Category Archives: No Bases

ALL SEATS FILLED AT THE US PREMIERE OF “STANDING ARMY” AT THE LEONARD NIMOY THALIA

Share

February 27, 2011.  You want to be here as the theater fills; you’re absorbed in the quiet as Vinie Burrows asks for moments of silence in memory of the anti-imperialism historian Chalmers Johnson.  It is his testimony you’re about to hear in Enrico Parenti and Thomas Fazi’s film, STANDING ARMY.

"Standing Army" banner
Vinie recalls the promise she and other Grannies made four years ago to other women at an international conference in Venezuela: to inform the U.S. public about the many sorrows visited upon these women and their families by the U.S. military presence in their countries.  And today, she says with feeling, for the fifth time we offer a “teach-in” as evidence of the “sorrows of the U.S. Empire.”

The theater darkens.  The film begins to unfold the facts.

The official statistics:
The U.S. maintains 716 operational military bases in 110 countries.   There are 250,000 military personnel, men and women, employed on those bases.  The annual cost of the US military presence is in the billions.

US Military Bases - World Map

The sweep of history:
WW II ends, and the U.S. corporate elite sees its future in the war industry, an endless production of bigger and more destructive arsenals.  A good pretext is the threat from the USSR, the escalation of fear, the arms race, the creation of the “communist menace.”

Always, there is the need for an enemy (Castro, Ho Chi MInh);  after glasnost, new enemies are found:  Chavez, Iran, drugs, then Al Qaeda and terrorism.

The testimony:
You feel the power of people’s life stories. The filmmakers show us how an airbase on Okinawa shatters the quiet in a nursery school.  An eloquent Japanese man gestures to his land, now part of a huge airfield and says that so long as his land is used for machines of war and death, he feels responsible, and will not stop his protest or efforts to end the occupation of his land.

Brown University Anthropology Professor Catherine Lutz calls bases “the booty of war.”  That is the premise and rationale for their presence in Japan, Italy, Germany (all WWII) and more recently South Korea, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.  You re-learn that military personnel stationed on US bases commit violent crimes against women and men of the occupied country.  Offenders are not tried by local the courts because of SOFA (the Status of Occupying Forces Agreement).  Often they are not punished other than to be sent back to the U.S.  SOFA causes huge resentment towards the U.S.

You see the enormity of construction; you sense it is not “temporary”.  You follow the logic that where there are soldiers there will be war.  Eisenhower warned against the escalation of the Military Industrial Complex, but here it is, fully realized.  And in the worst case scenario, it is unstoppable.

Here some of the heroes of Parenti and Fazi’s film come in:
The people of Okinawa keeping vigil in their rainforest to stop a U.S. helicopter pad from being constructed.  The 2,000 Chagossians forcibly removed from their small, beautiful island of Diego Garcia by Great Britain after WW II and leased to the U.S. for a secret naval and air base but continuing the struggle to regain the right to live in their homeland, seeking redress in ever higher courts of law.  The people in Vicenza, Italy holding a referendum to prevent a U.S. airbase expansion and their mayor deying authorities in Rome.

Then there are the clear, cogent statements of Chalmers Johnson who worked within the US information-gathering system until he saw too much, and began to feel the urgent need to document how military bases and soldiers are a recipe for endless war.

The film ends with a reminder of the reason for its title: STANDING ARMY.  It was George Washington who warned that a Standing Army would be a threat to any republic.
You, the viewer, feel keenly grateful for the accuracy and skill of these two filmmakers who, with the benefit of an Italian perspective, have succeeded in telling the story of the way the US commitment to empire parallels the course of history that led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Lights come up and we’re introduced to our guest speaker, Ray McGovern. Vinie outlines Ray’s background as a CIA analyst during years of the Kennedy through the George H.W. Bush administrations, and more recently as the founder of the VIPS, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  We’re in the company of the kind of hero we’ve just seen in the film.  He’s recently been hurt during a brutal arrest by the Washington, DC police when he protested the statements of Secretary of State Clinton.  All he did was silently stand and turn his back during her speech.  He asks us to turn around and look at one another.  He wants us to feel ourselves as a presence, as a force.  He says, “We need to put our bodies into it!  Does anyone have any more doubts as to why “they” hate us??”
2011_02_27_051McGovern tells how as a major in Russian studies at Fordham, he admired and learned from his mentor George Kennan.  Later, he was appalled by Kennan’s statements that the U.S. has 50% of the world’s wealth, 6% of the world’s population and the goal is to keep it that way….forget sentimentality, forget human rights.   Here one can recognize US policy in South and Central America, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Africa and the Middle East.  Here is the structure of the Foundations for a New World Order reported in the film.

Some of McGovern’s points:
The presence of US military in the Middle East and elsewhere is about O.I.L.
O for oil; I for Israel; L for logistics.  It’s about securing access to petroleum and supporting our ally, Israel.  But, says McGovern, it might be time to realize our interests in the Middle East are not the same as Israel’s right now.

Iran stopped building a nuclear weapon in 2003.  This is a fact.

The 4th Estate media, controlled by advertisers, corporations and the government, is no longer an honored part of our common life.

Wikileaks is good news.  The 5th Estate media is our only channel today. Watch footage that showed the attack on Iraqi civilians from the Apache helicopter. Also, watch a fine piece put together by German TV about Bradley Manning.  (Google: “Panorama, Bradley Manning”)

Though the US disclaims having permanent military bases abroad, the word “enduring” has appeared in the lexicon.

