Nonviolent Activist, January - February 2006
UFPJ Rejects Future Work With A.N.S.W.E.R.
On December 12, the antiwar coalition United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) issued a statement entitled “Ending the War in Iraq, Building a Broad Movement for Peace and Justice, and Our Experience with ANSWER,” in which they announced the steering committee’s decision on December 4 to end future work with the organization Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, A.N.S.W.E.R.
Coming off of the antiwar demonstration in Washington D.C., on September 24 that both organizations hesitantly co-sponsored upon written agreement, the statement details the ways in which A.N.S.W.E.R. violated this agreement and jeopardized the “message and impact” of the march. UFPJ points to a few outstanding problems during the demonstration that became the ultimate impetus for the coalition’s decision (see NVA November-December 2005).
The statement notes that while the time of the pre-march rally was supposed to be evenly divided in 30-minute segments between the two organizations, “A.N.S.W.E.R. did not honor the agreed-upon time limits … going more than an hour over in one section.” UFPJ states that this was not only disrespectful, but the time taken by ANSWER was time C-SPAN broadcast the rally, thereby portraying a “one-sided picture of the antiwar movement to the U.S. public” that focused very little on “the central demand motivating hundreds of thousands of people to attend the demonstration: U.S. Out of Iraq Now.”
The statement also maintains “A.N.S.W.E.R. delayed the start of the march for an hour past the agreed-upon time.” The morning of the demonstration, UFPJ says it learned that while its agreement with A.N.S.W.E.R. was to begin the march at 12:30, “the permit A.N.S.W.E.R. had negotiated with the police had the march starting at 1:30.”
This in turn, “prevented the agreed-upon lead contingent carrying the agreed-upon lead banner (‘End the War in Iraq, Bring the Troops Home Now, Justice for Hurricane Victims’) from actually leading the march,” says UFPJ. The lead contingent was to be made up of veterans and military families organizations such as Iraq Vets Against the War and Gold Star Families for Peace. As a result, UFPJ asserts, the march’s message was diluted, and “jeopardized relationships between UFPJ and the representatives of several organizations whom we asked be part of the lead contingent of the March.”
Explaining the reasons for the disparities between the two organizations, UFPJ says that some of its member groups believe that it “stems from A.N.S.W.E.R.’s political and strategic perspectives” while others attribute the problems to “style of work, or to issues about democracy, decision-making, and control.”
In responding to cries for “unity” within the antiwar movement, the statement continues to say that “‘unity in the movement’ doesn’t happen in the abstract” and while many “dream of a situation where everyone gets together as one cooperative movement family,” coalitions must “deal with politics as they are, not as we wish them to be.” You can read the full statement at: www.unitedforpeace.org/.
“Presente!” Against Torture
By the time I arrived at Ft. Benning, GA, still days before the official start of the protest, relationships were already being forged between activists and local residents. On one side of the notorious fences that fortress the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation [WHISC, formerly the School of the Americas (SOA)] stood a legacy of violence and torture. On the other was the buzz of building and visioning a better future—a future where no one would be tortured and no one taught to torture.
To the kids who lived in the nearby community, the weekend of November 18 transformed their neighborhood into a circus for peace. Stiltwalkers strode down the sidewalks, cardboard painted grasshoppers jumped to drumbeats, and victims of the SOA portrayed in papier mâché bobbed above the crowds.
For 15 years people of conscience have converged on Ft. Benning to protest the thousands of deaths, torture, and rapes of people in Latin America that the SOA is responsible for, and ultimately to demand the school’s closure. The primary group that organizes the annual demonstration, SOA Watch, strives to create both a space to properly mourn lives lost at the hands of SOA graduates, and a space for hope and possibility. Each year the numbers of protesters at Ft. Benning have grown—the persistence of their power increasingly threatening the military structures that maintain the school. This year, more than 19,000 people of every color, age, gender, culture, faith, and community gathered nonviolently to call for an end to the torture and demand peace and justice. In a show of resolute opposition, 41 activists were arrested after climbing over the barbed wire chain-link fence that surrounds the main entrance, each risking three to six months in prison.
