Category Archives: Teachings

GPB attends 2011 International Anti-Nuclear Conference in Hiroshima

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2011 WORLD CONFERENCE AND JAPAN TRIP REPORT
GENSUIKYO
–  COUNCIL AGAINST ATOMIC AND HYDROGEN BOMBS

AUGUST 3 – Wednesday Afternoon through  AUGUST 5 – Friday
CONFERENCE SESSIONS

Plenary sessions and workshops of the 2011 World Conference Against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs took place at the Bunka Koryu Kaikai Hall.  The opening plenary began promptly at 2 p.m. and after preliminary welcome greetings and introductions, conference chairs were selected.  Among them was Corazon Fabros from the Philippines who led the victorious struggle to close the USA base at Subic Bay and is now engaged in the campaign to end the “Visiting” Forces Agreement. (She is barred entry to the USA.)

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Buddhist monks fasting August 5 in the Hiroshima Peace Park prior to the memorial event honoring all the victims of the Uranium bomb dropped on August 5, 1945. With them is Nydia Leaf of the Granny Peace Brigade and Hisae Ogawa, founder of Code Pink/Osaka.
(Click on photos for larger images.)

The continuing shadow of Fukushima hung over the conference, especially with revelations in newly declassified documents of President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that the U.S. “sold” atomic power plants to Japan. An article in the July 24, 2011 Japan Times described the U.S. policy initiated in October 1954 to “remove the strong Japanese notion that atomic and nuclear energy is primarily destructive.”

Themes introduced were the joint Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and Power Plants, Hibakusha compensation, and future NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) Preparatory conferences, and papers presented at the conference sessions amplified these ideas.  Overseas presenters spoke of their solidarity and concern for the Japanese people in the aftermath of Fukushima.

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The Children’s Peace Monument is a bronze statue of Sasaki Sadako, the twelve year old Hiroshima girl exposed to radiation in 1945 who died of leukemia in 1955.  She folded a  thousand origami cranes hoping it would bring her long life.

Detailing each delegate’s message would be repetitive. Instead here follows a broad list of the most trenchant points to help further our aim of sharing information:

–    The complacency of 25 years post-Chernobyl has been shattered by Fukushima and has shifted the balance in organizations from strictly anti-nuke to now encompass nuclear power plants.  The 442 nuclear plants in 29 countries produce 15% of total electricity needs.  An international non-violent struggle for complete energy transformation has already begun.

–    Nuclear Weapons abolition remains our most urgent task.  23,000 Nuclear Weapons exist and 2000 are maintained on a high alert status.  The technology is too complex to be mastered; thus “safety” is a myth.  Likewise the Cold War strategy of “Mutual Assured Deterrence” is now exposed as myth.

–    The 2015 NPT conference should be held in Hiroshima with significant progress to be made at the U.N. prep com meetings in 2012 and 2014; no progress has been made since last year’s NPT meetings, in particular, work towards a nuclear free zone in the Middle East.

–    The need for a Nuclear Weapons Convention is clearer now than ever before.  The Non-Aligned Movement in May 2011 proposed a high-level international conference “to identify ways and means of eliminating nuclear weapons.”

–    The peoples of Japan and Guam have been caught in the middle of geopolitics that compromises the safety of the entire world.  Peace and stability in Northeast Asia (China, Japan, Korea) is possible through regional cooperation.

–    It is important to create Nuclear Free Zones, especially in the Middle East.  Mayors For Peace, the world’s largest organization working to abolish Nuclear Weapons, has 5000 member cities representing nearly one billion people.

–    According to SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) annual military spending is $1.6 Trillion of which 100 Billion is for the nuclear industry.

–    The U.S. has violated the NPT by illegally deploying nuclear weapons on its European bases.  The German government was forced to admit that 20 U.S. nuclear bombs are deployed in Buchel.  Now Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Norway have called on the U.S. to remove nuclear weapons from their territory.

–    U.S. bases – Because of two Marine bases located at Mt. Fuji, the site cannot be registered as a World Cultural Heritage site.   In the Philippines, the U.S. closed its Subic Bay in 1992 but left a heavily contaminated area with resultant cancers like leukemia and miscarriages.  This is a lesson for Japan to learn that it must stop hosting the USA.

–    The City of Kobe has banned the presence of U.S. nuclear warships and submarines.  Other cities in Japan should do likewise.

–    A strong call for No More Hibakusha.  Victims of Agent Orange should also be remembered.

–    Korean Hibakusha abroad should be entitled to the same welfare benefits and compensation as Japanese Hibakusha.  Likewise now for the new Hibakusha resulting from the Fukushima Daiichi plants.

