Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gitmo Detainee Found Not Guilty? Don't Hold Your Breath!

As the "trials" start at Guantanamo Bay, do you think for one moment that any of the Gitmo detainees will be found not guilty? Imagine the outcry if the military tribunal admits we kept and tortured innocent people for five years. Our military and the Bush outlaws have a vested interest in guaranteeing all those who come to trial will be found guilty of something. The ones they know are not guilty will probably never come to trial and will be released, quietly and under the radar of the press, at the end of the Bush reign of terror.

It was uncovered this week that Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice have both urged the closing of this torture center. But Cheney and Gonzales, the man who created the lies for the war in Iraq and the man who wrote that the Geneva Convention was quaint, insisted it stay open. There will be a very special place in hell reserved for those two men.

Watch closely as the tribunals unfold. Listen for the outragous confessions -- admitting to anything just to have the nightmare come to an end. I hope that those who are innocent, caught up in family rivalries, turned over to us by someone who held a grudge and knew they would receive quite a nice sum of money for any names, bring charges against us in the Hague. I'd like to see Cheney, Gonzales, Rumsfeld and Bush sitting in front of the world court facing charges of crimes against humanity.

Do I think this will ever happen? It's just as likely as a Gitmo detainee being found not guilty.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Power of the Purse is Not Just for Congress

The United States Government is pouring $2 billion a week into the war in Iraq. It is in the process of sending more troops and requesting still more funding. Increasingly, the public is fed up, angry, bewildered, and discouraged. More people are turning up for rallies, vigils and marches. The “Iraq Body Count” – the sea of flags that is traveling from one university to another brings tears to our eyes.

A number of years ago, Father Daniel Berringan wrote a short statement that comes as a deep challenge to the nonviolent peace movement. In it he points out that we yearn for peace, but we are unwilling to make any significant sacrifices to obtain it. The United States public takes for granted that, for a war effort, families will be torn apart, young men and women’s careers and education disrupted, and young soldiers will die. But we in the peace movement want to set our own schedules, fit our peace activities safely into the rest of our lives.

As the horrors of this war and the disastrous policies of this administration reach deeper into our hearts, more and more people have been calling on congress to exercise its constitutional powers of oversight. Many have been calling on Congress to exercise its power of the purse to stop the bull-headed direction this administration is taking our nation and the world. Some in Congress seem to have the courage and willingness to make the sacrifice – to risk their security and careers to take a stand. Others seem to be waiting for a politically more convenient time.

For some of us in the peace movement, it is not only Congress who holds the power of the purse. We believe it is each individual’s right to say, “Not in my name, and not with my money!” Some of us are willing to sacrifice security and comfort by refusing to pay for the war through our federal income tax. We are war tax resisters and here are some of our stories.

Carol has been a war tax resister since the invasion of Iraq. She does not consider herself a pacifist, but believes this war is illegal and a violation of international law. In an attempt to reduce the amount of taxes owed, Carol has been giving away one third of her income to charities -- putting her money toward services where Federal and State budgets have been cut. The first time the IRS came after her with threatening letters she got frightened and sent the money. The following year she forced the IRS to garnish her wages. After the 2006 elections, Carol paid her 2005 taxes as an act of faith that the new Congress would fulfill its Constitutional responsibility of oversight.

Ben and Janine, the young parents of an infant boy, have been war tax resisters since returning from Colombia, South America, in 2003, where they witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of US military intervention. As conscientious objectors to war raised in the historically pacifist Mennonite tradition, they are practitioners of nonviolence and oppose all military spending. They would gladly pay taxes if their money supported only peaceful endeavors such as education, health care, and social services. Instead of paying for war, they attempt to reduce or eliminate the amount of taxes they owe by living close to the poverty line. In the years they do owe taxes, they withhold the funds and donate them to organizations that they believe give life rather than take it, including the local school district and international aid organizations. Last December, they received a notice from the IRS informing them that they would be levied. As of this writing, however, they are still waiting for the IRS to act.

