navy, the purpose of its training expansion is to "conduct training and testing activities to ensure that the Navy meets its mission," which aims to "maintain, train, and equip combat ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas."
While the Navy has denied involvement, the fact that explosive ordnance disposal is part of its mission in its training areas, of which Washington State's Strait of Juan de Fuca is one, could explain "mysterious" loud explosions that vibrated floors and rattled windows in people's homes there recently.
But mysterious, loud undersea explosions that are possibly linked to the Navy's undersea warfare training exercises are mild in comparison to some other impacts of its training.
In 2009, US Senators Barbara Boxer, Olympia Snowe, Maria Cantwell, Sheldon Whitehouse, Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Dianne Feinstein co-authored a letter to Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere, regarding their concerns about the Navy's ongoing training expansion at that time.
The senators were alarmed that some of the naval exercises could "occur in the nation's most biologically sensitive marine habitats, including National Marine Sanctuaries and breeding habitat for the endangered North Atlantic whale," and were also concerned that the Navy "anticipates more than 2.3 million takes (significant disruptions in marine mammal foraging, breeding, and other essential behaviors) per year, or 11.7 million takes over the course of a five-year permit."
"We don't really have public lands in the US. We have military lands."In another 2009 letter to the Navy, Senators Wyden and Merkley (both D-Oregon) cited environmental and economic concerns over the Navy's expanded warfare training off the Oregon coast, writing, "We are concerned that many of the Navy's training proposals, including underwater minefield testing, explosive ordinance use, expanded land and air-based exercises, and widespread sonar training in particular, pose substantial environmental and economic risks."
The Navy's expansion included exercises with guided missile submarines and unmanned aerial systems, along with the implementation of new air and sea surface targets, new electronic signal emitters and development of a "small-scale" underwater training minefield.
Similar to the letter penned earlier by the seven senators, the two Oregon senators brought attention to four specific areas of concern, including: "The potential for irreparable harm to the fisheries and the many related industries along the Oregon Coast, the significant impacts of sonar on marine mammals, the potential impacts on endangered species, and the potential release of a variety of hazardous materials into sensitive marine ecosystems."
Despite the broad extent of domestic military expansion, it is rare to see coverage of this growth in larger national media outlets.
"The Navy has taken the position that they can train anywhere they want, using any methods," Peterson said of the ongoing expansion, and added, "And they don't want this in the national news."
There are three key elements of US base expansions underway. The first two encompass "new and expanded land bases, airspace and sea space; and military activities on public lands, tribal lands [and] culturally important indigenous sites. The third is 'encroachment' planning, the least publicized and understood category, where the military basically dictates what activities can happen around military bases even on public and private land."Instead, local news sources tend to cover the stories, like a recent article about a proposed naval pier expansion in Port Angeles, Washington, or a 2014 article in a Key West, Florida, paper about a Navy veteran who called the FBI on the Navy over its plans to expand training there, including 52,000 flight operations a year out of one of its airfields.
Carol Miller, founder of the nonprofit Peaceful Skies Coalition in New Mexico, began researching domestic military expansion when the Air Force tried to turn an area beside her community into "a realistic bombing initiative."
"We don't really have public lands in the US," Miller told Truthout. "We have military lands."
According to the Pentagon, between 1985 and 2012, the US military had completed at least 92 joint land use studies in preparation for expanding its domestic training, which proposed expansions in all but 16 US states.
There are scores of examples of massive training areas already in existence around the country.
The San Juan National Forest Training Area in Colorado is 633,011 acres, and Colville National Forest in Washington State, another training area, encompasses 550,000 acres.
Other recent expansions include 2014 plans for the Utah Test and Training Range having 700,000 acres added around the perimeter of a bombing range to create more ground and air space for F-35 pilots to test their aircrafts' missiles.
Miller told Truthout there are three key elements of US base expansions underway.
The first two, she said, encompass "new and expanded land bases, airspace and sea space; and military activities on public lands, tribal lands [and] culturally important indigenous sites.... The third is 'encroachment' planning, the least publicized and understood category, where the military basically dictates what activities can happen around military bases even on public and private land."