–    Chernobyl in 1986 has left millions who suffer its consequences but facts are not available.  In 1959 a contract between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) permits WHO release of information about radiation impact only after consultation with the IAEA.

–    Death tolls continue to climb in the Marshall Islands after the 1954 Hydrogen bomb (Bikini) test and nuclear claims for compensation and restitution meet with little or no response from the U.S.

–    Victims of the 193 tests conducted by France over a 30 year period (150 underground and 43 above) have struggled with the French government for compensation for tests in Polynesia and Algeria.  They have launched an Appeal for a United Nations conference to take up the issue of Nuclear Test sites around the world for cleaning, rehabilitating and developing of all regions so affected.

–    “Don’t send our Students to Battlefields.”   Education for Peace is essential and textbooks need to be monitored for their description of nuclear energy – “Renewable Energy Sources” are usually portrayed as insufficient to meet energy needs.

The message from Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to the Conference, delivered by Sergio Duarte, U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, thanked Gensuikyo for its role in the work of disarmament.  Mr. Duarte called the gathering a “Collective Conscience” that must push for accountability and, while acknowledging the many obstacles as countries continue to modernize their arsenals, he expressed his gratitude for Gensuikyo’s contributions.

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The Atomic Bomb Dome is a fragment of the only building purposely kept standing in Hiroshima, the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall,  2 km kilometers from the epicenter.

AUGUST 6 – Saturday –
HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL CEREMONY – 8 to 8:45 a.m.
As a U.S. citizen attending this solemn, formal commemoration, the event was very painful – it was the U.S. that unleashed this horror on the world and inflicted a nightmare of destruction on the people of Japan.  The Peace Park area was set with 12,000 chairs; escorts to seats done quietly with no frenzy; a program and a flower given to each person as they arrived; phalanxes of TV camera crews arrayed on the side; orchestras and choruses dressed all in white; the day was clear and hot and attendees were advised to drink water which was provided.  At eight o’clock the ceremony began with a dedication of the register of names of the victims, a brief address and then foreign dignitaries presenting wreaths at the cenotaph.  At 8:15 a.m. (the time when the bomb struck on August 6, 1945) a bell rang followed by silent prayer.  The Mayor of Hiroshima spoke.  Flocks of doves were released several times and a “Commitment to Peace” was read by the two 6th grade school children who had written it…their high voices sounding open and hopeful.  A Peace Song was sung and the ceremony closed.  We were invited to lay flowers at the monument where banks of Chrysanthemums had already been arranged.

Gensuikyo Web Report

-Nydia Leaf
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Arctic Sunrise Crew – The Real Heroes

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It’s Toy Fair time at the Javits Center in NYC. We of the Granny Peace Brigade, along with our singing friends the Raging Grannies have just returned from a singing fest outside the Toy of the Year Awards ceremony.  We were singing about how we don’t like war toys because we don’t want our kids to play war and grow up to be soldiers.  There are great things for them to do out there, and war is really the worst form of terrorism.

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This week we got a taste of some of our grandchildren’s better options.  We visited the Arctic Sunrise, the icebreaking ship of Greenpeace.  The Sunrise was docked here in the Big Apple, and we were invited to get on board.

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Here is Laila, our guide to the ship.  Right away I’d say that Hasbro should get wise and create some Laila dolls for girls and boys to play Greenpeace adventurer with.

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Laila is showing us the control panel where the captain handles the ship.  We’re learning about all the different instruments and what they do.  How much fun will this be for our grandchildren if they decide to take some time to serve the Earth after college!!  Laila studied tropical forestry.  She has joined  Greenpeace especially to do projects related to rainforest preservation.

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Here’s one of the four mates on the ship. The mates are the only ones who know how to navigate. She was glad to wear one of our Abolish Nuclear Weapons buttons because Greenpeace has been about eliminating Nukes for a long time. If granddaughters had Greenpeace dolls they could wear sailing outfits like these and play mate and scientist, or media specialist who makes films of all the projects.

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The ship has a helicopter deck and a place to store the copter; it also has a crow’s nest up high where one of the mates sits and spots the places in the ice where it’s easiest to break it up with the weight of the ship.  We could imagine it just slipping over the ice and then crunching down.  Wow!

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Everybody was very glad to learn about the project the Arctic Sunrise is helping with now. It’s about coal.The ship is traveling along the East Coast, docking to network with community groups who are working to eliminate the use of coal for generating power, as well as to limit the mining of coal in ways that destroy the land. We learned that coal power is not really economical. Of course also the greenhouse gas emissions when it is burned are very destructive for all of us.

These Greenpeace people are out there to rescue the planet.  That’s the kind of hero or heroine doll our grandchildren need.  Get busy, Hasbro Company.  Retire G.I. Joe and let’s go!!

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On our tour we met also some performers from the FLUX FACTORY.  Here they are selling Houseboat Condominiums up near the North Pole.  The Arctic Palms, they call them.  What’s up??? These artists are raising our consciousness to the consequences of Global Warming (the sort made worse by coal) by creating a sales campaign with scale models and brochures, everything you need to sell real estate.  Fun to meet the Flux Artists!!  Hey, Mattel, how about a Flux Artist Barbie and Ken??

– Caroline Chinlund
for the Granny Peace Brigade

GPB at the Senior Learning Series in Teaneck

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At the invitation of the Institute of New Dimensions, part of a Senior Learning series at the Ethical Culture Society in Teaneck, New Jersey on February 10th several of the Grannies gave a presentation with an overview and recap of GPB activities and campaigns since our inception in 2005. Accompanying Phyllis Cunningham, Barbara Harris, Carol Huston and Nydia Leaf was Ms. Gizmo coming out of winter hibernation.

Interest in the presentations on the part of attendees more than compensated for the sparse audience. Barbara’s presentation on Counter Recruitment and the militarization of youth elicited many questions and people gathered up the various information materials to share with families and friends.

The most attention was for using Ms. Gizmo as attendees were eager to express their Fiscal Year 2011 allocations and here are their results…

  1. Arts & Culture
  2. Education
  3. Environment & Clean Energy
  4. Health Care
  5. Housing
  6. Jobs
  7. Military
  8. Transportation

– Nydia Leaf
– Ms. Gizmo Chart: Edith Cresmer
for the Granny Peace Brigade

‘Nuclear Weapons = Terrorism’ Says Carol Husten

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On May 3 2010 the War Resisters League held a protest action for nuclear abolition in Grand Central Terminal. Twenty two people were arrested in the event but only two were prosecuted – Carol Husten and Bev Rice. On Friday, October 29 Carol was tried on disorderly conduct charges for allegedly blocking pedestrian traffic in the Terminal.

Carol Husten’s Statement to the Court:

I have been charged with Disorderly Conduct by this officer. I do not see my actions as disorderly. As a matter of fact, I see them in a very small way of creating a more orderly and peaceful world. I was arrested for being part of a group that were trying to make the public aware of the dangers of nuclear weapons. My specific role was to assist two other people in hanging three signs stating NUCLEAR  WEAPONS = TERRORISM.

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Let me state up front I Love My Country. It has given me an opportunity to have a great life. That doesn’t mean I agree with what my government is doing all the time. I make the comparison “I love My Children, but I don’t agree with them all the time, at what they are doing. It is my job to tell them how I feel…BUT it is also my job to tell my gov’t how I feel…. Now as for my grandchildren they are another story. They are perfect.

For their sake and future generations we must try to abolish nuclear weapons. The public has put this potential horror in the back of their minds. If we could bring it to the forefront and convince our gov’t  as Pres. Obama stated when he received the Nobel Peace Prize and I quote
“The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but PROLIFERATION may increase the risk of catastrophes.  Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.”

What more do I need to say except for the well known phrase:

Democracy is not a Spectator Sport.

Carol Husten for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photo – Eva-Lee Baird

FEAR – AMERICA CAN SLEEP EASY NOW

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We filed into court, quiet, respectful,  hoping against hope that the prisoner would be given the full  extent of the powers of the court. That she would receive a mild admonishment for her slight alleged infraction of the law, an error in judgement that anyone, even the most learned judge might make.

According to John Eligon of The New York Times, Thurs. July ,16th, Judge John Koeltl presided over the resentencing of Lynne Stewart after it was deemed that her first sentence of twenty-eight months was too light.  Lynne Stewart – the Terrorists’ Handmaid – will be tucked away for the next ten years.  Maybe she’ll make it in jail until she’s 90 though she’s got breast cancer.

You better watch out, America.  Didn’t she say,  “I’d do it again” ?  And that’s why they have to lock her up for a good, long time.  She’s “potentially lethal” said the prosecuting attorney, Mr Andrew Dember to the grey-haired, school-marm lawyer sitting in  front of him.

He should be feeling good now, Judge Koeltl, he’s done his duty.  Even though he received hundreds of letters attesting to Lynne’s honesty, virtue and loyalty; even though he heard her daughter burst into tears on hearing  the cruel verdict, he can rest easy.  He was so careful about all the necessary legal enhancements that will keep America safe, especailly since 9/11. They – the powers that prevail in this country today – are not stupid. They know a good opportunity when it happens.  9/11 was a gift from heaven – although devastating and horrible as it was – it gave them a chance to “enhance” our laws.   Enhance was once a pretty word – it usually meant to make nicer or better.  Not in this case!  Their aim is to destroy the liberties that the founders of our country fought so hard to create – now with new laws they can  sanction government interference between client and attorney,  wire-tapping and above all, intimidation of the legal profession into fear and ultimately, impotence.  Woe to a hapless victim who appears before the bench.  Between the lawyers’ fear and the enhanced laws, justice doesn’t stand a chance.

Why were we lulled into thinking she might given a mild, fitting sentence?  This isn’t medieval times when men were sentenced to life imprisonment or death for stealing a loaf of bread. We are reasonable people nowadays with reasonable laws – aren’t we?  Or is there now a deliberate choice to destroy all the civil liberties that followed those times? We listened so patiently as Koeltl struggled to justify the numbers of the various enhancements, wondering how he could have forgotten what was crucial to the sad woman sitting in front of him; enhancing prison numbers can do that to you. She was asked by Judge Koeltl why she doesn’t exhibit remorse – a strange question.  She is an innocent woman.  She has nothing to show remorse for.

No, Lynne, you didn’t  fail us.  We failed you.  We failed because we weren’t ready – too sanguine – perhaps stupid – but we should have known and been prepared for that verdict.  We should have proclaimed, exhorted, shouted – Lynne Stewart is innocent – she is guilty of nothing but being human.  She has never aided or abetted terrorists – she is just a good human being – the best among us.  It is the legal system that is now being perverted, destroyed and dishonoring America.  But it is more than that – it is the governing body – the Congress and the President that are guilty as well, playing their parts and letting it happen.

We must have courage.

– Lillian Pollak
reading the U. S. Constitution
July 4, 2010
for the Granny Peace Brigade

LYNNE STEWART HEARD A DEATH SENTENCE TODAY

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Federal Judge John G Koeltl passed down sentence today, 15 July 2010 on the defendant, Lynne Stewart: 120 months incarceration in the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution Connecticut on five counts to be served concurrently.

The 70 year old breast cancer survivor with a cancer now in remission has multiple health issues impacting on an already vulnerable and aging body. Lynne Stewart who has spent thirty years defending poor, oppressed, unpopular clients is to spend the next ten years of her life away from her husband and life partner, her adult children and numerous grandchildren.

Judge Koeltl in a lengthy statement told the now disbarred woman lawyer who started her professional career as a teacher in Harlem that his ruling followed the dictum of the appellate court which demanded he review the 28 months sentence given her one year ago for the crimes committed ten years ago. Today, he today reversed his previous sentence and in compliance with directives from the appellate court sentenced Lynne Stewart to ten years in prison.

Over and over again in his remarks leading up to the sentencing, Judge Koeltl used the term “terrorist enhancement.” Those warning words bring up the specter of some of the nastiest aspects of the Cold War and its present re-incarnation in the Patriot Act which by expanding law enforcement’s surveillance and investigative powers represents a significant threat to civil liberties. Read the official text… “Uniting and Strengthening America by providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

The Lynne Stewart case has been lifted out of the obscurity it might have had if the events of Nine Eleven had not transpired. Past and the now present White House Administration believe that by surrendering our freedoms, we are buying national security. Fighting terror has become a buzz word allowing us to accept heightened police presence and militarization domestically and abroad has kept us in two costly and unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan .

The verdict in Lynne Stewart’s Case should tell us that our country’s policies are still set in a miasma of confusion and controversy. Human security means full employment, jobs and health care for all, affordable housing, mass transit, improved and restored national infrastructure, education for all, the welfare of the old and the protection of the young –these are the solid bases for true national security. What rankles most in the Patriot Act are those provisions that sweep normal criminal law enforcement under the looser procedural standards for fighting terror. It’s important and vital that the state be able to fight terror. No one disputes this. But it’s equally important that the state not use the war on terror to gut the warrant requirement or undermine the First Amendment.

But the state must recognize that poverty is a weapon of mass destruction that brings terror to millions of our people; recognize that banks and financial institutions under whatsoever names they now call themselves are harbingers of terror with foreclosures, plant closings, environmental devastations like the BP Gulf of Mexico debacle.