Many good questions are submitted to McGovern.  His responses:

The Pentagon, not the President, not Congress, holds warmaking power in D.C.

Q:  What do you suggest a person can do?
A:  “Get together with no more than four others, preferably a majority of you should be women, meet regularly, decide that you’ll be supportive of one another, you’ll hold one another accountable for doing what you agreed to do. Then do it!”

Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport - sign

Obama, during his campaign said, “You’ve got to make me do it!” (change the system).  Let’s make Obama do it!

On that stirring note, the audience gave Ray Mc Govern a standing ovation, which was followed by songs from The Raging Grannies.

Must see this film!
Who would have a better perspective on the perils of empire than the Italians, where Rome still holds the evidence of the greatness and the fall?  It is our good fortune that two Italian filmmakers have shown that the story of US Imperialism is repeating the story of the end of the Roman Empire  It’s important to see this film.  It brings the arguments together and supplies the evidence to back them up.

– Caroline Chinlund
for the Granny Peace Brigade
Illustrations (1&2) courtesy of “Standing Army”
Photos (3&4): Eva-Lee Baird

Forum on The U.S. and the ABOLITION of NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Share

Interested activists gathered at The Riverside Church on Sunday, March 28, 2010 for a forum on The U.S. and the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons sponsored by the Granny Peace Brigade, The Mission and Social Justice Department of The Riverside Church and the Black Radical Congress, New York Chapter.  The United Nations Five Year Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, scheduled for May 2010, will involve many nations in that review, so the forum was timely.  Peace advocates want to ensure that their voices are heard before the official review, especially to push for the elimination of weapons in the lifetime, for example, of President Obama who has said this would not happen in his lifetime.

The Reverend Thomas of The Riverside Church welcomed those present and said that the church was supportive of the forum’s goals and for years had promoted reconciliation between and among individuals and nations.  Vinie Burrows, Actor, Writer and UN Representative for the Women’s International Democratic Federation, moderated the program.   In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ms. Burrows read a portion of his speech, Quest for Peace and Justice.

Continue reading Forum on The U.S. and the ABOLITION of NUCLEAR WEAPONS

CLOSE U.S. MILITARY BASES IN THE PACIFIC

Share

GRANNY PEACE BRIGADE TEACH-IN at HUNTER COLLEGE/CUNY
November 8, 2009

The audience of about 100 people was welcomed by Carmelina Cartei, Women and Gender Studies Department of Hunter College.

Vinie Burrows, actress, poet and our moderator, described the background of the teach-ins and the formation of the “No-Bases” committee of the Granny Peace Brigade. The committee was founded to stand up against the “New World Disorder” that US bases have created.

Pete Bronson of Korean War Veterans for Peace emphasized that the Korean War has not formally ended, even after 1.5 million Koreans have died. He directed us to the website endthekoreanwar.com for information and ways to become involved.

Pete emphasized that all are welcome to join with Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against War and Viet Nam Vets against the war in advocating for the rights of active duty soldiers, and in continuing to lobby for an end to the engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(7-minute YouTube video summary)

Here are highlights from each of the three presenters:

Joseph Gerson, Director of Programs for American Friends Service Committee.

A photo sent to Gerson from Okinawa on the day of the teach-in showed hundreds of thousands of demonstrators protesting the US presence in Okinawa, on that day, and demanding the return of their airfield from the U.S. military.

The people of Okinawa clearly want us to know how actively they themselves are protesting the bases and the destruction they have wrought on their island. Okinawans are particularly outraged that a US base is planned on landfill over a coral reef. This base will destroy the ecology and beauty of the place forever.

The US has over 100 military bases in Japan, and through secret treaties has also a nuclear weapons presence there which is political anathema to the Japanese people. The history of Okinawa is one of loss of dignity and sovereignty. The country was an independent kingdom for 200 years, then invaded and conquered by Japan, finally losing ¼ of its population in 1944 in WW II. Because of the mixed racial nature of Okinawans they have been treated as a dumping ground by Japan. Most of the 40,000 US troops in Japan are in Okinawa. 28 percent of Okinawa is occupied by US bases. In the center of a large city in Okinawa is a helicopter strip creating terrible noise and bad air.

Virginia Rodino, Asia Pacific Freeze Campaign and Veterans for Peace-Korea Peace Campaign.

The Korean War has not formally ended.  3,000,000 Koreans having died during the period of active combat, there is a strong wish for peace and unification of the country among Korean people. The Asia Pacific Freeze Campaign led to a candlelight vigil movement involving huge numbers of Korean people. In 2005,six nations agreed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula ( U.S., Japan, China, Russia and North and South Korea ). Nonetheless, the U.S. continued to demonize N. Korea as a stand-in for China because that important trading partner can’t be targeted. As long as N. Korea can be accused of an interest in nuclear warfare, the excuse for maintaining strong U.S. base presence in S. Korea continues. Both China and S. Korea import large quantities of U.S. manufactured arms. In May 2008 Korean people, concerned about contamination by mad cow disease, staged mass protests against the importation of U.S. beef. The protests were violently put down by the government. The Korean people want to go on with their lives and pursue their common destiny apart from U.S. domination and military base presence.