The Obama administration recently proposed an increased $534 billion Pentagon base budget plus $51 billion in war funds, as it urged Congress to end cuts it claimed "erode US military power."
Defense Department officials claim the increased military spending was needed to carry out the planned stationing of more forces in the Asia-Pacific, in response to "the rise of China."
Miller told Truthout she is increasingly concerned about the types and amounts of hazardous materials the military is using in its training. She said that in New Mexico, the Air Force plans to expand the number of landing spots they have for their Osprey aircraft, which means they will use a polymer called TerraLOC, which military officials describe as "Gorilla Glue on steroids" to bind the dirt in their landing zones so that dust won't blow around when their aircraft land.
Miller, who worked in public health for 40 years, said, "They plan to treat the soil with a vinyl chloride polymer that they claim is 'organic.'"
She said the military already has 17 landing spots located in national forest lands in New Mexico and Colorado, but "they are applying for more."
"They are polite and everybody shakes hands after the meetings, but I feel they are very mocking towards the public and they don't care what we say. They lie knowingly, and repeat that lie over and over."Miller is concerned about the health and environmental impact of the military's use of vinyl chloride. "Clearly they are more concerned with the health of their aircraft ... than the environment. Vinyl chloride workers have the highest liver cancer rates," she said.
Truthout previously reported on how the Navy's plans to conduct electromagnetic warfare training on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State would dramatically impact human health, as well as wildlife and the environment.
Another Truthout report included details about the Navy's warfare training's impact on wildlife in the region, which includes threatening already endangered species, as well as disrupting the bio-navigational abilities of over 1 billion birds that use the proposed training area as a migratory pathway.
According to the Navy's own so-called environmental impact statement (EIS) for its Northwest Training Range Complex, "In the Northwest Training Range Complex Study Area, hazardous materials would be used in the Pacific Northwest Operations Area, including specific offshore areas such as Warning Area W-237; inshore areas in Puget Sound where underwater detonation training occurs; and land areas designated for land-based explosives training."
Other impacts include jet noise, explosions and the use of live weapons, among others.
A Bad Neighbor
The impact of the Navy's expansion does not end at US borders. Even members of the Canadian government are expressing their concern about the Navy's ever-growing footprint of militarism.
Canadian Minister of Parliament Elizabeth May recently sent a letter to US Ambassador Bruce Heyman, expressing her concerns about the proposed naval expansion of adding more Growler jets to the naval air base on Whidbey Island, just across the border from Canada, in order to use them in the proposed electromagnetic warfare training exercises.
Rep. Derek Kilmer is "not saying there is too much training, and this is an inappropriate location for the Navy to do what they want to do. He could stand up and fight this, but he's not.""My constituents have raised concerns about considerable noise from the jets, which can be disruptive," May wrote in the letter, dated January 27, 2015. "They would like the residential impacts on nearby Canadian communities to be taken into account in evaluating the proposal ... In addition, many are concerned that noise from the jets, as well as the sonar activity that would result from a proposed increase of acoustic surveillance devices in the region, may have adverse environmental impacts on marine life, including the endangered South Resident Orca whale population and Leatherback turtles."
Ian Jessop, of CFAX radio in Victoria, Canada, told Truthout, "We've had a lot of complaints here on southern Vancouver Island about the noise level from the warfare training program in Washington State."
Helene Harrison, in Shirley, British Columbia, a small town located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca where Navy Growler jets regularly fly, also expressed concern about the Navy's expansion plans.
"We are currently subjected to 'sonic booms' often on Thursdays which we've been told may come from USN jets and Whidbey Island, they shake/rattle our houses and windows which is a bit unsettling," she told Truthout. Harrison said she recently contacted her MP, Randall Garrison, to express her concerns, and to enquire whether these disruptions are a violation of international treaties and agreements.
The Public Method: Military Propaganda and Exceptionalism
Both Peterson and Miller were critical of the Navy's method of obtaining the permits necessary for conducting its warfare exercises, and of how the Navy treats the public who have questions about its practices.
Miller said that during a recent permitting process in her area, she followed Navy personnel around for 10 nights of public presentations around Colorado and New Mexico.