The death sentence imposed on a seventy year old woman has sent a message that the term “terror”, “terrorism” can be used to stifle dissent, to silence voices, to let the powers that be trample over the rights of ordinary citizens. Those of us in the peace movement, the anti-war movement, the anti-racism movement, the environmental movement, the movement for a just immigration policy must continue our struggles. This is what Lynne Stewart wants us to do. Her sacrifice will not be in vain if we continue these vital grass roots movement for a just and humane society.

We owe that to our beloved Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer. We got your back, Lynne. La luta continua!

Vinie Burrows

UN Rep for the Women’s International Democratic Federation

Founding member of the GRANNY PEACE BRIGADE

Awarded the Paul Robeson Award by Actors Equity Association

 

 

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

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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

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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

Open letter to President Barak Obama Urging Cessation of U.S. Military Action in Afghanistan

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Dear Mr. President,

Strongly do I support your careful weighing of options for continuation of United States engagement in Afghanistan. I am, of course, appalled by the civilian deaths resulting from our ground and air military action. It is noted that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has himself acknowledged the counter-productive effects of civilian deaths resulting from military engagement. He described the killing of civilians as “one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities” (‘New York Times,’ June 13, 2009). It is significant that  Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that senior officers must work to prevent the militarization of American foreign policy (‘New York Times,’ January 12, 2009). Former First Lady Laura Bush on her return from Afghanistan made the point on Meet the Press, November 30, 2008, that there were so many Afghan widows.

For humanitarian reasons and in our national interest I would urge the scheduling of military combat forces draw-down, establishment of a United Nations short-term security force mission, and re-direction of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan to the development of non-military programs for reconstruction and rehabilitation, in collaboration with the Government of Afghanistan.

In your speech last week at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, you told a military audience that you would only commit more forces to Afghanistan if it is vital to U.S. interests and receives public support and that “I will not risk your lives unless it is necessary to America’s vital interests” (‘Staten Island Advance,’ November 13, 2009). It is my understanding that the interests now considered vital are (a) rendering al-Qaeda unable to pursue its operations and (b) weakening the Taliban’s influence. In this regard I noted and quote the following [Cato (Institute) – “Recognizing the Limits of American Power in Afghanistan” by Doug Bandow; the article appeared in the ‘Huffington Post’ on October 31, 2009]:

“The critical issue is Washington’s objective. The U.S. long ago achieved its goal of displacing and weakening al-Qaeda (despite the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden) and ousting the Taliban government which gave the organization refuge. That success persists despite recent Taliban gains. National Security Adviser James Jones estimated fewer than 100 al-Qaeda members are operating in Afghanistan, and said they have “no bases, no ability to launch attacks on us or our allies.”

I was indeed pleased to learn that General Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, supports the assignment of civilian personnel to Afghanistan in fields such as agriculture, and that the State Department has attempted to accommodate his requests (‘New York Times,’ November 12, 2009). Certainly, expenditures for humanitarian aid, community development, and reconstruction should replace military expenditures for programs designed to meet needs identified by Afghan agencies and organizations. A relevant example of such a program was recently described (‘New York Times,’ November 13, 2009) – community participation in a Village Council in Jurm resulted in the village obtaining a grant which enabled local workers and an engineer to carry out a clean water development project – a small but important project.

Authorization for continuation and intensification of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan would, I believe,  severely lessen the potential for your administration’s success in drawing support for domestic programs and for your other foreign policy objectives.

I hope that revisions in U.S. policy with regard to Afghanistan would include, inter alia, the following:

– cessation of military action in Afghanistan and in Pakistan

– establishment of just system of reparations for civilian casualties and for local destruction

– removal of land mines

– withdrawal of military forces

– negotiations with all parties concerned (including the Taliban, as it is a significant part of the
citizenry and will not be ignored)

– provision of financial aid for programs identified by Afghan authorities/agencies/local councils,
to be executed by local workers and Afghan organizations to the extent possible;
if necessary, civilian personnel of other institutions/organizations to be identified by the Afghan authorities/agencies/local councils

– support for establishment of a United Nations short-term security force mission

In my end-the-war activities, I often meet people who have lost loved ones in this conflict and family members of posted military personnel who are struggling emotionally/financially. This is indicative of the dreadful vortex –

‘died as part of the Afghan war and related operations:
BROCHU, Jordan M., 20, Pfc., Army.
WALSHE, Tyler R., 21, Specialist Army.
WELCH, Jonathan D., 19, Specialist Army.’
This should be unacceptable to all.

Respectfully submitted,
– Barbara Walker
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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