The annual funeral procession took place on Sunday, November 19, at which demonstrators slowly marched while the names and ages of murdered victims were called out over a loudspeaker. Protesters held crosses and flowers, and everyone sang in unison “Presente!” for each life lost. Never had I experienced such a collective expression of sorrow bearing witness to the injustices of U.S. policy.
Yet in the spirit of transformation from sorrow to hope, the sound of drums, dancing, and a colorful puppetry parade immediately followed the somber procession—drying the tears of the crowd and painting a picture of justice for the future. This year’s participation increased by an estimated 4000 people, indicating the growing concern over the activities of the SOA and global human rights. With torture and extraordinary rendition in the daily headlines, and places like Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo becoming commonplace, ignoring the inhumane acts throughout U.S. policy can no longer be tolerated.
The impact that the organizing against the SOA has had can be seen in the upcoming House of Representatives Bill 1217 that seeks to suspend all operations at the SOA/WHISC—a fact that added newly inspired energy to this year’s protest. As awareness grows more will join in the fight for justice, and the school and the many layers of fences surrounding it, will fall. Check out www.soaw.org to find out how you can help.
WRL New England Youth Organizer
Iraq War CO Speaks Out
In November, Army National Guard Specialist Katherine Jashinski held a press conference outside of Ft. Benning, GA, to make a public statement against the Iraq war as a conscientious objector. Jashinski, on active duty with the 111th Area Support Group since January 2005, applied for discharge as a conscientious objector in 2004 and was denied and ordered to participate in weapons training and deploy to the Middle East.
In her statement, Jashinki recounted the development of her feelings surrounding nonviolence. When first enlisting, Jashinski believed that while killing was immoral, “war was an inevitable part of life and therefore, an exception to the rule.” After enlisting and traveling to the South Pacific, Jashinski says she “started to reevaluate everything she had been taught about war as a child” and developed the belief that “violence begets more violence.”
Speaking about her decision to become a conscientious objector, Jaskinski commented: “After much thought and contemplation about the effect my decision will have on my future, my family, the possibility of prison, and the inevitable scorn and ridicule that I will face, I am completely resolute.” She is currently stationed at Ft. Benning, GA, and could at any time be charged with refusing a direct order.
Palestinian Prof Acquitted, Not Released
On December 6, a federal jury found former Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, not guilty of funding the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. Taking 13 days to come to its verdict, the jury acquitted Al-Arian on eight of the 17 counts against him and deadlocked on the rest. The case against Al-Arian was built on hundreds of documents, including 20,000 hours of wiretapped telephone calls, intercepted e-mails, faxes, and bank records gathered over a decade. Yet jurors remarked afterward that while the evidence was voluminous, it did not clearly link Al-Arian to acts of violence. Additionally, they said that the majority of jurors favored acquittal on the deadlocked charges. The five-month trial was seen as one of the biggest courtroom tests of the search and surveillance powers granted under the Patriot Act.
From 1986 until his arrest, Al-Arian had been a professor at the University of South Florida, where he received two awards for outstanding teaching. The 47-year-old son of Palestinian refugees, Al-Arian was invited to the White House during the presidential tenures of both Clinton and Bush Sr. He even campaigned for George W. Bush during the 2000 election.
On February 20, 2003, federal authorities arrested Al-Arian on charges of supporting terrorism. The government claimed that he used an Islamic academic thinktank and a Palestinian charity to funnel money to Islamic Jihad. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft claimed that Al-Arian was Islamic Jihad’s North American leader. A week later the president of the University of South Florida, under pressure from the board of trustees, fired Al-Arian from his tenured position. This February he will have been in prison three years.
Although acquitted on eight counts, Sami Al-Arian will remain in jail until prosecutors decide whether to retry him on the undecided charges. This will take months, says a spokesperson at the U.S. attorney’s office in Tampa. However, even if prosecutors drop the remaining charges, immigration authorities have indicated that he will probably remain incarcerated while facing deportation proceedings.
Supporters have held vigils outside of the Orient Road Jail in Tampa where Al-Arian waits. They say that the prosecutors should respect the jury’s decision and release him.