Ninotchka Roska, Philippine-born activist, novelist, former political prisoner, founder of Gabriela Network/USA, a multiracial women’s solidarity movement.

There have been U.S. bases in the Philippines since 1898. Manila was terribly devastated during W.W. II. The Philippines are very familiar with the way military culture leads to violence and the oppression and exploitation of women. For example, in the Philippines an estimated 50,000 children were fathered by U.S. soldiers since 1945. None of these children receive the healthcare, housing and education which are benefits of U.S. military families. The story of Nicole, a 22 year-old student who has fought for justice in the prosecution of her rape by a US officer points out the way U.S. Service personnel are exempt from prosecution by the judiciary systems of the home nations of Asian bases.

– Caroline Chinlund
for the Granny Peace Brigade

The GPB at the Social Justice Society of Stern College for Women

Share

On Tuesday October 20, a group of Granny Peace Brigade members gave a presentation to the Social Justice Society of Stern College for Women  organized by Tamara Freieden a board member of the Social Justice Society.

2009_10_20tamara

The students were a very lively group of about 14 women and one man. Many of them were from other states and we told them how to reach their Congressional Representatives and Senators; one had already visited a congressional office in person.

2009_10_20carol

Carol Huston described the beginnings of the Granny Peace Brigade including the Times Square enlistment attempt, the trial and the gradual development of committees devoted to No Bases, Counter Recruitment and Legislation.

Representatives of the committees spoke:

  • Vinie Burroughs spoke about No-Bases and its origin in an Women’s International Democratic Federation meeting in Caracas, also mentioning the up-coming Teach-In on Pacific bases.

2009_10_20vinie

  • Barbara Harris spoke [with display and hand-outs] about Counter Recruitment and some of the students said they’d been subjected to attempts to recruit them — but obviously they took another path.

2009_10_20barbara

  • Eva-Lee Baird spoke about the approach of the Legislative Committee, researching legislation and holding phone-a-thons.
  • Edith Cresmer demonstrated a call to Senator Schumer, using a cell phone set on speakerphone provided by one of the students. The students listened carefully as Edith left a “stop funding the wars” message on the answering machine in Schumer’s Buffalo office.

2009_10_20eande

As we were wrapping up we were asked to sing, and we sang “Voters [God] Help America.” That got a big applause.

At the end of the presentation theater lovers came over to Vinie asking what she is appearing in, and she told them she was in a play now and also in rehearsals. One student gave Vinie her email so Vinie could send her the information about her current activities. Students were interested in Counter Recruitment, and they want to follow up – helping high school students to fill out basic forms, and use the internet to find financial aid programs. They also asked about more information on the two Israeli refuseniks that recently visited NYC.

– Edith Cresmer
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Security Without Empire

Share

National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases – American University in Washington, DC – Friday, February 27 to Monday, March 2, 2009. Coordinator was Joseph Gerson of AFSC.

2009_03signs

Seven Grannies attended – Barbara H, Bev, Carol, Caroline, Nydia, Pat and Phyllis.  A total of 200 participated with 24 representatives from overseas – Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Guam, Hawaii, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, Okinawa, and Vieques.

This was the Granny Peace Brigade’s first sponsorship of a national conference and allowed us to network with other organizations here and abroad working on the issue of No Bases.

Thanks to Vinie’s work with the Women’s International Democratic Federation when she, together with Carol and Phyllis, attended the WIDF Congress in April 2007 – the GPB has reason to take pride. We were the first to recognize the need to educate the US/NYC public about the bases and to work to shut them down. We have pioneered this through our Teach-Ins, phone-a-thons, website, etc. etc.

To be brief, the Conference was excellent in every important respect and this report cannot convey all of the energy, intelligence, and warm interactions that we experienced.
The aims of the Conference were:

  • To move toward an ultimate goal of closing and reducing the number of foreign bases, as well as the clean up of military base sites;
  • To further integrate anti-bases networks and organizations into a more coherent movement;
  • To share and disseminate information about U.S. foreign military bases and resistance;
  • To develop new strategies for the U.S. anti-bases movement.

The Conference clearly succeeded in the first three areas and a good start was made on the fourth.

Friday evening at the Pentagon: We gathered at 4 pm in the protest area designated by the Pentagon. There had been a light rain which stopped and as we identified ourselves to others we hung our GPB banner on the fence. Outside the fence a long string of police watched and Art Laffin of Catholic Workers said CW has held a vigil for 22 years on Monday mornings from 7 to 8 a.m. Jonah House (Berrigans) have vigiled for 37 years there. Our friend, Jun Soto and another Buddhist were there with their drum on their walk from upstate NY.

We formed a circle and started a started a brief program with a ceremony requesting permission to stand there from representatives of the Piscataway tribe on whose land it was originally. Then into a large bowl placed on the earth in the center of our circle, those of us who brought vials of water poured it in – Okinawa, Italy, Japan, Hawaii, Maine, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Croton, etc. This opening of the conference was deeply moving. The mood was one respect for the earth and all its creatures with a sense of both formality and friendliness.

Program at American University: The main speaker at the opening plenary was Zia Mian (physicist from Pakistan teaching at Princeton) and he spoke pointedly about the 4 crises the US faces: war, the economy, energy, and a lack of confidence in America’s future. He referred to Obama as a “Restorationist” trying to rebuild the American Dream, not a “Radical” but the Dream is based on Empire. [More of Zia in Bruce Gagnon’s report.]

