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Thursday, 22 June 2006
What part of STOP don't you understand?
Topic: antiwar
The Democrat and Chronicle’s resident sages have done it again: they attempted to define “a sensible war policy” but ignored the small matter of the war’s illegality.

The June 21 editorial rightly declares the war “the most important public-policy issue America faces.” But in identifying “the heart of the matter,” the editors find only three core tasks: first, determining what must be done to stop the insurgency; second, finding how the US “can “get more support in soldiering and money from our allies”; and third, “stopping the war profiteers.”

Amen to number three. Down with Halliburton, et al. As for number two, read the tea leaves. Italy is now about to withdraw its token force under stiff domestic opposition to the deployment, and there’s a history of similar troop withdrawals by other nations finally listening to their citizens. And of course, there were many more nations who never supported our adventure in the first place and wouldn’t touch it now with even an eleven-foot stick. Anyone who suggests the US now make the rounds with the begging bowl must be totally wacko or Gannettized. (On the other hand, if the US were to prostrate itself before the UN, a true coalition of the willing might form to pick up the pieces.)

And number one? Yeah, right, we’ll whip ‘em with one hand tied behind our back, just like we did in Vietnam. (Actually, we did win the Vietnam War, in the broader sense. US ruling elites did realize their core objectives: thwarting a nationalist movement with merciless physical force and reinforcing an old imperialist object lesson to countries who stray; then eventually re-integrating the wayward country into the “world system” as an offshore sweatshop.)

The D&C editorial writers caution against what they call the “let's-just-get-out solution,” which they say is a no-go because there are “repercussions to leaving Iraq in chaos.” Yes, there will be repercussions – more of what we’re seeing now, though probably not more in frequency or scope, and very likely less. But not just a host of analysts, but the Iraqi people themselves (minus our lackeys; think Vietnam again) are telling us to leave ASAP because our presence is making things worse. We should heed these voices, not least because they echo what our moral instincts tell us.

But finally, we have to get out ASAP because our war/occupation was illegal from the get-go and doesn’t acquire legality with age.

I remember what Stan Goff, a former US Army Special Forces master sergeant, told a Rochester audience last winter at a rally in support of US war resisters. (Confession to a class prejudice: I like Goff because he’s a radical non-com, not an officer.) He said, in essence, we shouldn’t fool ourselves with talk of an “exit strategy.” Military types know “exit” is an order, he said, not a strategy.

Indeed, to borrow a legalism with a good provenance, we must get out of Iraq “with all deliberate speed.” When you’re conducting a criminal military expedition, you have to pull back and pull out - and you should feel blessed if granted even the time to make travel arrangements.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 17:00 EDT
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Monday, 19 June 2006
An irresistible resistance
Topic: antiwar
At least until the end of June, when notoriously shallow Lake Erie becomes a heat sink, cool breezes soothe Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo’s West Side. There may be a heat wave a few blocks inland, but keep to the shore and you’ll find relief. And so it was on June 17: As the region suffered a 90-degree afternoon and the now-routine ozone alert, people flocked to the water: boaters on the Niagara River, picnickers in Buffalo’s Front Park, bikers along Ontario’s beautiful Niagara Parkway.

But on the Canadian side, only a few hundred yards/meters from the river, the political temperature rose a few degrees. It was because of a festival of resistance – “War Has No Borders” - aimed at boosting support for US military resisters now living in Canada and seeking formal asylum there, and fostering even greater crossborder opposition to the patently illegal and immoral US war in Iraq.