Vandenberg Demo Targets Space Weapons
On October 8, more than 100 peace activists met at the main gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base/30th Space Wing Command in Santa Barbara, CA, to demand its compliance with international law under the Nuremberg principles established by the War Crimes Tribunal in 1946. As part of the Keep Space for Peace Week, the demonstrators joined other actions around the globe to protest the militarization of space and the deployment of the so-called Star Wars missile defense system.
At a rally outside the base, Stacey Fritz of No Nukes North Alaska explained how the deployment of interceptors not only violates international treaties but is against a U.S. law that requires that the system not be deployed until the United States has the consent of its allies and the system has been successfully tested. These criteria have not been met for interceptors at either Vandenberg or Fort Greely in Alaska.
Jackie Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation recalled her reaction to the launch of a mock ICBM from Vandenberg Air Force Base, describing that she thought, “this is what the beginning of a nuclear war would look like.” In addition to being a major test site for missiles and other rockets fired at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Cabasso explained, the Vandenberg Air Force Base is the headquarters for the Air Force space task force to U.S. Strategic Command, known as the 14th Air Force. The mission of the 14th Air Force is to “control and exploit space for global and theater operations.”
The people of the Kwajalein Atoll have asked activists in the United States to tell the U.S. government to stop using the Marshall Islands as a test site and to finish cleaning up the radiation damage done to the environment and people by atomic bomb testing that was done at the Bikini atoll during the Cold War.
After the rally and speeches, activist MacGregor Eddy stepped across the heavily guarded “green line” and onto the base, in order to make demands directly to personnel. Police arrested Eddy for trespassing, but not before she was able to read the first Nuremberg principle: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.”
Eddy’s arraignment is scheduled for January 17 in Santa Barbara federal court. For details of the legal proceedings visit the Vandenberg Peace Legal Defense Fund at www.vpeaceldf.org. E-mail Eddy at mindful [at] redshift.com, or write to P.O. Box 5789, Salinas CA 93915.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
George Noburu Kurasaki 1919-2006
On January 3, 86-year-old Japanese-American draft resister George Noburu Kurasaki died of cancer in Mountain View, CA. Born in 1919 in San Jose, CA to Matagoro and Naka Kurasaki, George Kurasaki was raised on his family’s fruit orchard.
After Pearl Harbor, under the threat of imminent internment, Kurasaki married Violet Masamori in order for the couple to avoid being relocated to different camps. In 1942, the family was relocated to an internment camp in Heart Mountain, WY.
Kurasaki was drafted into the Army in May 1943, but refused to show up for his physical examination as an act of protest against the incarceration of his family. Mr. Kurasaki was among 282 Japanese- American men who refused to enlist in the Army unless their families were released from internment camps and their civil rights restored.
At the time, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) denounced the draft resisters. The president of JACL went so far as to recommend they be charged with sedition. In May 2002, the JACL offered a formal apology at a ceremony attended by Kurasaki.
Kurasaki is survived by his wife and four children, Gail and Tony Tanimoto and Bruce and Marcia Kurasaki; grandchildren Scott, Steve, and Elizabeth Numoto; and three great-grandchildren.
February 11, The New School University, New York City: NYC Grassroots Media Conference. For more information: nycgrassrootsmedia.org/conference
March 10-12, Cooper Union, New York City: Left Forum. Invited guests include Michael Albert, Tariq Ali, Barbara Epstein, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Bill Fletcher, Michael Hardt, Christian Parenti, and more. Topics covered will include the antiwar movement and beyond, anarchism and the left, and schools and the military industrial complex. www.leftforum.org.
March 15-22, nationwide: Three Years Too Many! UFPJ Call for Local Actions Nationwide on the Third Anniversary of the Iraq War. For updates visit www.unitedforpeace.org or call (212)868-5545.
April 7-9, Pittsburgh, PA: Regional Counter-Recruitment Conference. www.organizepittsburgh.org/conference, or call (412)901-4563.
April 15, nationwide: No More Tax Dollars to War! Protest tax day by joining or organizing an event in your area. For more information contact the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee at www.nwtrcc.org/ or call 1-800-269-7464.
July 23-27, Paderborn, Germany: Globalising Nonviolence, 24th WRI Triennial. War Resisters' International, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, Britain; (860)-869-5337; wrlne [at] peoplepc.com; www.globalisingnonviolence.org