peace

Obama and ISIS

David McReynoldsVia Edge Left:

Edgeleft is an occasional commentary from David Mcreynolds which may be resent or used in any way, without further permission

Obama and ISIS by David McReynolds

We can all agree that ISIS (or ISL) is a dreadful organization which has committed grievous crimes in Iraq, crimes which extend far beyond the beheading of American journalists to include mass executions of civilians.The problem is that, as always happens in these cases, there is a certain “selective outrage”, a kind of “willed amnesia” about our own role in such matters.

Let me leave aside ancient history such as Vietnam, and, just looking at Iraq, remind ourselves that the US supported Saddam Hussein for a long period of time, including his war against Iran which lasted nine years, during which he used poison gas against the Iranians with no comment from the White House. Or, after the first Gulf War, when Saddam had agreed to the terms of surrender and was withdrawing his troops from Kuwait, our planes machine gunned the retreating troops who, under any possible definition of the terms of surrender, should have had safe passage.

Then, the US encouraged an uprising among the Iraqis against Saddam, but provided no support, and stood by when Saddam slaughtered them by the thousands. Or perhaps to remember the massive loss of civilian lives in Iraq after our inglorious “Shock and Awe” invasion. Or the torture chambers we set up, photographs of which horrified the world.

Not all of the sins of America, taken together, justify the beheading of a single journalist – but memory may help us understand the roots of that horror.

Obama’s speech tonight went out of its way to chide Russia, at precisely the moment we need the help of Russia (and Iran) in dealing with ISIS. He stoked the old fires of the Cold War by reference to the troubles of Ukraine – for which the US is primarily responsible. And, most tragic of all, instead of offering some hope of ending the bloodshed in Syria, he is now going to extend further aid to one side in the civil war there, which will prolong and deepen it.

If ISIS is indeed the enemy, then, in Syria, the most natural ally is Assad, brutal as his dictatorship is. Let’s remember the US has relied on Syria before, as an ally against Hussein, and as a convenient place to send suspects we wanted tortured in the most professional way possible. This may well be, for the Syrians, a choice between Hitler and Stalin, with ISIS playing the role of Hitler.

The roots of ISIS are in part in Syria, where it has been a bitter enemy of Assad, and in large part now in Iraq, where it has made an appeal to the Sunni population. The Sunnis are the minority religion, but, under Saddam Hussein, they ruled Iraq. As a result of the US invasion, the Sunnis were driven from power and the government turned over to the Shiites (which have close ties to Iran). The US-sponsored government in Baghdad used its power to wreck vengeance on the Sunnis, excluding them from any share of power, and, in far too many cases, using control of the State to murder and imprison them.

Now the Sunnis have turned to ISIS for their revenge. And ISIS has used the weapons the US sent to the Iraqi army, which turned and fled, leaving behind their tanks and heavy artillery. The chances are good that more American aid will end in the same way – and the history of this is instructive. In the Chinese Revolution in the last century, Mao’s army equipped itself with the weapons the US sent to the Kuomintang. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s army equipped itself with the weapons the US had sent to Saigon.

The one exception in Iraq is the Kurdish area. Contrary to media reports, the Peshmerga broke in their first encounter with ISIS – but they have a real stake in setting up their own territory and there is a good chance that, unlike the Iraqi army, they will stand and fight once they have caught their breath. (I feel guilty, as a pacifist, to even suggest aspects of military strategy and tactics – I am only trying to offer an analysis). It is true that a Kurdish “state” in Iraq will create new problems, but they are the one group that might prove a match for ISIS.

Meanwhile, one has to wonder why American intelligence was caught so totally off guard by ISIS and its sweep into Iraq. Just as our sources failed to alert us to this impending disaster , they may be over-estimating the power of ISIS, which will be subject to internal strains.

Meanwhile, missing entirely from Obama’s speech was any recognition of the dangerous role Saudi Arabia and Qatar have played in creating ISIS. If there is a hidden card in this deck, it is in the military and financial support these states gave to the Islamist forces in Syria – the very forces which evolved into ISIS. It is surely ironic that Obama and his advisers would go out of their way to chide Russia – which might actually be of help in dealing with ISIS – and remain silent on the countries which have played so ominous a role in creating the current problem. (Keep in mind that the funding for Al Queda came in large part from wealthy Saudis).