"They get a script, and they are not allowed to go off script during public meetings," she said. "They are polite and everybody shakes hands after the meetings, but I feel they are very mocking towards the public and they don't care what we say. Because base commanders only serve two years ... they rotate, and they don't really care. They lie knowingly, and repeat that lie over and over."
Peterson spoke similarly of the way the Navy treats public inquiry.
"I learned that their scoping meetings are not meant for people to ask questions," she said of the Navy's public meetings. "They put up these little tables using Navy contractors who travel from state to state, and these are the guys who wrote all these EIS's [environmental impact statements], and this group was hired solely to sell these ideas to the public."
"We have no friends in the government on this. We have a massive military expansion across the US, but no government officials standing with us on this, or even listening to us."Peterson added that the Navy's plan for holding public meetings, which it is required to do as part of the permitting process, "has always been to hold their meetings in the most remote locations. Like up in Washington, they tried to do this in Forks. And they try to pack them full of Navy personnel or other supporters. So nobody with any authority in the Navy ever even attends these meetings."
The meeting she mentioned was one of the first the Navy was to hold regarding their plans for electromagnetic warfare training on the Olympic Peninsula. Forks is a small town of 3,500 in the far west of Washington State. A resident there saw a small public notice flier in the post office about the Navy's scoping meeting, and alerted people of the Navy's plans, forcing it to hold more meetings in some of the larger cities on the peninsula, where the public outcry continues to escalate.
Another way the military has facilitated its ongoing domestic expansion is by control of government officials.
"Your congressmen and senators in Washington State won't talk on the record, due to the Navy's huge presence in that state," Peterson said. "The Navy basically considers Washington to be a military town."
A case in point: a town hall meeting that US Rep. Derek Kilmer (D) held in Port Townsend, Washington, to address public outcry over the Navy's proposed electromagnetic warfare training.
Only one participant voiced support for the Navy's plans, while over 100 others in a standing-room-only meeting voiced their anger and opposition to the Navy's plans, which Kilmer acknowledged but responded obliquely, "The relationship between the Navy and the North Olympic Peninsula is longstanding and valuable."
Later in the discussion, he added, "We need to be sure that these people are adequately trained, adequately funded and given the best equipment possible. This is shared sacrifice."
Miller agrees with Peterson on the possibility that Kilmer is an example of a so-called representative becoming an apologist for the military, regardless of public opposition.
Another method the military uses to combat dissent: It plants its own advocates in public conversations."I think Kilmer is playing people up there," Miller said. "He is on [the House] Appropriations [Committee], and has a lot of power. I've watched several of the public meetings, and he stands up there with the party line. He's not saying there is too much training, and this is an inappropriate location for the Navy to do what they want to do. He could stand up and fight this, but he's not."
Miller and Peterson's critique of Kilmer is not without basis. In the 2012 report Retaining and Expanding Military Missions [for Washington State], the acknowledgements section on page 7 reads, "In addition, we would like to acknowledge the attention provided to our process by Attorney General Rob McKenna, Governor-elect Jay Inslee, Representative- elect Denny Heck and Representative-elect Derek Kilmer."
A US Army War College paper from 1989, titled Military Training on Public Lands: Guidelines for Success, written by Michael King, details how the military has gone about obtaining support from public officials. It is a document that likely informs the current strategy of the military.
"Because many Americans have an increased awareness of environmental, social, and economic issues related to natural resource management," the paper says on page 4, "the military often faces adverse public reaction to conducting training on these lands. My purpose here is to discuss the issue of military training on public lands and to identify guidelines that military decision makers can apply to meet their training objectives ..."
The document notes that by 1986 the Army alone already had access to 14.5 million acres of "non-Army, private, state and federal lands to conduct training and testing," 70 percent of which was national forest land.
It also mentions the Interdepartmental Agreement of 1988 between the secretaries of agriculture and defense, which affirmed a "longstanding policy that national forests can provide a variety of settings to conduct military training activities."
Poignantly, page 11 of the document outlines a strategy that is clearly still pivotal for the military:
Governor's offices, state conservation leaders, and elected officials should be considered participants in the decision-making process. The congressional delegations and their staffs should be consulted and informed of the proposals to enter into agreements with public land or large private landowners. Often the first place a concerned citizen or group turns to is their senators or representatives in Washington DC. [emphasis added]
Miller spoke of this portion of the document specifically.