2009_03diagonalgroup_sm

The conference program was jam-packed and, as invariably happens, it was tough deciding which workshop or meeting to attend. The other plenary sessions were excellent with powerful testimony by the overseas guests relating the destructive and toxic impact of the bases on their communities in all areas — social, cultural, economic, environmental.

In the interest of time or for more specifics on the variety of workshops and the titles of the plenary sessions, please visit the conference website. Also, check out these reports: Bruce Gagnon’s March 5 report, and John Lindsay-Poland’s report.
Our Granny Table was set up in a corridor with Laurie’s “We will not be Silent” T-shirts, our buttons, MLK speeches booklet, war budget pens and a sign – Donations Accepted. We generated $375 giving $200 to Laurie and the balance to GPB. Because of a conference shortfall, as individuals we contributed $75 with $25 from the proceeds for a total of $100 which Joe Gerson appreciated.

Our workshop in the afternoon (Taking it to the Grassroots: Granny Peace Brigade Strategies for Informing the Public) went very well, even if attendance was slim.

2009_03workshop

There were 3 women from Okinawa; one from Tokyo; two from Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace who treated us like royalty; one man with a petition, and Steve Chinlund enlisted on video by Joe Friendly who was elsewhere. One person from San Diego couldn’t stay but needed C/R info from Barbara. With Phyllis moderating, we all did our reports and Caroline with Bev staged a phone-a-thon encounter which everyone loved. Post-presentation our attendees were engaged and would have continued talking but we needed eat and then do the evening plenary.

Evening Plenary The featured speakers were Raed Jarrar (Iraq AFSC), Jana Glivicka (Czech Rep.) Suzuyo Takazato (Okinawa) and Gualdemar Jimenez (Ecuador).  All presenters were superb.

Patriotic and anti-Military Fashion Show This was terrific and worth describing in detail.

2009_03bev_2fashions1

For the record though, Bev was one of the stars, first in orange jumpsuit and black hood for Witness Against Torture and minutes later in a Granny outfit complete with a Power of the Purse, black balloon, and photos of her grandchildren.

Sunday Plenary On extremely short notice Phyllis Bennis stepped in to replace the featured speaker, Walden Bello from Manila, and was thrilling in her brilliant, focused and funny style. She emphasized that things have changed in DC. so now is the time to figure out what we need to do. Obama never mentioned bases in his Inaugural address and a new definition of “empire” is taking shape. The time is ripe for pursuing base closings in view of the possible savings of $140 billion, with Barney Frank’s proposal of a 25% cut in the military budget, and the 50-50 split on the legitimacy of an Afghan war. Our movement should say: WE HAVE THE ANSWER!
We packed up and went for dinner, planning to do lobbying the following day – Monday – but weather intervened.

– Nydia Leaf
Photos: Phyllis Cunningham

NO PERMANENT/”ENDURING” U.S. MILITARY BASES IN IRAQ

Share

CALL FOR COMPLETE WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. MILITARY FORCES FROM IRAQ

The Bush Administration told us Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs); they didn’t wait for the UN inspectors to finish their work; and they lied to the United Nations, which authorized the U.S. and an international coalition to attack Iraq, a country that had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with September 11th.

Today we know both the sad truth – there were no WMDs, and the tragic results – massive death, destruction, dislocation. Iraq has been devastated – estimated more than 1 million dead, over 4 million displaced, infrastructure in a shambles. As at October 24, 2008, the toll of U.S. military personnel was over 4,100 dead and over 30,000 wounded (the official count – some estimates are significantly higher); the monthly cost of the war/occupation is over 10 billion dollars and the U.S. is trillions of dollars in debt. Today U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing this undertaking to the tune of over $200,000/minute.

UN Security Council Resolution, S/Res/1790(2007), which mandates U.S. presence in Iraq at the head of an international coalition, ends in December 2008. The Iraqis continue to express a fervent wish for the U.S. military to leave their country. We must ask ourselves – WHY does the U.S. want a long-term agreement for 58 “enduring” military bases in Iraq? (For some existing bases, the description “Little America” has been used.) WHY?

REMEMBER “NO BLOOD FOR OIL” were the signs carried and these were the words chanted by protesters before and after the invasion of Iraq. ‘No,’ insisted the Administration, the war was ‘not about the oil.’ But now Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman has said ‘the Iraq war is largely about oil.’* And today 36 years after the nationalization of the Iraqi oil sector in 1972, foreign companies are bidding on long-term contracts for oil extraction and gas production management.

We insist that the commencement of foreign company control of oil/gas extraction operations in Iraq cannot justify continuation of a U.S. military presence. Iraq itself must be allowed to assume responsibility for security matters in Iraq, as well as for its rehabilitation, in collaboration with assistance agencies identified and selected by the Iraqi Government.

On CSPAN, September 22nd, Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, said, in effect, that Iraq cannot be Iraq while the U.S. is there; that most Iraqis want the U.S. to leave; that ‘yes’ after our departure there will be some violence — a reason for the U.S. to remove ourselves as irritant.**

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, our largest embassy, covers 104 acres in the Green Zone. It is a city unto itself — larger than Vatican City.