The two-day event began June 16 with a long evening program at Buffalo’s Kleinhans Music Hall, and finished up the next afternoon with a rally in a Fort Erie park to showcase the resisters, their families, and their cause. Liz Henderson and I went to both events. The program at Kleinhans dragged on a little – largely because headliner Cindy Sheehan, the famed antiwar activist and mother of a young man killed in Iraq just over two years ago, got delayed in transit. Rumors floated through the audience that Sheehan was getting the same treatment Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams got a few months back, when security geeks held him up at a DC airport, preventing him from speaking at an Irish-American event in Buffalo. But Sheehan finally did make it to the hall, and she gave a brisk, inspiring talk. Her message stays on the money: George W. Bush (she calls him and his aides “boils” on the butt-y politic that need to be politically lanced) is responsible for the death of her son, Casey, and must be held accountable for this and, of course, their larger war crimes.

The Kleinhans program also featured Air America personality Barry Crimmins, a Boston-based stand-up satirist now with the Randi Rhodes radio show. Crimmins set the tone by recalling he grew up in Skaneateles (“an Indian name that means ‘beautiful lake surrounded by fascists”), and he continued delivering zinger after zinger. Check out his website, www.barrycrimmins.com.

But I was most impressed by some other activists who took the podium. Among these was Vietnam combat vet David Cline, a Buffalo native now based in Jersey City who serves as president of the national Veterans for Peace organization. (Disclosure: I’m a once a future member of VFP – gotta get my dues paid up.) Then there was Michael McPhearson, VFP’s national CEO, an African-American vet of Gulf War I. He was not the only one present to sigh about the numbering scheme. I silently asked myself, Will we have to live with the state-fascist equivalent of “One, Two, Many Gulf Wars”?

Delivering a very emotional talk was Buffalo resident Bruce Beyer, who resisted the Vietnam War in his younger days, was busted by US stormtroopers for draft resistance and subsequently spent five years in exile in Canada. Beyer obviously hasn’t given up working for peace. In fact, he’s made news in Buffalo in recent years for his work against Junior ROTC in the city schools. Specifically, he’s taken on school administrators who’d quietly imposed the equivalent of a JROTC draft – preemptively enrolling students unless and until parents took the initiative to “opt out.” Nice message from the administrators to their charges, right? As the nation’s schools struggle with internal violence (cf. this week’s series in the Democrat and Chronicle), US society, represented by putative “educators,” preps young people for organized violence on a global scale.

The high point of the program came when Beyer literally embraced an antagonist from the old days: Stephen Banko III, a highly decorated combat vet who after returning from Vietnam peddled very hawkish views in the media. Banko, who now heads the Buffalo HUD office, confessed to the audience that back then he was acting out of PTSD and alcoholism. As his appearance at Kleinhans makes clear, Banko has come around 180 degrees – and dealt decisively with his addictions.

Another high point: the appearance of Geoffrey Millard, a Lockport resident and National Guard alum who now heads the Buffalo-area chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. (See www.ivaw.net.) It’s great to see the torch of peacemaking and resistance passed to the new generation.

Over in Fort Erie on Saturday, the rally turnout wasn’t big, but the energy was palpable. The afternoon was filled with music, of course, and you could feel an undercurrent of crossborder solidarity that promises greater levels of resistance to come. Several military resisters, including Virginian Ivan Brobeck and Texan Brandon Hughey, told how time in Iraq had clarified the moral questions for them and compelled them to leave the US. (You’ll find a gallery and bios of the resisters, plus other useful information, at www.resisters.ca.) I always think it’s odd these soldiers, some of whom remain proud patriots, are called “deserters.” In reality, they haven’t abandoned or avoided things - they’ve engaged themselves more deeply than almost anyone else in fighting against this war.

One nagging thought: I couldn’t but notice that more Canadians are involved, certainly in proportional terms, in the active GI resistance than Americans are. As several speakers noted, Western New York (and I’d add the Genesee Region) has a special responsibility. Part of this is location: We live at the border, so we’ve got to step up. Another part is history: Our communities were important stations on the Underground Railway. And it’s past time to create a successor network. Anyone looking for, say, a Harriet Tubman award? It’s worth remembering that Tubman lived on both sides of the US-Canada border, of necessity – and that her last home was in Auburn, a stone’s throw from Skaneateles.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 10:59 EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006 08:08 EDT
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Wednesday, 7 June 2006
Ride on, Jonathan
Topic: politics
Sometimes a bike ride is a lot more than, ah, a walk in the park. Take the 600-mile ride that US Senate hopeful Jonathan Tasini, a freelance writer-activist, completed late last month.

Tasini rode across New York State – from the Big Apple to Buffalo, that is, generally gaining elevation and fighting the prevailing wind – to highlight his uphill campaign against incumbent Senator Clinton.

Well, not against her personally; Tasini is no hormonally-charged Hillary Basher on a gender-vendetta (you know the type; if not, consult the nearest talk radio). He’s going after Clinton’s stands on the issues, particularly these three: her initial and ongoing support for the Iraq War; her support of NAFTA and similar “free trade” scams; and her failure to offer a cure for corporate health care. Tasini offers a clear alternative: He says the troops must be brought home now. He wants “new rules for the economy” that favor fair trade and labor rights (and as a longtime union organizer, he knows the ropes). And he supports “Medicare for All,” single-payer health coverage that will save both money and lives.

I had the privilege of riding with Tasini from Black Creek Park in the town of Chili to Buffalo just before the Democratic convention (coronation?) that tapped Clinton for a second term. The route took us through fertile farmlands whose beauty disguises an ailing ag economy, the declining small city of Batavia, the hideous and wasteful sprawl of eastern Erie County, and finally the all-but-terminal Genesee Street corridor leading to downtown Buffalo. Our ride ended only blocks from the convention site.

But it ain’t over. Campaign volunteers are now gathering signatures to get Tasini on the primary ballot. It’s a long shot, of course, but it’s one of the best ways to keep Clinton’s feet to the fire on war, trade, and health care.

For more information, go to www.tasinifornewyork.org.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 10:53 EDT
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Monday, 5 June 2006
Carry on the good work
Looking for a way to do good while having a feast for the ears? Go to the Hochstein Performance Center, Sunday, June 25, 4 pm, for a concert honoring master musician and teacher Dennis Monroe, who died earlier this year. (See my post for 19 Feb 06 below.) The program will spotlight musicians from all over – and will include the String Song Mandolin Orchestra, a group that Dennis himself put together not long ago.

Considering the quantity and quality of music you’ll get, the $25 ticket price is a bargain. But there’s some reall added value, too: The proceeds will go to the new Music Through the Ages Fund, housed with the Rochester Area Community Foundation. The fund will continue Dennis’s life work by supporting local musical collaboratives and educational projects. (Go to http://gitfidmando.com/concert.html for more info.)

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 09:55 EDT
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Thursday, 25 May 2006
Another vote from hell
Topic: antiwar
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives outdid itself in damaging realistic hopes for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.

By a vote of 361-37 (with nine signifying “present” and 25 not voting) the reps okayed the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006.” The bill, aiming to sanction Hamas, penalizes the Palestinian people by cutting off all but the most narrowly humanitarian forms of assistance.

In short, the House has endorsed a form of economic warfare – the equivalent of terror, if judged by its longterm effects – against innocent civilians who are already suffering massive unemployment and the collapse of basic services. The measure will make it all but certain that things will end badly.

Among the anti-terrorist heroes who voted yes are several Western and Central New Yorkers: Bush clones Tom Reynolds and Randy Kuhl, moderate Republican Sherwood Boehlert, and the usually liberal Louise Slaughter. Out-of-staters Barney Frank, Charles Rangel, and Nancy Pelosi, among many others in the “opposition party,” also voted yes. (But Maurice Hinchey, a Dem who represents parts of the Southern Tier and Lower Hudson, voted no, as did Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich and Georgia’s Cynthia McKinney, et al.)

Don’t wait to “remember in November.” Take a moment today to condemn the yes-men and women for their recklessness.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 18:28 EDT
Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006 05:16 EDT
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