"What has been most painful to me is the reaction of our congressional delegation," she said. "The War College document makes it clear they need to get to the congressional delegations first, because that is where people are going to come for help."
She went on to mention how Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) supported the F-35 warplane expansions in Vermont, and added, "We have no friends in the government on this. We have a massive military expansion across the US, but no government officials standing with us on this, or even listening to us."
Miller spoke of another method the military uses to combat dissent: It plants its own advocates in public conversations.
"There are trolls, and they are all paid," she said. "The town of Taos [New Mexico] had a meeting of 400 people on a proposed military land use expansion, and the only person who spoke in favor of the military training who was a retired general who we found out was still on the military payroll."
"We already own all the airspace, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about that."A small newspaper on Whidbey Island, where the Navy's air base is located, has regularly run bellicose op-eds written by a retired member of the Navy, who regularly attacks those critical of the Navy's plans while writing under a pseudonym.
Miller and Peterson said this type of pro-military troll is common across the country.
Another comes in the form of trolls abusing comment sections on Facebook pages that oppose military expansionism.
For example, Protect Olympic Peninsula, a Facebook group that describes itself as "community members concerned with US Navy's proposal to develop electromagnetic warfare training in National Forest & surrounding areas," has received the following comments from Navy personnel on its Facebook page and by email:
December 20, 2014, Retired Navy chief issues a threat to the three people who responded to a misleading op-ed by Naval Air Station Whidbey Island commander: "I think the [letter writers] should be strapped into a GROWLER [warplane] and sent out to relieve a crew currently in combat over ISIS stronghold of their choice and allowed to demonstrate their superior knowledge and 'airmanship' and guts for the rest of us!"
"Washington is the absolute best state for military airspace. Wide open skies in unpopulated areas. You are not important. In fact, you scumbags are completely expendable."December 22, 2014, via email from a Navy pilot: "Thanks for your expertise on how the military should work. The military is doing it's [sic] job fighting overseas terrorists and silly people at home. The Military doesn't answer to you. It answers to elected civilians like the President - not every lunatic with an opinion. Navy is exempt from most of the environmental laws you speak of and for obvious reasons. Fighter jets are not and never will be a Prius. Nor do Navy fighter pilots drive Priuses. We consider them to be wimpy along with their owners. New Growlers coming starting in February. New facilities being built on Nas every week. We're growing. Not shrinking. And we just bought more land around OLF [Outlying Landing Field]. COER [Citizens of Ebey's Reserve, Whidbey Island] is about to lose their homes to eminent domain."
January 16, 2015, via email from a Navy pilot: "... we already own all the airspace, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about that ... The Growlers fly there every single day from 6000 ft - 35,000 feet. Good news, we put up 2 new dart boards in the Officers' Club. Guess who's [sic] faces are on them - [two citizens named]. So congratulations, we through [sic] darts at your faces every single day over a beer. That's how much the Navy respects your group."
January 16, 2015, via email from a Navy pilot: "I assure you that you will be long gone before the Growlers are. Service life of the Growlers - 40-45 years. And man, we just built some beautiful new facilities on NAS Whidbey. WA is the absolute best state for military airspace. Wide open skies in unpopulated areas. You are not important. In fact, you scumbags are completely expendable."
Public outcry over this type of bellicose military expansionism is now growing.
In response to the Navy's plans to war-game on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State's commissioner of public lands, Peter Goldmark, sent a February 27, 2015, letter to the Navy informing them that the state would not allow them to use its forest roads for warfare training.
"Though we have not received a formal land use or lease application for this project, we feel that we are adequately informed to decide that we would not be interested in participating in this training exercise," Goldmark wrote.