The rationale for the Administration’s insistence on permanent/”enduring” military bases in Iraq is crystal clear. Five times since 2006 President Bush has signed into law Congressional Bills authorizing military funding but prohibiting expenditure of funds “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.” In this connection, he has, however, issued two “signing statements” this year, the most recent one in October, asserting that banning U.S. control over Iraqi oil would violate the constitutional power of the executive branch. He argues that his administration is not legally bound by those restrictive provisions. Thus he would deny the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government the government’s sovereign right to control their own natural resources.*** We the people must not give tacit approval to this totally unacceptable state of affairs!

There is no defensive reason for any U.S. military base in Iraq. It cannot be over-stressed that the recent “bail out” of Wall Street is just the tip of the iceberg which threatens us.

Do not delay action until the new Barack Obama Administration takes office. We urge you to telephone your Representative and Senators to say that United States withdrawal from Iraq must be complete, emphasizing that there should be no permanent/”enduring” U.S. military bases in Iraq. In addition, please write to them to state strongly that having studied this matter you deem it vital for the safeguarding of both Iraqi and U.S. interests that U.S. military operations in Iraq be ended and bases closed.

Please telephone and write to your three Congress people (Representative and both Senators) in this regard OFTEN!

*Book – “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” by Alan
Greenspan.

**CSPAN, ‘After Words,’ September 22, 2008,

***Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation, Press Release –
‘President Bush Asserts Right to Control Iraqi Oil,’ October 16,
2008.

-Barbara Walker
Granny Peace Brigade

Say NO to US Militarization of Latin America and the Caribbean

Share

A large and lively crowd gathered in the lower level of the Church of the Ascension on Sunday November 9, 2008 for a Teach-In entitled:

Say ‘No’ to U.S. Militarization of Latin America and the Caribbean
2008_11_09nydia
Nydia Leaf, a member of the Granny Peace Brigade which sponsored the Teach-In, welcomed those present and introduced the speakers and the musician,
2008_11_09taps
Michael Irwin, who played Taps. The format allowed 10 minutes for each speaker and, after a break, a performance by the Metro NY Raging Grannies, then a Q&A session.

Nydia explained that the Teach-in was being held because: a number of US women [including NY Grannies] attending the 14th Congress of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Venezuela in 2007 had been told by women from countries around the world of their anguish about the presence of unneeded US military bases in their respective countries; the US delegation came home determined to work for closure of the US foreign bases. She also said that US military bases are the worst polluters [of the ground, the soil, the water and the air] both abroad and at home and seem unwilling to be good citizens and clean up their act.
2008_11_09Guy-deVeaux
Guy deVeaux of the Vietnam Veterans for Peace told about that group’s current efforts [disco in Harlem, lobbying in Albany and a book event next Friday about Blows Against Empire, by Gerald Horne] then gave a history of Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day. Mr. deVeaux, a member of several other organizations including the Black Radical Congress, called for Education not Incarceration of our young men, and for elimination of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.
2008_11_09greg-wilpert.thumbnail
Greg Wilpert, sociologist, writer and adjunct professor at Brooklyn College, served as moderator for the presentations. He lived for eight years in Venezuela as a Fulbright Scholar; his wife is the Venezuelan Consul General in New York. His most recent book Changing Venezuela by Taking Power was published last year.
2008_11_09Maria-Fernanda-Espinosa
The first presenter, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations spoke passionately about her country’s new constitution. Approved September 28, 2008, it states that Ecuador is a country of Peace and does not allow any military bases on Ecuadorian soil. The contract for the US base at Manta in Ecuador expires at the end of this year and Ecuador has no plans to renew it; thus, the base must be closed. During several meetings in the last year with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Ms. Espinosa made this clear.

In her current post at the UN, she is working to see that pre-emptive war is prohibited and this includes elimination of clauses called ‘responsibility to protect’ which are usually interpreted to mean that one country can interfere in the affairs of another. She encouraged the audience to follow these discussions at the UN closely. Unfortunately, small military base installations are proliferating in Latin America – in El Salvador, Honduras, Columbia, Peru and Puerto Rico.
2008_11_09greg-grandin
Greg Grandin, Professor of History at NYU and author, most recently, of Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the Unites States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, spoke next. He said Latin America is like the canary in a coal mine, and criticized the neo-con thinkers for fostering interference in many sovereign nations, including in Latin America.

He said that due to US overreach in Iraq, the countries of Latin America had been less focused on and so were beginning to take matters into their own hands – expanding democracy, both good left democracies and bad left democracies. The governments of Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil and Chile are trying to make life better for their populations, rather than for a small group.

Unfortunately, a US drug interdiction initiative in Latin America, known as Plan Columbia, praised by the US government as a success, in reality has been a disaster for the people of that country. Plan Columbia [executed in Columbia] is being copied in a new Plan Merida [to be executed in Mexico and other countries]. These plans use military might to address the drug problem rather than strategies recognizing that drug addiction is a social problem. Land reform is critical as is economic integration and abandonment of NAFTA. Unfortunately, President-elect Obama has said he approved Plan Merida, which benefits military contractors, such as United Technologies, not the people of the affected countries. We hope we can change his mind about this and many other issues.
2008_11_09ann-wright>
Ann Wright, former US Army veteran and foreign service officer, spoke next. She is well known to the Granny Peace Brigade for speaking out tirelessly for peace, having resigned her diplomatic post on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq by cabling Secretary of State Powell. She offered congratulations to Ecuador on its new constitution and noted that Japan’s was another constitution specifying that the country was a country of Peace. The latter constitution, written entirely by the US at the end of World War II, has been ignored by the US more recently in its actions requiring Japan to aid the war effort by allowing refueling of planes and ships [not to mention the many US bases placed on Japanese soil].