Back in the late 1070s, Peg learned about the War Tax Resistance Movement, and since 1980 she has refused to pay all or part of her Federal income taxes, as well as the telephone Federal Excise tax. Over the past 27 years, she has paid the taxes once, had her salary garnished, bonds and bank accounts levied, and currently her Social Security checks are being levied. She has place the “refused” tax money into escrow accounts where the interest can be used for peace-building purposes, or has redirected her tax dollars to causes she believes in. She will not voluntarily pay her taxes to a government with policies that lead to war, fear and corporate greed.

These stories are a sample of what some people have chosen to do to help stop this war. Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig said during the Vietnam War, “Let them protest all they want, as long as they pay their taxes.” Having our tax dollars used in this war is a level of complicity we simply cannot accept.

(this post was written by members of the Taxes for Peace, Not War Group in Eugene, Or., in which this blogger is a member)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Failure in Iraq

We continually hear from the Bush/Cheney administration that if we fail in Iraq the results would be catastrophic. In this analysis they are telling the truth, but it isn’t a prediction, it is pure hindsight. We have failed in Iraq and the results are catastrophic.

3008 (and counting) US soldiers killed, tens of thousands of them suffering life changing injuries, countless Iraqi’s (countless because we chose not to count them) killed, kidnapped, disfigured and maimed, the destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure, the abandonment of Afghanistan to the warlords and poppy growers and the return of the Taliban, the destruction of our nation’s position in the world and our credibility as an honest broker, our national debt at historic highs and an impotent Congress caught up in the fear mongering of our leaders. Patriotic Americans who have questioned the prosecution of this war have been called traitors, thousands of foreign nationals have been detained, hundreds of them have disappeared into the dark hole of CIA and NSA renderings. Thousands of us have been spied on and our civil liberties threatened. All this in the name of promoting Democracy.

The catastrophe is already upon us and its reach is worldwide. I hate to use a sports analogy for fear of sounding like I’m trivializing this horrible situation but if this were a football team, the owners would have thrown the bums out long ago. Well, we are the owners and the 2006 elections were a good start at tossing the bums out on the asses. Now we have to insist that the new Congress do its part.

George Bush was right in his speech to the nation when he said the solution in Iraq would take sacrifice. Those of us who are fortunate enough not to have been called to serve or who don’t have a family member in this war must be prepared to sacrifice time, money and security. Write letters, make phone calls, take time off from work to go see your elected officials, march, protest, withhold your federal income tax. If you don’t feel somehow affected by this war then you might not be doing enough to stop it.

It is also time for our elected officials to sacrifice by risking a bit of their lives as well. Damn the political ramifications to each individual congressional member. They must stand and fight against this reckless and self-serving gang of political thugs in the White House no matter how it might play out in the press or what it might do to their chances of re-election.

It is time to make a very loud noise. Let the soldiers in Iraq hear us. Let them know they have not been abandoned or forgotten or turned into so much fodder. Let the world see that we will not sit quietly by as our young are sent to the slaughter and kings consume excesses and sleep well at night.

No one should sleep well until we have enabled the Iraqi people to re-build their lives. As Collin Powell said in the beginning of all this, “If we break it, we own it.” We are responsible for fixing it, all of us -- those who supported the war and those who opposed it. We, as a nation made this blunder, we as a nation will pay for it. But we do not have to pay in the form of more American soldiers lost or wounded.

After the first gulf war, the Iraqi people rebuilt their nation – bridges and power stations, roads and communications. They are a nation of engineers and architects, they have the capacity to build and fix and support their own people without the help or interference of Halliburton and the other war profiteers who have benefited from the chaos. I’m not so naive as to think that this will be easy. The horror that we created there by our lack of planning for the time after the fall of Saddam and our subsequent pride or ignorance in continuing the blunders have left the country in a civil war. Yet most Iraqi’s want peace and the region needs stability. It’s time for us to ask for help and take advice. The Iraq Study Group developed a strategy that focuses on rebuilding and diplomacy and engaging the neighboring countries.

Bush, Rice, Gates and Casey have all said that their plan for a surge of 21,500 troops may not work but is worth a try. The Iraq Study Group has also said their plan may not work but is worth a try. The latter puts fewer troops at risk and has a better chance to deescalate the violence by removing the “occupier.” If we have to roll the dice, let’s take a chance on the roll where fewer people (US and Iraqi) might die.