Several environmental organizations and law firms, including the following, informed the Navy they opposed its environmental impact statement (which they found grossly inadequate and full of errors) for the Northwest Training and Testing range and called for a shift in policy: Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Environmental Protection Information Center, The Humane Society of the United States, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Klamath Forest Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, North Olympic Group, Washington Chapter, Sierra Club, Ocean Mammal Institute, Olympic Environmental Council, Orca Network, Surfrider Foundation, Mendocino Coast Chapter, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, among several others. The letter reads:
The DEIS [draft environmental impact statement], however, included a picture of unremitting and inadequately mitigated harm. More than 500,000 instances of marine mammal 'take' (significant behavioral disruptions and injury) over five years (from 2015 to 2020), including almost 275,000 instances of temporary hearing loss, and more than 600 instances of permanent hearing loss from the use of sonar and explosives ... While these projections are shocking - and, we believe, still underestimate the harm to marine mammals from the Navy's activities - they confirm what stranding events have evidenced, scientists have studied, and the public has believed for years: Navy training and testing activities endanger whales and dolphins at intolerable levels.
The activities included in the Supplement add almost 415,000 instances (about 83,000/year for five years) of marine mammal take to this total - nearly doubling the total disclosed in the DEIS.
Miller told Truthout that in New Mexico, a broad coalition of renewable energy landowners had formed, which includes a large number of ranchers.
This is due to the fact that, according to Miller, the Air Force opposes solar because "they say it affects their radars, and they are against wind, because of their low altitude training."
Public resistance and pushback against US military expansionism is happening in Montana, California, across the Pacific, across the Olympic Peninsula, and across New Mexico, to name a few areas.
The West Coast Action Alliance that supports members-based organizations and citizen groups on the West Coast, from California to Canada, is growing rapidly.
"The public is going to be upset about the military dictating what is happening on private lands. And somehow that seems un-American. This is the largest land-takings in the last 200 years in the US."The group Citizens of Ebey's Reserve on Whidbey Island has been pushing back against Navy jet noise and expansionism for years, and is becoming more vocal and gaining support.
Miller believes lack of information remains one of the biggest challenges for those who believe this domestic military expansion should not be allowed.
"These battles are being fought and the public has no idea this is going on," she said. "Unless you are in an impact area and are seeing it directly."
Miller warned that the military encroachment is happening on a national level and "is expanding," and that the expansion included the buffer areas around pre-existing military bases. It would, she said, even go so far as to limit the heights of buildings in certain cities such as Fairbanks, Alaska.
"But the public is going to be upset about the military dictating what is happening on private lands," she concluded. "And somehow that seems un-American… This is the largest land-takings in the last 200 years in the US."
Peterson has seen some successful court cases brought against the expansionism, but she has also seen courts that "often take the position that the military needs to practice, so anything they need to do is OK."
Like Miller, she sees lack of public information and awareness as an ongoing problem.
"This is where the public has no voice, and no chance really, because no one is seeing how much the Navy has expanded," she said.
Of course, dozens of groups already actively opposing the military expansionism would disagree with her - they are speaking out about the Navy's actions loud and clear.
At the time this article was published, the Navy had not responded to Truthout's requests for comments.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission. Dahr JamailDahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.
His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in Washington State.
Latin America Rethinks Drug Policies
The New York Times | The Opinion Pages | Editorial
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD MAY 26, 2015
During the 1980s and 1990s, as the United States battled the scourge of cocaine throughout the hemisphere, Washington did most of the talking. Latin American governments were forced to listen and fall in line. The American government had the most money to throw at the problem, the toughest justice system and the biggest bully pulpit.
In recent years, that top-bottom approach has been upended as countries in the region have begun to develop new strategies to fight drug trafficking and discourage the use of narcotics. The initiatives that are being discussed and applied represent a welcome break with the largely failed traditional approach, which has emphasized prohibition and punishment. A special United Nations General Assembly meeting next April on drug policy has provided an added incentive to develop fresh approaches to the problem, including sentencing reforms and legalization.
“There is near unanimity that the focus needs to be on health and public health,” John Walsh, a drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America said in an interview. “That is very significant, considering most of the policy remains focused on enforcement and interdiction.”
While a broadly accepted regional approach remains a distant goal in a politically diverse hemisphere with many strained relationships, the present conversations offer considerable hope. Washington has started doing more listening than lecturing, in large part as a result of the domestic debate about the legalization of marijuana and sentencing reform for drug crimes.
Colombia, which has been among Washington’s most willing and pliant partners in the fight against drugs, is among those charting their own course in notable ways. Defying the United States, the Colombian government recently banned aerial spraying of coca crops, citing health concerns. Earlier this month, Yesid Reyes, the Colombian justice minister, delivered a speech at the United Nations outlining proposals that include decriminalizing consumption and finding alternatives to incarceration for minor drug offenses.
“We declared a war that has not been won,” Mr. Reyes said in the speech. “For that reason it’s imperative to conceive and agree on, at the international level, policies and approaches that allow us to respond to this enormous challenge in the most humane, smart and effective way.”
Uruguay and Bolivia have also been leaning forward. Uruguay legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2013. Bolivia kicked out the United States Drug Enforcement Administration in 2009 and currently allows farmers to grow modest crops of coca, which is widely chewed as a stimulant and used for medicinal purposes there. There are outliers, though; chiefly Peru, which continues to fight the drug trade with strict and punitive policies.
The United States has a strained relationship with several governments that have a major stake in the drug trade, including Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. In the years ahead, Washington may be able to strengthen regional cooperation if it places greater emphasis on the tools and expertise it has to offer, rather than punishing those that are deemed to be taking insufficient steps to curb the drug trade.
“You have to be able to make the case that having American drug enforcement agents involved with your local partners is good for the bottom line of those countries,” said Julissa Reynoso, a former senior State Department official who worked on Latin America policy until last year. “Most countries have an interest in having less crime, and I think that’s a case that can be made, even to countries that are not as friendly.”
By Beatrice Fihn
Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
Wednesday 22 April 2015
At the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an emerging notion of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons managed to cut through the usual focus on security policy. After four weeks of discreet but effective negotiations by a few champion states of humanitarian disarmament, the outcome document expressed its “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and reaffirms the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law”.  It was doubtful back then whether any of the nuclear weapon states or the states that currently rely on nuclear weapons in their security doctrines knew that those words would take on a life of their own and develop into one of the most promising and dynamic initiatives that could turn a stagnant nuclear weapons regime into a groundbreaking disarmament process. Five years later, as governments are about to meet in New York again for the 2015 NPT Review Conference a lot of things have changed: three conferences on the topic took place; 155 states endorsed the joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons; almost 70 states pledged to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons; and civil society is mobilizing for a process to ban nuclear weapons to kick-off in 2015. At this Review Conference, all eyes will be on the humanitarian initiative and the push for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The humanitarian initiative has generated a powerful and dynamic movement, which has reasoned with many, states, international organisations, and civil society. A humanitarian-based approach to nuclear disarmament has reminded many that nuclear weapons still exist, that there is still a risk of them being used, and that any use would cause devastating immediate and long-term effects. The effects would not be constrained by national borders, and no state or international organization could address the humanitarian emergency in an adequate manner.  Thanks to the three fact-based conferences on the topic in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna, the evidence of the catastrophic humanitarian impact that any use of nuclear weapons would cause is obvious and remains uncontested. At the conclusion of the third conference in Vienna, the Chair’s summary notes that “it is clear that there is no comprehensive legal norm universally prohibiting possession, transfer, production and use” of nuclear weapons.  The Austrian government then issued a pledge to “pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”.  Since the Vienna conference, states have been associating themselves with this pledge, and at the time of writing, almost 70 states have declared themselves ready to fill this legal gap.  While such a pledge does not automatically mean support for a ban on nuclear weapons, it seems reasonable to expect that states that endorse the pledge agree that a legal gap should be filled with new law. The momentum for a new, legally binding instrument is clearly growing, and many states declare their willingness to pursue such negotiations even without the participation of any nuclear-armed states. So what does this mean for the 2015 NPT Review Conference? In light of the evidence presented at the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the humanitarian concerns about nuclear weapons and the need to fill the legal gap must be the key focus of the discussions during the four weeks in New York. Since its inception, it has often been said that the NPT is in danger. While the Treaty’s non-proliferation aims have served the international community well, the lack of concrete progress on nuclear disarmament affects the credibility of the Treaty. A legal instrument banning nuclear weapons could therefore be pursued in order to implement the obligations of the NPT, and to restore its credibility. The resistance