On a trip to Canada Col. Wright was stopped by Canadian border agents and asked if she had been arrested. She learned that they had an FBI list which included arrests for picketing activity, a misdemeanor that should not be on such a list. Establishment of such a list undercuts our civil liberties due to its chilling effect. She noted that the term used by President Bush, Axis of Evil, was presaged by earlier demonization of Cuba, in 1959, Nicaragua in 1979 and later Grenada. She urged us to be vigilant in monitoring the behavior of our government, especially so when officials use euphemisms to describe their actions: saying they are rescuing a country or providing civic assistance, when what they are doing is invading it.

A Question and Answer period followed. The Navy’s Fourth Fleet, located in the South Atlantic, had been deactivated since the 1960s, but was recently reactivated, which seems symbolic and provocative towards Latin American countries [e.g., Venezuela] and is perhaps a response to the sense that the US influence in the Latin American and Caribbean area is diminishing. Or perhaps it is in response to recent activity by Russian Fleets.

The Southern Command, the Department of Defense’s agency for the Southern part of the Western Hemisphere, has control over all US agencies in the area, including those which have nothing to do with the military, such as agriculture and education. This is seen as ominous and reflects the militarization of our foreign policy.

In 2005 at a ministerial conference Secretary Rumsfeld tried to get Latin American countries to fold everything into the larger war on terror, but they rejected this concept and also repudiated the Free Trade zone.

Resource depletion, including water and biodiversity as well as oil, was noted as a significant reason for concern. This concern can be a vehicle for cooperation, or it could continue as a motivator for war. The US may feel itself threatened by dialogue with China and Russia by the South American Security Council. But another attitude could be adopted.

The UnisulVirtual is a recently formed distance learning institution in Brazil with branches throughout South America and Central America; the first distance programs were offered in 2001. By September 2008 it had 41,000 students enrolled, about half in face-to-face classes and half in distance learning.

Ambassador Espinosa was asked to comment on the expected effect closing the US military base at Manta would have on employment for the local Ecuadoran people. She explained that Manta is a promising port that will not suffer if the base closes; as with many US bases, everything they use there is shipped in from the US, not purchased from the local economy. The local economy is involved in shipping to Asia and elsewhere, so it will be O.K.

Another issue raised was human trafficking. This is a more severe problem than drug trafficking and must be addressed by improving the local economies to discourage people from being mislead about opportunities abroad that turn out to be slavery.

The teach-in was concluded with discussion of
How can activists help and press the UN?
How can they monitor military contractors?
How they can monitor Special Forces?

The School of the Americas, now known as The Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, has to be kept under surveillance by activists. There will be a protest there soon. Yearly protests are being held.

IMET [International Military Education and Training Program] Special Forces are all over the place. There are web-sites that track how they are used and where. Good sources are Samantha Power, at Harvard, and Dan Restrepo at The Center for American Progress.

The UN has been undergoing reformation for the last 15 years. Mr. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly and former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister. Next Tuesday, there will be a meeting on reform of the Security Council. DOHA third round on Financing for Development. President Bush is calling a meeting with the G20 next week, taking steam out of DOHA. It should be G122 – the entire UN – which would be the venue for solving the world financial crisis.

We also need to keep an eye on Chris Dodd, senator from Connecticut who has a bad idea with Plan Columbia, but wants to be known as good on foreign policy. Perhaps we can make him see the light and get him to support other methods for drug control and also for support of populations in Central and South America.

Four years ago Somalia and the US were the only two countries that hadn’t signed the U.N. Convention on the Child. Now only the US has not signed it.

– Edith Cresmer
Photos by Anthony Lanzilote

PEACE GRANNIES CONTINUE THE GOOD FIGHT

Share

Granny Peace Brigade Holds Teach-In To Oppose Militarization By U.S. Of Latin America And The Caribbean

The legendary grannies of the New York Granny Peace Brigade, who were arrested, jailed and put on trial for six days in 2005 when we attempted to enlist in the military at the Times Square recruiting station, are still out there fighting U.S. preemptive war and militarization of foreign nations. Though most, if not all, of us are jubilant about Barack Obama’s historic election, nevertheless we feisty grandmothers held a teach-in days after his victory to alert the public and, hopefully, the President-elect to our concerns about the plethora of U.S. military installations and operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The teach-in, held Sunday, Nov. 9, at Manhattan’s Church of the Ascension, was the third in a series of teach-ins sponsored by the grandmothers to oppose the more than 1,000 military bases installed in every continent except Antarctica. The first teach-in emphasized Guantanamo, the second stressed AFRICOM, the new U.S. military command for Africa. In this latest forum, moderated by Greg Wilpert, sociologist and author of “Changing Venezuela by Taking Power” 2007 and editor of Venezuelanalysis.com, the 19 countries of South and Central America as well as the 13 countries of the Caribbean were the focus of discussion. To our knowledge, there are a few major bases in Latin America and the Caribbean — Guantanamo in Cuba, of course, Manta in Ecuador, Soto Cano in Honduras and several in Columbia, as well as a number of smaller installations, termed “lily pads,” used for various military purposes, but often disguised as centers for drug interdiction.
2008_11_09_3diane
Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations and former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ecuador, a petite young woman (40ish is young to us grannies, at any rate), spoke of Ecuador’s refusal to renew its contract with the U.S. for its use of the military base at Manta. According to Ambassador Espinosa, when she was foreign minister she had three meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who applied tremendous pressure upon the government of Ecuador to sign on with the U.S. for another ten years, but Ecuador stuck by its guns — or rather against the guns and said “No.”

The Ambassador said she was hopeful that Barack Obama would make policy changes favorable to Latin America and the Caribbean that would preclude United States militarization and recognize the sovereignty of the countries within. Ecuador has written a new constitution articulating that it is a country of peace, and prohibits military bases for any purpose. It is the only country other than Japan to specify peace in its constitution, and she expressed a wish that the document would become a model for other nations.

Espinosa also revealed that there are now high-level meetings at the U.N. discussing preemptive war and the concept of protection by one nation for others. She urged us to pay attention to what’s going on in the U.N. in those respects, and we sensed an optimism in her remarks that perhaps we can anticipate welcome strides forward.
2008_11_09_1
Following the impressive Ambassador, we heard from Greg Grandin, professor of History at New York University and an award-winning author of several books, most recently Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism (2006). Professor Grandin discussed the United States attempts to curb the growing democratization of Latin America by its imposition of military control. He declared that the Bush policy has been a “disaster” for Latin America, and cited, for example, how its giving resources and support to Columbia to militarize (the Columbia Plan), ostensibly to fight drug trafficking, has in actuality allowed the U.S. to further its manipulation of Columbia into its militaristic web. In his view, it has been a failure in its intended aim to fight drugs but has succeeded all too well in gaining U.S. military domination of the area. He warned that the U.S. is seeking to impose the Columbia Plan across Latin America and in Mexico.

Professor Grandin said that what really matters in stopping United States domination of our neighbors to the south and in the Caribbean is to repudiate preventive war and to recognize their sovereignty. Latin America, he ventured, will be a test case for how substantial the break from past policy will be under an Obama administration.
2008_11_09_2diane
And, finally, the grannies were pleased to attend the words of our remarkable buddy, Army Colonel (retired) Ann Wright, renowned for resigning her diplomatic post the night before the United States invaded Iraq, and author of an important new book, Dissent: Voices of Conscience (2008). Col. Wright, a dedicated anti-war protester who has spent considerable time in jail for her patriotic efforts, spoke of her shock when she attempted to enter Canada recently and was forbidden entry. The authorities knew of her arrests, such information available only through FBI files, which are to itemize only serious offenders and definitely not Bush protesters. Col. Wright described the incident as “creepy” and warned that undoubtedly access into Mexico will be subject to the same illegal process. She advised us to urge President-Elect Obama to stop this subversion of our rights.

The Colonel referred to the Axis of Evil — which, according to Bush, is composed of Iraq, North Korea and Iran. However, she reminded us of how the term was implicit earlier under the Reagan administration when the U.S. demonized the Cuban revolution, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and, that in Granada. She believes the new administration has the potential for a great presidency, but exhorted us to tell Obama about our opposition to the past and current United States’ dangerous policies toward Latin America and the Caribbean.

There followed a most informative question and answer forum ending with the query, “What can we here in New York do about this urgent problem of U.S. militarization of our Latin American and Caribbean neighbors?” Ann Wright stated that our teach-in was a good first step, that educating people was vital. She encouraged participation in the upcoming protest at Ft. Benning against the School of the Americas. It was suggested that we entreat the authorities to bring the national guard home from Iraq, that we march with the Veterans for Peace in the Veterans Day parade. Most of all, we should target Congress. Some of our leading Democrat policymakers, as, for instance, Sen. Christopher Dodd, voted for the Columbia Plan. We must re-educate him and others.

The Granny Peace Brigade, for its part, will keep on keeping on with its teach-ins, its counter-recruitment actions and its various other activities toward its fundamental purpose of ending the Iraq war and preventing other preemptive invasions.

– Joan Wile
-Photos: Diane Dreyfus

Teach-In AFRICOM

Share

On March 30th, 2008 the Granny Peace Brigade held the second in its series of Teach-Ins offering a careful look at the ever expanding empire of foreign military bases that the Pentagon maintains in 130 countries. Entitled Say “No” to AFRICOM the event was held in observance of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. AFRICOM, the Pentagon’s plan for a regional U.S. military command of Africa, represents a violation of Dr. King’s dream of peace, economic justice and racial harmony.

Four distinguished presenters participated in the forum held at the All Souls Unitarian Church and it was moderated by Granny Peace Brigade member Vinie Burrows, award-winning actor, writer and story-telling griot.
2008_03_30vinie
Photo – Eliza Griffiths

In African tradition she offered a libation to honor Dr. King and then introduced the first speaker, Horace G. Campbell, professor of African American Studies, International Affairs and Political Science at Syracuse University.
2008_03_30horacegcampbell
Photo – Eliza Griffiths

Integrating a power-point presentation, Dr. Campbell provided the context in which to develop his arguments against AFRICOM, untangling knots and contradictions in US Africa policy, beginning with 1994 when President Clinton called Rwandan genocide “normal tribal violence” (he later apologized). Discussing genocide, Campbell cited the U.S.’s continuing diplomatic relations with Sudan despite Darfur. He sees the real “terrorism” in Africa as economic and colonial domination perpetrated by European nations for centuries and, more recently, by China and the U.S. That there is widespread resistance on the part of African nations to AFRICOM is “good news” despite the U.S. administration spin that the motivation for this new command is “aid.”

The second speaker was Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy at the Institute for Policy Studies, in Washington, D.C.
2008_03_30emirawoods
Photo – Eliza Griffiths

Ms. Woods provided the background to AFRICOM, a creation of Donald Rumsfeld and established the day before his resignation in December 2006. AFRICOM stipulates that an African country seeking to engage in any way with the U.S. must do so exclusively through AFRICOM. The only country that would not be under the AFRICOM command would be Egypt, recipient of one billion dollars of U.S. foreign aid, second only to Israel.

A major motivation behind AFRICOM arises from US addiction to oil – 24% of U.S. oil imports currently come from Africa, compared with 12% in 2003. Besides oil, the African continent is a source for countless strategic resources including uranium and coltan (Colombo-tantalite ore used in cell phones). Other motives are a foreign policy determined to challenge China and to fight the “war on terrorism.” Identifying problems with the press, Ms. Woods reported that President Bush’s recent seven day trip to Africa included four days in Tanzania where there were large daily protests against AFRICOM that were reported as Muslims rallying against Bush and not as Tanzanians rallying against AFRICOM. Ms. Woods ended her presentation with a call to remembrance of Dr. King asking us to declare eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism.

Frida Berrigan, senior program associate of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, NYC, described the foreign “aid” currently given to African countries and exposed the insidious nature of the administration’s rhetoric.
2008_03_30fridaberrigan1
Photo – Eliza Griffiths

She underscored the Pentagon’s use of language and coded words that mask the true intent of AFRICOM. President Bush in his March trip to Africa spoke of AFRICOM as a”mission of mercy.”Ms. Berrigan named the various sites in Africa with a military presence – army, navy and air – in contingency installations, and provided examples of the military’s euphemisms such as “kinetic engagement” referring to killing. She cautioned the audience to beware of U.S. Administration’s and media’s language when referring to militarization.

Sonia Sanchez, poet, educator, author of sixteen books and member of the Philadelphia Granny Peace Brigade brought her poet’s voice of warning, pain and longing for peace.
2008_03_30soniasanchez1
Photo – Eliza Griffiths

Her words united the content presented by the three previous speakers. She spoke of the need to engage with young people in an intergenerational collaboration and to do pushups for peace as a way of life. Sanchez called out names of people, alive and deceased interspersed with hxosa clicks, who committed their lives to peace and justice. She reminded us that Dr. King said that a riot is “the language of the unheard”, and our task is “to learn how to make the unheard heard, without blowing themselves and the world up.”

A brief question-answer period ensued resulting in some specific actions for participants at the Teach-In re the U.S. Administration. Dr. Campbell said that in relation to the Congo, there should be an apology for the murder of Patrice Lumumba. Lobbying Congressional representatives, the Black Congressional Caucus, and Donald Payne (Dem. NJ) chair of the House subcommittee on Africa were among the suggestions for action. The website: www.resistafricom.org/ was cited for information on Congressional resolutions.
– Nydia Leaf, Phyllis Cunningham, Caroline Chinlund

Four-minute Video Sample of the AFRICOM Teach-In:

 

Teach-In to Close Guantanamo and All U.S. Bases on Foreign Soil

Share

The Granny Peace Brigade Teach-In had an overflow crowd at St. Mark’s Church on Veterans Day November 11, 2007. Organized by the No Bases Committee and moderated by Vinie Burrows, the event was dedicated to the memory of Dave Cline, co-founder of Veterans for Peace, and was held on November 11th – a day designated as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War One and now called Veterans Day (USA) and Remembrance Day Canada).

The Teach-In included an expert panel of speakers who gave impassioned presentations on a variety of related areas: Guantanamo – Lynn Kates from the Center for Constitutional Rights: Germany’s Bases – Elsa Rassbach of American Voices Abroad:Global opposition – Al Marder of the World Peace Council: Impact on civilian life – Regina Birchem, Women’s International League For Peace and Freedom

There is great urgency in informing the U.S. public on the little known topic of military bases overseas as the Pentagon seeks to expand its presence beyond the current 737 bases in 130 countries. Expansion plans include transferring its African Central Command from Germany to Africa, enlarging existing bases in Northern Italy, and establishing anti-missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic – all these despite enormous local opposition. And perhaps, most fearsome, is the stated goal of the U.S. Space Command’s Vision for 2020 seeking total domination “of the space dimension of military operations.”

The Granny Peace Brigade welcomed support for the Teach-In from many sister organizations working to awaken the U.S. public to the costs, globally and domestically, of this military “Baseworld”: American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Workers, Code Pink, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, War Resisters League, and the Women’s International Democratic Federation. Music appropriate to the Veterans Day theme, performed by Joan Wile with additional songs by the NYC Metro Raging Grannies, was well received.

Our next Teach-In will take place in early 2008 on the base structures in Okinawa and other sites. Look for details posted on this website.
 – Nydia Leaf
for the Granny Peace Brigade
There’s a short video of the November 11 Teach-In on the GPB video channel on YouTube.