ISIS, dreadful as it is, is not a threat to the United States. It is part of the civil war which has emerged in Iraq now that the US has withdrawn. Massive bombing campaigns will not solve a problem which has its roots in the internal tensions and religious conflicts in Iraq. For diplomacy to have a chance, the US will need consultation with Iran, just as it needs to avoid deepening the civil conflict in Syria.

Obama’s speech failed to deal with the real problems. He seems unaware that the American Empire has ended, that while, like King Canute, he may command the tide to stop, the tides obey other forces over which the US has no control.

(David McReynolds is a former staff member of the War Resisters League, was twice the Socialist Party’s candidate for President, and served a term as Chair of War Resisters International. He is retired, lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side with his two cats, and can be contacted at: davidmcreynolds7@gmail.com. He was the subject of the dual biography by Martin Duberman: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds)

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Ithaca: Citizenship Education Program

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The Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI) is offering the Citizenship Education Program over 3 Sundays: Sept. 21, 28, and Oct.5, at beautiful La Tourelle Inn on Rt. 96B South Hill.

Please read the flyer and share this with anyone you know who wants to

  • develop their ability to take direct action nonviolently,

  • communicate effectively and build support for the issues they care about,

  • get beyond internal, interpersonal and institutional stumbling blocks for positive change,

  • exercise their rights, use their power and make a difference in this world.

Yes to Grandmas, No to Drones

From the Syracuse Peace Council: Drone Resister Sentenced to One Year in Prison Base’s Order of Protection Begs Judgement:

On July 10, grandmother of three, Mary Anne Grady Flores was sentenced to one year in prison for being found guilty of violating an order of protection. A packed courtroom of over 100 supporters was stunned as she was led away, and vowed to continue the resistance.

These orders of protection, typically used in domestic violence situations or to protect a victim or witness to a crime, have been issued to people participating in nonviolent resistance actions at Hancock Air Base since late 2012. The base, near Syracuse NY, pilots unmanned Reaper drones over Afghanistan, and trains drone pilots, sensor operators and maintenance technicians. The orders had been issued to “protect” Colonel Earl Evans, Hancock’s mission support commander, who wanted to keep protesters “out of his driveway.”

Mary Anne began her sentencing statement with, “Your honor, a series of judicial perversions brings me here before you tonight.” She concluded that the “final perversion is the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone attacks?”

The orders of protection are being challenged on many legal grounds.

Mary Anne had been issued a temporary order in 2012. The next year, she photographed a nonviolent witness at the base, not participating herself because she did not want to violate the order. The irony is that those who actually participated in the action were acquitted, while Mary Anne was charged with violating the order.

Even though the pre-sentencing report recommended no jail time, Judge Gideon sentenced Mary Anne to the maximum of a year in prison. As he imposed his sentence, the judge referred to his previous Hancock decision. He had stated then and insinuated now, “This has got to stop.”

In addition, Mary Anne was fined $1000 plus a $205 court surcharge and a $50 fee to have her DNA collected.

Her verdict is being appealed.

How you can help

  1. Send letters of support to Mary Anne Grady Flores c/o Onodaga County Department of Correction, PO Box 143, Jamesville, NY 13078.
  2. Mary Anne’s lawyer is appealing this case and financial support would be gladly accepted. Make checks out to Ithaca Catholic Worker (with Mary Anne’s name in the memo) and send them to 133 Sheffield Road, Ithaca, New York 14850.
  3. Help spread this Democracy Now link around: Grandmother Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison After Protest at U.S. Drone Base — and ask your local media to cover this situation. Write something yourself if you can.

These suggestions are amended from a Facebook post by Ellen Grady. She can be reached at demottgrady6 at gmail dot com for more information on upcoming trials and related support efforts.

Save the date for the International Day of Peace: September 21, 2014

internationaldayofpeace.org

From Wikipedia:

The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access. The day was first celebrated in 1982, and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. In 2013, for the first time, the Day was dedicated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to peace education, the key preventive means to reduce war sustainably.

Read more

Intersectional linkiness

Events:

  • Left Forum 2014: Reform and/or Revolution: Imagining a World with Transformative Justice (May 30-June 1, 2014, NYC):

    “Pressing questions loom for justice-seeking social forces: What is to be done today when a reform brings us one step forward, while leaving other important struggles worse off in the process? What type of movements will it take to overcome such challenges? What type of institutions, systems and societal conditions are possible when transformed conditions of justice no longer take the forms of, ‘the aggrieved speaking to the grievance alleviators’? How do these issues raise the question of the relation of reform to revolution? More than ever, people know that a new and different world is urgently needed. How do we get there from here: reforms, revolution, or strategic combinations of both?”