of the nuclear weapon states to engage in this initiative does not diminish its importance, but it will mean that achieving a progressive outcome document from the 2015 NPT Review Conference that recognizes the momentum achieved in recent years will be difficult. However, since the two “successfully” agreed outcome documents from the 2000 and 2010 Conferences remain unimplemented, it is perhaps time to stop equating success of a Review Conference or a whole review cycle with a consensus-adopted outcome document. The strength of the NPT does not lie in the sentences agreed upon at each five-year interval, but rather in the actions that states parties take to implement the Treaty obligations. Despite expected resistance from nuclear weapon states, there is a strong expectation from civil society that supporters of the humanitarian initiative will devote significant time to discuss the conclusions from the three conferences on the humanitarian impact, and in particular ways to fill the legal gap. Such a discussion will be important to carry out even if not all states party to the NPT want to engage, since a new legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons is an effective way for all states to implement their obligations under Article VI. Banning nuclear weapons would complement and strengthen the NPT and create a more conducive climate for nuclear disarmament. As governments gather for the ninth Review Conference of the NPT, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of the two cities. The anniversary reminds us that nuclear weapons are not just theoretical concepts for deterrence; they are real weapons with unacceptable and indiscriminate consequences of use. The 2015 NPT Review Conference is the time for governments to signal their readiness to join a diplomatic process to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and launch such process by the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As long as nuclear weapons are seen as important and legitimate, it will encourage proliferation and maintenance of current arsenals. The work to stigmatize, ban and eliminate nuclear weapons is the best defense against the use of nuclear weapons, and it is a responsibility of all states under Article VI.  Final Document, 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty in the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, p.12, pp. 80 (available here)  Chair's summary of the Oslo Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (available here)  Report and summary of Findings of the Conference, Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, p.2 (available here)  Austrian Pledge, Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, p.2 (available here)  List of states that have pledged to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (available here) The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN's aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe's capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges of our time.
Saying Goodbye to the CD
WILPF Statement to the Conference on Disarmament on International Women's Day 2015
10 March 2015
Thank you, Mr. President.
For the last few years, my organisation, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, has been permitted to deliver a statement to the Conference on Disarmament to mark International Women’s Day.
For years before that, our statement was read out to the CD by the sitting president.
This is the only time of year that any voice from civil society is allowed inside the CD chamber.
And this may be the last time our voice is heard here.
The CD has not engaged in substantive work in 17 years. A very small minority of states have managed to block the adoption or implementation of a programme of work for all that time. And yet many of the other members refuse to allow a change in working methods, rules of procedure, enlargement of membership, or engagement of civil society.
Dear colleagues, on this last point, let me explain to you what it is like being the only civil society organisation that still pays attention to the CD.
Last week, for the high-level segment, I had to make a detour on my way to the gallery, because security wouldn’t let me through – I would have been too close to the chamber in which about 20 minutes later a high level dignitary would be speaking.
Even after any regular plenary session, I have to wait outside the Council Chamber for someone from the Secretariat to hand me the statements that you delivered, because I am not allowed into the room. This practice, by the way, was never an official decision. In 2004, it was decided that civil society was allowed on the floor, before and after the meeting. That changed without an official decision ever being put on the record.
These are but a few of the indignities that civil society experiences at the CD. We do not experience them at other disarmament forums—not at First Committee, not at meetings of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, not at meetings of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
So, you can imagine our delight when Ambassador Lomónaco tabled the draft decision to increase our access to and engagement with the CD.
And I assume you can imagine our disappointment, to put it mildly, when you started discussing that draft decision.
Aside from the sexist, degrading remark about “topless ladies throwing bottles of mayonnaise,” the level of disrespect to civil society and disconnection from the outside world demonstrated by the debate over this proposal was astounding.
Many of you have expressed your appreciation for our work over and over again. And we do enjoy working with you towards our collective goals. But at the moment that it mattered, some of you put process over progress. Member states that pride themselves to be open, democratic societies said they needed more time, had some more questions, wanted some changes, and in the end could not agree to what from our perspective was smaller than the smallest common denominator.
We in WILPF have thus decided that it’s finally time to cease our engagement with this body.
While the debate over the proposal to amend the CD’s engagement with civil society was important in terms of timing, it is not the key reason that we have come to this decision.
This is a body that has firmly established that it operates in a vacuum. That it is disconnected from the outside world. That it has lost perspective of the bigger picture of human suffering and global injustice. Maintaining the structures that reinforce deadlock has become more important than fulfilling the objective for which it was created—negotiating disarmament treaties.
We can no longer invest effort into such a body.
Instead we will continue our work elsewhere. There is much work to be done.
Indeed yesterday we held our annual International Women’s Day seminar, the focus of which was gender and disarmament. This is a subject receiving increased attention, because—unlike in the CD—some states, international organisations, and civil society groups are becoming more responsive to the realisation that gender shapes the impact of weapons and violence on societies. It shapes the role of weapons in society. And it shapes how we work together to develop and implement the policy and legal responses that violence demands.
We know that women and men are exposed to different patterns of violence. Not as a result of biology, but of socially constructed gender roles.
Gender-based violence is violence that is directed at a person because of their gender. The majority of gender-based violence is violence inflicted by men onto women. However men also face gender-based violence, particularly in armed conflict, where men and adolescent boys tend to be the most frequent direct victims of violence.
While men make up the most direct victims, this is rarely presented as evidence of their weakness. Our social relationship with weapons is linked to a persistent construction of women as the “weaker sex,” in need of protection by men.
Weapons are considered to be men’s business. Our societies still expect men to be violent. And often men continue to perpetuate this. We can see this expectation in the reported policy of using maleness as a signifier of militancy in the targeting and casualty analysis of drone strikes.
And so we edge towards the protection of only “innocent civilians”—women, children and the elderly—simultaneously reinforcing expectations that men are violent, undermining the law, and stripping women of their agency.
Women affected by conflict often have less access to health care, services, and reconstruction processes. If heading the household they sometimes face systematic discrimination and can become more susceptible to further physical attack and sexual exploitation.
Framing women as weak and in need of protection continues to enable their exclusion from authoritative social and political roles, and weakens the effectiveness of those processes.
We have seen some progress in recent years, notably UN Security Council resolution 1325, and considerations from 2010 in the General Assembly. The provisions within the Arms Trade Treaty on the prevention of arms transfers that could facilitate gender-based violence are landmark.
But much remains to be done. And it is this work, and many other aspects of disarmament and demilitarization, that is worthy of our efforts.
Dear colleagues, we will now continue to focus our time and energy on other more promising forums and initiatives, but we wish you luck for your future endeavors here in this chamber.
Should the CD begin to work again in the future, we will happily pick up where we left off.
Thank you, Mr. President.
WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE AND FREEDOM UNITED STATES SECTION STATEMENT ON US MILITARY AID TO ISRAEL July 2014 The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section (WILPF-US), joins with Amnesty International and the U. S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to call upon Congress “to suspend transfers of munitions, weapons, crowd control devices and military training to Israel.” The U.S. is Israel’s largest foreign supplier and as such is morally responsible for Israel’s lack of accountability for human rights violations. The U.S. provides $8.5 million in military aid to Israel per day (according to www.ifamericansknew.org), an unconscionable amount given the unmet human needs of our own people. To add insult to injury, the U.S. has never held Israel accountable for human rights violations carried out with and made possible by our military aid. The level of government-sanctioned revenge and collective punishment of Palestinian youth and other civilians following the kidnapping and deaths of three Israeli teenagers shocks us. Violence has always been the currency of the occupation, and as international and U.S. support for boycott, divestment and sanctions to end the Israeli occupation grows, so does Israeli violence in order to maintain the occupation. Most recently on July 3, 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir, a U.S. citizen, was brutally beaten following the horrific torture by fire and murder of his 16-year-old Palestinian cousin, Mohammed. The U.S. State Department has called “for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force” in his beating. Earlier this summer President Barack Obama had stated, “We will do whatever it takes to see justice is done when people harm Americans.” Don’t make exceptions for Israel when it violates human rights. We demand U.S. pressure on Israel by suspending our complicit military aid and financial assistance.