  • People Links Digital Gatherings (online):

    “Join us on Thursday, March 27th from 6-7pm EST and 4-5 CT-MexDF to discuss technology related violence against women and the tensions that exist between combating hate speech versus the right to freedom of expression.”

  • Socialist Campaign in New York? A Discussion, Hosted by Campaign for a United Socialist Party – CUSP, April 17, 2014, The Brecht Forum, NYC (via Edge Left):

    “Previous meetings focused on the theory; this one is about concrete options. How do campaigns work? Should we learn by working on Howie Hawkins’ campaign for governor? Should we run open socialists? Now, in a few years, or when? What opportunities to run exist between 2014 and 2018? Will running candidates interfere with important movement work? How do we approach nationwide formations? This event is an open discussion and organizing meeting, so it will involve “audience” participation more than typical events. Bring your thoughts, listen to others, and focus on the nuts-and-bolts of what we will actually do.”

  • A New York that works for all of us Rally in Albany, NY, March 20, 2014 (via Edge Left):

    “We stand for a NY that works for all of us but today, Albany works for the super-rich and powerful corporations. If it favors the wealthy and CEO campaign contributors, it’s sure to pass in Albany. On the other hand, common sense legislation the majority of New Yorkers believe in, is stalled by politics. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can do better. On March 20th we are going to hold our elected officials in Albany responsible for putting people ahead of campaign contributors. We demand that our basic democratic rights be respected.”

Things to read:

  • Edward Snowden’s Testimony to the European Parliament on NSA Spying and its Consequences:

    Snowden’s testimony is vitally important for every citizen in every country to understand, yet it has barely been covered by the commercial or (non-commercial) global media. At stake is the possibility of individuals and organizations (not just the media) to function as checks on executive power. It also demonstrates the ability of a secret agency to become an executive power, able even to control the spy services of foreign countries.

  • Heroic Imagination Project:

    “Headquartered in San Francisco, California, The Heroic Imagination Project was founded by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University. At HIP, we translate the extensive research findings of social psychology and related fields into meaningful insights and tools that individuals can use in their everyday lives to transform negative situations and create positive change. Dr. Zimbardo’s work has studied the psychological foundations of negative forms of social influence (such as conformity, obedience, and the bystander effect) and is now refocused on understanding the nature of everyday heroism and they psychology of personal and social growth.”

Resist Drone War Crimes

Upstate New York peace activists have been indicted and arrested (click for video) for resisting drone war crimes. You can support them by showing up at the trial and/or press conferences, and/or sharing information about what’s happened so that others will know about it and get involved.

Trial:
Friday, January 3rd 5 pm and Saturday, January 4th 10 am

Press Conferences:
Fri. 1/3 5pm & Sat. 1/4 9am
(US Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark will be there Saturday)

Click here for info on Ithaca carpool etc., on Facebook.

More

“Sending a Nun to Prison to Die”

The 83-year-old Rice has chosen to spend the final chapter of her life behind bars.

She faces a possible 30-year prison sentence on charges of interfering with national security and damaging federal property, resulting from an act of civil disobedience she committed in July last year.

Exhausted after hiking through the woods adjacent to the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., that once provided the enriched uranium for the Hiroshima bomb, Rice, along with Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed splashed blood against the walls, put up banners and beat hammers “into plowshares” – a biblical reference to Isaiah 2:4, “They shall beat swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

Breaking into a sensitive nuclear facility to stage a protest, the three activists were prepared for the worst. “We were very aware that we could have died,” Rice said.

Read the rest…

Nominees sought for MLK Peacemaker Award

The Community Dispute Resolution Center and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center are seeking nominations for the 16th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemaker Award.

The award is given to an individual or organization who works non-violently for change, who brings people together to resolve differences or promote social justice, and whose work benefits the Tompkins County community.

Nominations should consist of a letter of one or two pages on why the nominee should win the award and be sent to CDRC, 120 Martin Luther King Jr. St., Ithaca, NY 14850, or emailed to cdrc@cdrc.org by Dec. 16.

The award will be presented at the MLK Community Breakfast at 9 a.m. Jan. 18 at the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School gymnasium.

Link: Nominees sought for MLK Peacemaker Award (Ithaca Journal)

Happy birthday César Chávez

400px-Cesar_Chavez_Day

Happy birthday to the late, great César Chávez: a labor rights and environmental justice activist, and a vegan. He said,

I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings.