Sunday, December 29, 2013

Petition for release of birth defect data

Solidarity with the Arab People of Iraq! [link]

World Health Organisation and Iraqi Ministry of Health: #Act4Iraq and release birth defect data
Petition by Dr. Samira Alaani, Fallujah, Iraq
My name is Dr Samira Alaani and I am a pediatrician working in Fallujah General Hospital. In the years since US forces attacked our city my colleagues and I have recorded a horrifying increase in the numbers of babies born with congenital defects: spina bifida, heart abnormalities and defects that I do not even have a name for. Many do not survive. For those that do, we care for them as best we can with the limited resources we have.
I have worked in Fallujah as a Pediatrician since 1997 but began to notice something was wrong in 2006 and began logging the cases; we have determined that 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. We believe it has to be related to contamination caused by the fighting in our city, even now, nearly 10 years later. It is not unique to Fallujah; hospitals throughout the Anbar Governorate and many other regions of Iraq are recording increases. Every day I see the strain this fear puts on expectant mothers and their families. The first question I am asked when a child is born is not ‘is it a boy or a girl?’ but ‘is my child healthy?’
When I heard that the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were going to carry out research I finally felt a glimmer of hope. I knew it would only confirm what we already knew; that there had been a rise in birth defects, but I saw it as a stepping stone to finally spur Iraq and the international community into action.
The research is now complete and we were promised that it would be published at the beginning of 2013, yet six months later the WHO has announced more delays. We worry that this is now politics, not science. We have already waited years for the truth and my patients cannot wait any longer. The WHO has another option. The data should be published in an open access journal for independent peer review. The process would be fast, rigorous and transparent.
My patients need to know the truth, they need to know why they miscarried, they need to know why their babies are so ill but, most importantly, they need to know that something is being done about it. The Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation need to release this data and give us answers.
Please sign this petition and show that the rest of the world has not forgotten about the people of Iraq [].

Right to Heal Initiative

Solidarity with the Arab People of Iraq! [link]
Right to Heal Initiative []

“Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW) in Coalition with Iraqis to Demand the Right to Heal”
Iraqis and U.S. military veterans are coming together to hold the U.S. government accountable for the lasting effects of war and to demand the right to heal.
Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, are working together to highlight the lack of accountability for the serious, widespread, and ongoing human rights violations of Iraqis, Afghans, and U.S. military veterans, from more than ten years of U.S. war with the Right to Heal Initiative.
We are requesting a hearing in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body of the Organization of American States. If the hearing is agreed to, this inter-American body will call forth U.S. government officials to respond to our case. Such a hearing will raise the profile of these issues, lend our movement legitimacy in pushing for recognition of our human rights, and be an important step in holding the U.S. government accountable for violating them.
Your signature will help demonstrate the widespread support for such a hearing.
Will you sign on to a letter of support for this hearing?

Read the letter below, then add your name.

 TO: Emilio Álvarez Icaza
Executive Secretary
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1889 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Re.: Letter in Support of Thematic Hearing on Human Rights Impacts of the U.S.-led Decade of War
Dear Secretary Álvarez Icaza:
We, the undersigned individuals, advocates and human rights organizations, write to support the request for a thematic hearing entitled Human Rights Impacts of the U.S.-led Decade of War. We express great concern about the lack of accountability for the serious, widespread and ongoing human rights violations resulting from over a decade of the U.S.-initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The effects of these wars will be felt for a long time to come by those sent to fight them and by the communities where they have been fought.
In addition to the killings and casualties, and evidence of war crimes which have in many cases have gone unaddressed, these wars have had a lasting impact on the health of communities in Iraq and Afghanistan and on U.S. service members.

In particular,
The U.S. military’s use of certain munitions and burn pits has an apparent link to increasing rates of cancer, birth defects and other health issues in communities in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as among active duty U.S. military personnel and returning veterans. For example, Haweeja, Iraq has seen a sharp rise in serious birth defects after a U.S. base was installed and began testing munitions;
Failure to treat the physical and mental injuries suffered by service members has affected the service members themselves, their communities at home and, when redeployed, communities in the theaters of war;
Gender-based and sexual violence, as a weapon and by-product of war has had a deeply traumatic and wide reaching impact on women and men in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those in the military who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST).
The war in Afghanistan continues. In Iraq, a U.S.-established government represses a growing civil society movement while selling off the country’s natural resources to multinational companies. Little has been done to begin to address the myriad of human rights violations that have taken place and continue to take place as a result of the wars. We come together in solidarity with those most directly impacted by the wars to envision a different way forward: one that re-prioritizes the value of human life, health and dignity, and is committed to the principle of accountability, including acknowledgement of and reparations for the harm caused.
We therefore write to express our support of the request for a thematic hearing submitted to this Commission on March 19, 2013 by Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Sincerely, [your name]

Whistleblower on USA Drone War tells facts only an insider would know

"I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on; Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn't)"
2013-12-29 by Heather Linebaugh []: Editor's note: Heather Linebaugh does not possess any classified material and has honored her non-disclosure agreement since the time of her discharge.
Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – [] I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?"
Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.
I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.
The US and British militaries insist that this is an expert program, but it's curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information [], few or no statistics about civilian deaths [] and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed [], despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.
What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: "The feed is so pixelated, what if it's a shovel, and not a weapon?" I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian's life all because of a bad image or angle.
It's also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analysing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.
But here's the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.
Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren't reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.
Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain's secretary of state for defence, Philip Hammond []. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within a year of leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.
The UAVs in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Remembering the Christmas Truce of 1914!

2013-12-25 message from []:
We hope you had a wonderful holiday and a Merry Christmas!
This evening will mark 99 years since the Christmas Truce of 1914. Let's remember the courage of these soldiers who refused orders to fight, threw down their weapons, and came together peacefully. These men made history with their spontaneous efforts.
We can all learn from their actions.
Today, with war and violence integrated as a part of our daily lives, peace may seem like some unachievable, distant goal.  If these soldiers could lay down their weapons in the middle of battle and recognize each other’s humanity, then we can as well.  If it is possible for them, then it is possible for us.
We have more to gain from recognizing each other’s humanity than by denying it. Regardless of religion, race, country, or any other difference, we are all human. On each end of the riffle, we are all the same.
Between now and next December, Veterans For Peace has a lot of work to do. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the amazing Christmas Truce when opposing forces in World War I along the European Western Front stopped fighting to celebrate Christmas together with gifts, drink, food and song. This coming year provides VFP a unique time to spread our message of alternatives to war by telling this miraculous story on its 100th anniversary.
How many people know about this story? We want to make sure everyone does.
Donate to ensure the story of the 1914 WWI Christmas Truce is heard across the country in 2014.
No other organization is better suited to tell this story of how peace can blossom even in the darkest times of war.
You are an important part of telling this story.
Follow this link to donate to Veterans For Peace []. 
Veterans For Peace cannot do it without you.

Christmas Truce of 1914 -
During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.
On Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man's-land, calling out "Merry Christmas" in their enemies' native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.
Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man's land between the lines.
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers' threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers' essential humanity endured.
During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destroy the Christmas spirit.

How VFP Members Carry Out the Concept of the Christmas Truce - Extending the hand of friendship to former adversaries in war has long been part of VFP.
* Two Walk the Golden Road tells the story of Woody Powell's friendship with a Chinese man who had been a soldier fighting with North Korea when Woody was a soldier in South Korea []
* Members of the Viet Namese Chapter of VFP are active healing the physical, emotional and ecological wounds created by the "American War" [].
* Veterans Peace Team delegation to the West Bank in Nov 2013 to stand in solidarity with Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation and to the encroaching settlements on what remains of Palestinian land [].
* Ellen Barfield, VFP representative, attended the first public event of Combatants for Peace in 2006 [].

* Lessons from the Christmas Truce of 1914 by Gary G. Kohls, MD []

* Christmas Truce - M Brown and S Seaton. Published by Pan. ISBN:0330390651. A well-researched and easy-to-read book []
* Silent Night, The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914 - Stanley Weintraub. Published by Pocket BooksISBN: 0684866226. A fine book on one of the most remarkable events of the 20th century []
* Christmas in the Trenches, a book for children []

* Documentary: Days That Shook The World, Season 2 Episode 2 BBC []
* Merry Christmas: Also known as Joyeux Noel. This film takes a few liberties but conveys generally the spirit of the truce - with the exception of the rather bizarre and ridiculous notion that a German female opera singer was smuggled to the front line and took part in the truce with a solo performance. I suppose it was thought it would add a 'love interest' to the event! []

* Christmas Truce - Kerstbestand: By Coope, Boyes and Simpson. A delightful CD music recreating the spirit of the great event.
* The Christmas Truce by Judith Bingham. The work was originally a commission by the BBC and was first performed in 2004 by the BBC singers. []
* The American country singer Garth Brooks sings a song called Belleau Wood about the Christmas Truce.
* Christmas in the Trenches - a song by American singer-songwriter, John McCutcheon [].
* The Christmas Truce, Ryan Harvey at VFP-UK []

"Lessons from the Christmas Truce of 1914"
2013-12-10 by Gary G. Kohls, MD, founding member of The Community of the Third Way, a Duluth-area affiliate of Every Church A Peace Church []:
Military chaplains seem to be another cog in the apparatus of making war maximally effective. Christian chaplains seem to not pay much attention to the Ten Commandments either, especially the ones that say "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's oil". 99 years ago one of the most unusual aberrations in the bloody history of warfare - never allowed to be repeated again - occurred.
The Christmas Truce (The Guardian / Illustration by David Roberts)

99 years ago this month one of the most unusual aberrations in the bloody history of warfare - never allowed to be repeated again - occurred. Europe was in the fifth month of the 52 month-long World War (the one that was supposed "to end all wars") that was to end with the armistice four years later on November 11, 1918.
British, Scottish, French, Belgian, Australian, Canadian, German, Austrian, Hungarian, Serbian and Russian pulpits in those overwhelmingly Christian nations back home (far from the satanic carnage in the trenches) were doing their part in contributing to the un-Christ-like patriotic fervor that was destined to result in a holocaust that destroyed four empires, killed upwards of 20 million soldiers and resulted in the psychological and physical decimation of an entire generation of young men in France, Germany and England.
Tragically, Christianity, which began as a pacifist religion because of the pacifist teachings and actions of the nonviolent Jesus of Nazareth (and his nonviolent apostles), has, for the past 1700 years, been anything but a peacemaking church that follows Jesus by actively resisting its nation's imperial aspirations, its nation's wars, its nation's war-makers and its nation's war profiteers.
So, it wasn't any surprise to note that the religious leaders on every side of that war were convinced that God was on their particular side - and, therefore not on the side of the Christians that they were trying to kill. The obvious contradiction - that both sides were praying to the same god - escaped most of them.
Pulpits and pews all over Europe - with few exceptions - reverberated with flag-waving fervor, sending clear messages to their doomed and baptized warrior-sons that it was their Christian duty to march off to kill, maim and even torture - if necessary - the equally doomed Christian soldiers on the other side.
Five months into the mass destruction of the perpetually stale-mated war (featuring the indiscriminate slaughter via artillery, machine gun and, eventually, poison gas), the first Christmas of the war on the Western Front was upon the exhausted and demoralized troops.
Christmas was the holiest of Christian holidays for all sides, and in this time of hunger, thirst, sleep deprivation, shell shock, TBIs, mortal wounds and homesickness, Christmas 1914 had special meaning. Christmas reminded the soldiers of the good food, safety, warm homes and beloved families that they had left behind and which they now suspected they might never see again. The physically exhausted, spiritually deadened and combat-traumatized soldiers on both sides of the battle lines desperately sought some respite from the misery of the water-logged, putrid, rat-infested, louse-infested, corpse-infested and increasingly frozen trenches.

The cold reality of trench warfare in 1914 -
By this time, the frontline soldiers on both sides were probably wondering how they could possibly have believed the ridiculous propaganda from their leaders that had convinced them that their side was pre-destined to be victorious and "home before Christmas" - where they would be celebrated as conquering heroes.
Instead every soldier was at the end of their emotional ropes because of the unrelenting artillery barrages against which they were defenseless. If they weren't killed or physically maimed by the artillery shells and bombs, they would eventually be emotionally destroyed by "shell-shock" (now known as posttraumatic stress disorder - PTSD), suffering horrifying nightmares, sleep deprivation, suicidality, depression, hyper-alertness and any number of other mental and neurological abnormalities. Other common "killers of the soul" included perpetual hunger, malnutrition, infections such as typhus and dysentery, louse infestations, trench foot, frostbite and gangrenous toes and fingers.
Poison gas attacks wouldn't appear until 1915, but both British and Germans scientists were working hard to perfect that new technology. Tank warfare - which proved to be a humiliating disaster for the British - wouldn't be operational until the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
One of the most stressful realities for the frontline soldiers was the suicidal "over the top" infantry assaults against German machine gun nests and the rows of coiled barbed wire that stopped them in their tracks and made them sitting ducks. Artillery barrages commonly resulted in tens of thousands of casualties in a single day.
Over the top infantry assaults were stupidly and repeatedly ordered by senior officers like Sir John French and his replacement as British Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig (apparently preparing for the classical but hopelessly out-dated horse and sabre cavalry charges across the muck of No-Man's Land). The general staff planners of those uniformly disastrous attempts to end the war quickly or at least end the stalemate were safely out of the range of enemy artillery barrages. As they made their plans they were comfortably back at headquarters, eating well, being dressed by their orderlies, drinking their tea, none of them at any risk of experiencing the lethality of war themselves.
The frequent shoveling to improve the comfort of the trenches was frequently interrupted by preparations for attack. Screams of pain would often came from the trapped soldiers out in No-Man's Land who had been wounded by machine gun fire but who were helplessly hanging on the barbed wire or bleeding to death in the bomb craters - their deaths often lingering for days. The effect on the troops in the trenches who had to listen to the desperate, unanswerable pleas for help was psychologically devastating for the troops back in the trenches. By Christmas, the morale of the troops on both sides of No Man's Land had hit rock bottom.

Christmas in the Trenches -
So on December 24, 1914, the exhausted troops settled down to Christmas with gifts from home, special food, special liquor and special rest. A magnanimous (and deluded) Kaiser Wilhelm had ordered 100,000 Christmas trees with millions of ornamental candles to be sent up to the front, expecting that such an act would boost troop morale.  Using the supply lines for such militarily unnecessary items was ridiculed by the most hardened military officers, but nobody suspected that the Kaiser's Christmas tree idea would backfire and instead be a catalyst for an unplanned-for cease-fire, a singular event previously unheard of in the history of warfare and one that was ultimately censored out of mainstream histories, especially military histories, for most of the last century.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 was a spontaneous event that happened at a multitude of locations all along the 600 miles of trenches that stretched across Belgium and France, and it was an event that would never again be duplicated although an attempt at a Christmas Truce in 1915 was quickly put down by the authorities. Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton have written an important book about the 1914 event entitled "Christmas Truce: The Western Front, December 1914".
The movie "Joyeux Noel" (French for Merry Christmas) received an Academy Award nomination in 2005 for best foreign film. It tells the moving tale that has been adapted from the many surviving stories revealed in letters from soldiers who had been there.
One of the stories that emerged from the event was that, in the quiet of Christmas Eve night, some young German started singing "Stille Nacht". Soon the British, French and Scots on the other side of No Man's Land (oftentimes measuring only a hundred yards wide) joined in in their own tongues. Before long, the spirit of peace and "goodwill towards men" prevailed over the demonic spirit of war, and the troops on both sides sensed their common humanity. The natural human aversion to killing broke through to consciousness and overcame the patriotic fervor and brain-washing to which they had been subjected.
Once the spirit of peace was felt, soldiers on both sides dropped their weapons and came out of their trenches to meet their former foes face-to-face. To get through to the other side they had to step around shell holes and over frozen corpses (which were soon given respectful burials, soldiers from both sides helping one another with the gruesome task).
The spirit of retaliation had dissipated and the desire for peace on earth emerged. New friends shared chocolate bars, cigarettes, beer, wine, schnapps, soccer games and pictures from home. Addresses were exchanged, photos were taken and every soldier who genuinely experienced the emotional drama was forever changed - and the generals and the gung-ho politicians were appalled.

Fostering Peace on Earth in times of war is treason -
Fraternization with the enemy (as in refusing to obey orders in time of war) has historically been regarded by military commanders and politicians as an act of treason, severely punishable, even with death by summary execution. In the case of the Christmas Truce of 1914, most officers tried hard not to draw public attention to the rather wide-spread and therefore potentially contagious incident. Some commanding officers even threatened courts martial if fraternization persisted (it was considered bad for the killing spirit) but relatively few executions took place.
There were still punishments however, including the re-assignment of many of the German "traitors" to the Eastern Front to kill and die on the Eastern Front in the equally suicidal battles against their Orthodox Christian co-religionists from Russia.
This unique story of war resistance needs to be retold over and over again if our modern-era false flag-generated wars of empire are to be effectively de-railed. These futile, unaffordable wars are being fought by thoroughly indoctrinated, macho, pro-war, World of Warcraft expert gamers who, unbeknownst to them, are at high risk of having their lives permanently altered by the physical, mental and spiritual damage from participating in war and violence, after which they might be doomed to a life overwhelmed by the realities of PTSD, sociopathic personality disorder, suicidality, homicidality, loss of religious faith, traumatic brain injury (shell shock), neurotoxic, addictive drug use (from either legal or illegal drugs) and a host of other nearly impossible-to-cure problems that were preventable.

Society's ethical duty to warn -
It seems to me that it would be helpful if moral leadership in America, especially Christian leaders, would discharge their duty to warn the adolescents that are in their spheres of influence about all of the serious consequences that participation in the killing professions can have on their souls and psyches.
War planners do whatever it takes to keep soldiers from experiencing the humanity of their enemies, whether they are Iranians, Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Vietnamese, Chinese or North Koreans. I have been told by many military veterans that military chaplains, who are supposed to be nurturers of the souls of the soldiers who are in their "care", never seem to bring up, in their counseling sessions, Jesus' Golden Rule, his clear "love your enemies" commands or his ethical teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
Military chaplains seem to just be another cog in the apparatus of making war maximally effective. Christian chaplains seem to not pay much attention to the Ten Commandments either, especially the ones that say "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's oil". In their defense, military chaplains, in their seminary training and perhaps even in their Sunday School upbringings, may have never been schooled adequately in the profoundly important gospel truths about humility, mercy, non-violence, non-domination, non-retaliation, unconditional love and the rejection of enmity.

Theological blind spots of war -
These theological blind spots are illustrated near the end of the "Joyeux Noel" movie in a powerful scene depicting a confrontation between the Christ-like, antiwar Scottish chaplain and his pro-war bishop, just as the chaplain was mercifully administering the "last rites" to a dying soldier. The bishop had come to chastise the chaplain for having been merciful to a wounded soldier in No Man's Land and for fraternizing with the enemy. The bishop was relieving the chaplain of his duties because of such "treasonous and shameful" behavior on the battlefield.
The authoritarian, German-hating bishop refused to listen to the chaplain's story about his having performed "the most important mass of my life" (with German troops scandalously participating in the celebration) and that he wished to stay with the troops that needed him because they were losing their faith. The bishop angrily denied the chaplain's request to remain with his men.
The bishop then delivered a rousing pro-war sermon, taken word-for-word from a homily that had actually been delivered by an Anglican bishop from England later in the war. The sermon was addressed to the fresh troops that had to be brought in to replace the veterans who, because of their consciences having been awakened, had suddenly become averse to killing, and were refusing to shoot their weapons.
The image of the dramatic but subtle response of the chaplain to his sacking should be a clarion call to the Christian church leadership of our militarized, so-called "Christian" America - both clergy and lay. This good man of God hung up his cross and walked out of the field hospital.
"Joyeux Noel" is an important film that deserves to be annual holiday fare. It has ethical lessons far more powerful than "It's A Wonderful Life" or "A Christmas Carol".
One of the lessons of the Christmas Truce story is summarized in the concluding verse of John McCutcheon's famous song about the event, "Christmas in the Trenches":

     "My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell.
     Each Christmas come since World War I - I've learned its lessons well:
     That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
     And on each end of the rifle we're the same."

Check out the video of McCutcheon singing his song -- Christmas in the Trenches - written and performed by John McCutcheon [] and, for a good pictorial history of the reality of WWI's trench warfare, check out Christmas in the Trenches Music Video [].
The official trailer of "Joyeux Noel" is available here [].

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Peace & Social Justice, an overview

Speech by Alan L. Maki of "Minnesotans for Peace and Social Justice" [] at the Sunday, August 29, 2004 "Detroit Lakes, Minnesota Peace March and Rally":

Greetings sisters and brothers!
This March and rally are great. Thanks to the organizers for making this event such a huge success.
The music, the poetry, it’s all fantastic!
It is good to see so many people I have been working with who have traveled from many parts of northern Minnesota to be here today and to meet so many new people.
This is our chance to demonstrate our solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people who are now marching through the streets of New York City in opposition to this administration that lied about this war and has lied to us about just about everything regarding the state of our nation.

Before I begin I would like to call to your attention that I have placed dozens of these blue books scattered around the Pavilion on numerous tables. These books are free, your tax dollars paid for them. They are “Legislative Manuals” that include the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of Minnesota legislators and other pertinent information much of which will be useful should you decide to run for public office. Please take a copy and make good use of it. Legislators tell me they appreciate hearing from you and they like hearing from you often.

Also, I hope everyone has a copy of this leaflet that speaks to the unemployment appeals case I will make reference to. Please take it home and share it with your family, relatives, neighbors, and fellow workers. You could find yourself in a similar situation… especially if we end up with four more years of Bush.

Mark Twain once observed that the first casualty when a nation goes to war is democracy.

Because of my outspoken views for peace and social justice I am now the target of the most vicious restraining order ever issued in Minnesota since the days of Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist witch-hunts that robbed the working people of Minnesota of its strongest voices and best fighters for peace and social justice. This witch-hunt now involves Homeland Security Forces who not only viciously attacked me as they ran roughshod over my Constitutional Rights… but also attacked my dog and made my dog suffer.

I hope you will read this leaflet I am passing out here today. Minnesota’s unemployment compensation legislation is skewed and rigged against working people in favor of the corporations just like this two-party system is rigged to deny working people a voice in the Minnesota legislature and in the US congress.

What we need to understand is that poverty, joblessness, and war are universal features of this rotten capitalist system that puts profits before peoples’ needs. What we need is a system that puts people before profits. Take a look at reality… this dirty war is about oil company profits.

Floyd Olson, Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party governor once observed, “The capitalist system is failing as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.” This was a prophetic observation.

Floyd Olson was the most popular politician in Minnesota ever. Yet his name has been virtually erased from the history books.

How long will working people endure an economic system that breeds war and poverty?

What working people in Minnesota need is real living wages not these poverty wages.

We need to build affordable homes here… not bomb homes in Iraq. Isn’t it better to pay working people thirty dollars an hour to build homes right here in Minnesota than waste money bombing the homes of others? Think about this: the same people who say, ‘oh no, you can’t pay working people thirty dollars an hour for building homes’ are the very same people who think nothing of spending tens of thousands of dollars to drop one bomb on homes in Iraq! I hope you will think about that little fact. It’s about priorities.

Our children and grandchildren need quality educations… instead Bush and Rumsfeld bomb schools in Iraq.

It is rather ironic that the same oil companies out to steal the oil from Iraq are the same ones robbing us at the pump. They say gas prices have been hiked to catch up with inflation. Why don’t they have the same mode of thinking when it comes to our wages? Have you ever heard one single politician in the State of Minnesota say that the minimum wage should be raised to a level sufficient to compensate for inflation? Why not? Let the poverty wage paying employers cry like we do when we go to the gas station to fill our tanks… these poverty wage-paying employers won’t die from shedding a few tears.

Listen to what Mark Twain had to say over one-hundred years ago and see if it doesn’t ring true today as we discuss this war in Iraq:

[begin excerpt]
The loud little handful--- as usual--- will shout for the war. The pulpit will--- warily and cautiously--- object--- at first; the great, big dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, “It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.
Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audience will thin out and lose popularity.
Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers--- as earlier--- but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation--- pulpit and all--- will take up the war cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open.
Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.
[end excerpt]

This is from, “The Mysterious Stranger” by Mark Twain.

How true all this rings today… from Bush right down to that one lone warmonger waving his little American flag shouting obscenities at us as we marched through downtown Detroit Lakes.

Apparently there is no room for freedom of the press and freedom of expression alongside the “free market” system that puts profits and wars before people.

The price of democracy and justice, like that of healthcare, is beyond the reach of working people in Minnesota.

What is the price of war?

Every bomb dropped on a school in Iraq robs our children of an education here at home.

Every home Bush bombs in Iraq is a home we can’t build here.

The price we pay for this war means there is not enough money for Universal healthcare like they have in Canada. The Canadians aren’t stupid… their excellent healthcare system is paid for with peace. Their government didn’t go to war in Iraq.
American working people are paying dearly for Bush’s dirty war… it is working class youth fighting and dying and it is workers who foot the bill. Do you raise your sons and daughters to be cannon fodder in some oilman’s war?

The oil barons even profit from the body-bags our sons and daughters are brought home in--- sadly and ironically, these body-bags are made from an oil byproduct. Our sons and daughters fight and die… the oilmen profit, even from their deaths.

The home healthcare industry in Minnesota is a racket in the fullest sense of the word. An examination of the way Provide Care, Incorporated has been feeding at the public trough like a pig and evading public scrutiny while trampling on the rights of its “customers” and employees alike as they fatten their corporate profits is no different than the way the merchants of death and destruction hawk their wares of bombs and bullets.

Then they have judges and the police in their hip pocket to silence workers with restraining orders like this, which have been placed upon me.

Think about this: If these judges can silence me for defending the right of one worker to unemployment benefits… do you think they can’t silence you for speaking out for peace and for social justice in the same way?

Al Capone would have been envious of such rackets!

A nation cannot squander its resources on wars unless it robs its own people of the right to decent livelihoods and the things they need like universal healthcare, housing, and education.

When a nation squanders it resources on wars it is like taking the wealth of the nation and throwing it into the ocean. Would you take money from your pocket and throw it into the waters of Detroit Lake?

Look at this… this is what your tax dollars are buying in Iraq! People like this little boy here, his arms and legs blown off while his entire family lay dead. Not even his mother left to try to comfort him through this agony. Is this the way to win friends and influence people? (picture displayed)

Is there any wonder the peoples of the world said no to this war before it started and continue to be opposed to it?

In my opinion this election shouldn’t even be a contest the way working people hate Bush and his bunch of corporate profiteers and warmongers.

Why then are so many people considering not even voting in this important election?

Because the Democrats, for the most part, have been docile and cowardly in standing up to these warmongers and the corporate thieves.

With Democrats like Collin Peterson who support this dirty war and those who have remained silent is it any wonder people are fed up with politics and don’t want to vote?

Look around you, how many DFL legislators do you see here today? Do you see your DFL Congressman?

Why should I remain silent about their absence if they are not here?

And it is not only on the issue of this war that they have remained docile. It is on minimum wage legislation, the right to organize, and universal healthcare… even the right to fair hearings.

Leaders of the Minnesota DFL in justifying either their support for this dirty war or their silence on the issue pointed out to me that the polls show that a significant number of people support this war. You know what I told them? Well, because it is Sunday and there is a clergyman or two here… I won’t tell you exactly what I told them, but I will tell you that I told them this: “Polls don’t die and suffer in wars… people do.”

It made me sick to see people, even union leaders, stand and applaud Collin Peterson here in Detroit Lakes at the 7th Congressional District DFL convention a few months back. It was just sickening. You know, I was the one and only DFL delegate that did not stand and clap after Collin Peterson got done with his speech supporting Bush’s dirty little war in Iraq.

In my opinion John Kerry’s one and only strong point is that he is an opportunist politician who sticks his finger in his mouth when he gets up in the morning to see from which direction the political winds are blowing. “Waffling” is his strong point because what this means to us as labor, peace, and social justice activists is that with a powerful and large movement demanding peace and universal healthcare we might be able to influence him. Provided we generate enough wind for him to feel on his wet finger when he pulls it out of his mouth.

I was a Kerry delegate… I am firmly convinced that the only way we can get rid of Bush is to elect Kerry. This is the reality of the present political moment.

Is there anyone amongst us today that believes we can influence George Bush? If you are a billionaire with pockets lined with cash… yes, you might be able to influence George Bush or Tim Pawlenty… I don’t know about you but I have had… p-a-w-l-e-n-t-y of Bush.

We must insist that John Kerry set a date for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq! Then vote for Kerry so we can get rid of Bush. Getting rid of Bush is the next step we need to take towards ending this dirty war.

I was glad to see John Kerry take a stand against predatory lenders. This is a serious problem in this state.

By the way… I am voting for Kerry, but no way will I vote for that warmonger Collin Peterson. I certainly won’t vote for his Republican opponent. I hope my non-vote sends a message to someone, someplace.
I think that as we go out to defeat Bush by electing John Kerry we need to begin a serious discussion of putting an end to this two-party fiasco. The moneyed interests in the DFL continue to resist Farmer-Labor voices in the Party. Maybe it is time to go back to what we had in Minnesota: A real farmer-labor party. The time has come to consider the option of rebuilding the old Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota on the legacies of Floyd Olson, Elmer Benson, and John Bernard. I don’t care what the Party is called. From the red-roots of the farmer-labor movement have grown many new green shoots that need to be nurtured to maturity.

Peace! Sisters and Brothers… Let this word peace ring out throughout every household, union hall, church, and community in Minnesota!
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of Minnesotans for Peace and Social Justice.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advocate for an Economy based on Peace!

"Demilitarizing the Economy: A Movement is Underway"
2013-12-20 by Miriam Pemberton for "Institute for Policy Studies" []:
Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Defense Transition Assistance fact sheets [] from IPS’ Green Security Project outline the exciting new routes to a peace, rather than military, economy. For more information and help in getting started, contact Miriam Pemberton, [], [202-787-5214].
As we end the longest period of war in our history, we should be entering a period of postwar downsizing - but what about the communities dependent on the massive post-9/11 military budget?
End wars. Shrink the Pentagon budget. Reinvest the savings in neglected domestic priorities. It’s a logical progression. Right?
Yes, though we’d be fools to expect too much logic out of our current federal legislature. As we end the longest period of war in our history, we should be entering a period of postwar downsizing—the first since the end of the Cold War. And we are, though it’s been driven as much by budget squeezing generally as by a sense of postwar possibility.
And it’s a shallower defense downsizing than the last one. And the December 2013 budget deal will make it even shallower.
But communities that have been living off post-9/11 military budget surges are beginning to feel the effects of this (so far) modest shrinkage. This is the moment to deepen the defense downsizing, and make it endure. An essential piece of this task is to focus on helping communities and workers build alternatives to dependency on building weapon systems we don’t need.
Here is IPS’ comprehensive strategy for building this alternative economic foundation, linking action at the federal, state and local levels [].
And here are two of the most exciting developments pushing this forward. They look like the sturdy supports of a movement to me.

State commissions planning for diversification -
Connecticut—one of the most defense-dependent states in the nation—is providing one new model for action. In May of this year, peace, environmental and faith groups joined with labor unions to push the legislature to pass “An Act Concerning Connecticut’s Future.” This vague-sounding law contains a visionary mandate: convene a broad-based Commission to come up with a plan to diversify Connecticut’s overly defense-dependent economy. This commission—made up of state economic development directors, legislators, representatives of business groups, the state AFL-CIO, and representatives of peace and environmental organizations—is beginning to meet and will reveal its plan by the end of next year.
Other states are following suit. Maryland will vote on a similar bill in its next legislative session. Wisconsin has one in the works. Activists are pushing the process in Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota. It’s a growing movement that can become a model for the kind of postwar planning that needs to happen on the federal level.

New federal supports for local transition planning -
Since the 1980’s the Defense Department has housed a small office dedicated to helping communities plan an economic transition following a base closing or defense contract cancellation. As the Pentagon budget soared during the post-9-11 years, this office focused almost exclusively on the base closings-half of its mission. Now it is refocusing on developing new tools for defense transition assistance, helping communities adjust to defense contract losses with planning grants and technical assistance. This is explained here [].
The Obama administration is beginning to expand this Office of Economic Adjustment, as it’s called, and turn it into a gateway for assistance from other federal agencies, including programs in the Departments of Commerce, Energy and Transportation, for communities in transition.
Local activists can work with their local public officials to put together broad-based community coalitions and use these funds to build models of peace economy transition. The more we do, the more lessons we learn about the best practices for doing it, and the stronger this foundation for a demilitarized economy becomes.

New Economy Transitions From the Bottom Up -
In the face of federal legislative dysfunction, more and more progressive initiatives are coming from the state and local levels. The effort to build a peace economy, following the longest period of war in our history, is taking its rightful place in this constellation of progress from the bottom up.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Guantanamo Prisoner's hunger Strike for Human Rights!

"The Peaceful Protest US Govt Doesn't Want World to Know About; Media blackout hides Gitmo hunger strikes in military bid to erode public support"
2013-12-12 by Sarah Lazare from "" []:
Guantánamo Bay rally – activists protest in front of the White House demanding President Obama close the US prison camp earlier this year. Now, the military acknowledges that the withholding of information is a deliberate move to undermine public knowledge of a protest that has garnered international support. (Photograph: Larry Downing/Reuters)

First it was the force-feedings, genital searches, and transfers to solitary confinement. Then came the media blackout.
In its latest bid to deprive Guantánamo Bay inmates of what Algerian prisoner Ahmed Belbacha has called their "sole peaceful means" of protest, the U.S. military announced it will stop providing information to the press about the ongoing hunger strikes within this notorious offshore prison.
"The hunger strike has been the only way the prisoners can effectively protest and force world attention back on Guantánamo Bay," said Omar Farah, staff attorney for Center for Constitutional Rights, in an interview with Common Dreams. "The government has tried to undermine that in many ways. We saw that in the summer with raids on Camp 6 and forcing prisoners into solitary confinement. This is a new and different way to silence the protests."
In an interview with Al Jazeera-America published Wednesday [], Navy Commander John Filostrat acknowledged that the withholding of information is a deliberate move to undermine public knowledge of a protest that has garnered international support. “It’s [the strikers'] desire to draw attention to themselves, and so we’re not going to help them do that," he stated.
"JTF-Guantánamo allows detainees to peacefully protest but will not further their protests by reporting the numbers to the public," Filostrat told the Miami Herald last week upon announcing the blackout [].
British Guantánamo inmate Shaker Aamer said last week that the hunger strike is growing despite the wall of silence. The “Guantánamo hunger strike is back on,” stated Aamer in a phone call with his attorney Clive Stafford Smith, director of the U.K.-based human rights charity Reprieve, that was reported by Al Jazeera-America []. Aamer said at least 29 prisoners are still taking part—19 of them being subjected to painful force-feedings that have been widely denounced as torture [].
"We are hearing that there have been increasing numbers of men who are hunger striking," Farah confirmed. "It is also important to recognize there are a number of men who are long-term hunger strikers. My client Tariq Ba Odah, who has already been cleared for release, has been on unbroken hunger strike since February 2007."
Hunger strikes have swept the prison since shortly after it opened in 2002, growing to over 100 participants who refused food for extended periods, many of whom were subject to the painful force-feedings [].
U.S. military officials had previously disclosed the numbers of inmates who refused food. Yet, Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights, previously told Common Dreams that these numbers should be viewed with skepticism because the military "doctors them down" [].
162 people are still incarcerated at the military prison in Cuba that has been widely condemned for abusive and inhumane conditions, systematic torture, and lack of due process—including indefinite detentions without trial or formal charges. More than half of all inmates languish in prison despite having been cleared for release [].
In a previous 60 Minutes broadcast from Guantánamo, Aamer could be heard declaring from his cell, "Leave us to die in peace or tell the world the truth!" [].

Friday, December 13, 2013

Time To Fight For Our Human Rights

Every day, rights guaranteed by US laws as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are violated against the people of the United States and around the world. Let us recognize that these rights are our inalienable rights and that only we can ensure that we have them.
Our rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to healthcare and other basic necessities, privacy and unrestricted travel, are being violated. It is up to us to organize and mobilize to demand that these rights are honored. In fact, one of those rights according to international covenants, is the right to resist. Maciej Bartkowki and Annyssa Bellal write that the international community must support nonviolent civil resistance so that “a ‘people polity’ may represent a decisive force for a final push away from traditional state-driven discourse and practice … towards people-oriented, popular sovereignty based on the rights and responsibility to uphold them.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Latest update from "Peace Times" newspaper of the San Jose Peace and Justice Center

Peace Times, Winter 2013
Click here to read our newest edition of the Peace Times!

Dear friends of the Peace & Justice Center,
We want to come up with a new logo for the Peace & Justice Center. But how can one symbol represent the many facets of the services we provide?
We educate the community through lectures, film series, and our internship program that brings in students from San Jose State and other area schools.
Besides providing meeting and event space, we support our community partners by creating and distributing flyers, advertising events and facilitating their advocacy for immigrant and worker rights, sustainability, economic justice and many other issues.
And all of this without corporate sponsors! We rely completely on your generosity to make all of this activity possible. Please make a generous donation either online by clicking on the donation button below or by mailing a check addressed to San Jose Peace & Justice Center at 48 South 7th St., Suite #101 San Jose, CA 95112. Donations made in honor or in memory of an individual will be noted on our web site.
And we welcome your ideas and suggestions for a new logo. You can send them via email to or mail them along with your check. We will post the most intriguing suggestions online!
With warm greetings for a peaceful holiday season,
* Michelle Cordova, President
* Shelby Minister, Coordinator
* Judy Purrington, Secretary
* Charlotte Casey, Treasurer
Donate Today! 

War Crimes Times newspaper update!

Veterans For Peace, exposing the true cost of war and militarism since 1985.
Place Your Order for the War Crimes Times Winter Issue!

Place your order before December 15 to make sure you'll get the copies you need for general distribution and for events in January, February, and March. Orders received after December 15 will be filled as supplies last. (If you have a standing order with us, there's no need to respond.)
This issue's theme is American Exceptionalism; we'll also have articles on Afghanistan, Quaker House, Armistice/Veterans Day, Drone Summit, and more.
Order now! Or just give a gift (‘tis the season) to help us expose the true costs of war.

Tribute to Nelson Mandela, and to the New African Peace Movement

"Veterans For Peace Salutes Nelson Mandela"
Veterans For Peace joins the international community in celebrating and remembering the life of Nelson Rolihlahla "Madiba" Mandela.
Living in a world where injustice and oppression were legal tools of a White minority government to control a Black majority in their indigenous homeland, he came to symbolize the essence of the struggle to end Apartheid. His example of success in standing up to an immovable force to lead his nation to end the brutal practice of racism and segregation and then setting it on a course of democracy, peace and reconciliation has made him a moral voice for peace and justice in his country and around the globe.
Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary freedom fighter as well as a politician and philanthropist. He began his struggle for justice working in the system by joining the African National Congress in the early 1940’s. But frustration with the lack of change and reaction to the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre of 69 protestors by police turned Mandela to armed resistance in 1961. He and many resistance leaders were jailed for life by the South African government in 1963. Mandela’s and his comrades’ perseverance and an unprecedented international campaign for his freedom resulted in his 1990 release. He emerged from prison a changed man, saying of his departure, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
But leaving the hate behind did not mean leaving the struggle for justice. He immediately threw himself into continuing the effort to end Apartheid. He garnered international support for sanctions to pressure South Africa and opened negotiations with then South African President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994.
Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. He served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was the Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.
Nelson Mandela was the quintessential leader who against enormous odds and in the face of state sponsored brutality changed the look and character of his nation. His ascent from 27 years in a prison cell to presidential office was an international blow to White supremacy and a testament to the power of the people when struggling for justice.
Nelson Mandela was not a pacifist, as he once used violent resistance as a means to achieve justice. But he also understood that violence was not the answer and that the time had come for him to work for peace and to make common effort with enemies who hated him and his people. He is quoted as saying, “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.”
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
At a time when the world is in deep turmoil his voice and wisdom will be greatly missed. But we do have his life as an example of steely determination, pragmatism and integrity to follow. There is much world leaders can learn from Madiba to lead our planet to a better and peaceful state. As we work to abolish war, address climate change and to meet human needs, let us keep the legacy of Mandela alive by learning from his words and experiences and as best we can walking in his footsteps.
Nelson Mandela Presente!

"For Nelson--Leader, Tribal Person, Elder", a poem
from Poet Ines Hernandez-Avila (With thanks to Abdullah Ibrahim, because this poem was written to his composition “Mandela"). Written Summer 1988, on the occasion of Mandela's 70th birthday, when the South African government offered him a six hour visit with his family.

Oh Mandela, Mandela
I sing your name
in the name of all peoples locked in and
in their very cells
weighed down by all the forces
that do not want their hearts light
and spirits lifted

Nelson, Nelson
Triumph is a sweet song
the one you know
saxophones jubilant for your spirit
in your space
to will your conscious waking
sleeping dreams
for all of us to see

And it is hard, Mandela, Mandela
Six hours offered you with family
with Winnie and your daughters
six hours to hold each other
gulp in every detailed facet
talk with hands eyes ears mouth
nose smiles tears
as if the heart of the very mother earth
would burst with joy at such a moment

but this joy cannot be
it is, as you say, not possible
for you are not alone
but one of oh so many whose pain like yours
meted out minutely daily
seeks to engulf you in despair

This visit offered is not to them
but to you

And what is six hours in the face of terror centuries old
horror with the face of most intentional genocide?
Six hours more or less of time
when in those same six hours
Children, little children
sit, like you, in other prison cells for their "subversion"
When heads are cracked and bodies wracked
across the landscape of a continent that is yours theirs

A motherland keeps count of each heart battered to a bloody pulp
to stop its count of life

And you know, too, that count
So you stop the maddened offer of a visit
What would you have said, Mandela, Mandela?
"Shall we have tea, Winnie?
Daughters, rub my back, I am so sore.
What shall we talk about?"

And in the next cells casually inflicting itself
in studied vehemence on seemingly countless others
the obscenity of racial/cultural boundless hatred
Nelson, Nelson
A visit?
We are visiting for you all over the world
for you and with you in our homes your face shines
from the walls of our hearts
Poets gather to sing for you
Peoples gather to struggle with you
Workers pass the light of your name from mouth to mouth
Races, classes and sexes unite for you and for the people
Children learn of you and of the brave children
through whose eyes and spirits we find courage
Agelessness is where principled commitment is born and lives
Even in the splattered, broken bones of death
that wants so badly to detain the march of liberation
in all its splendor

Mandela, Mandela
you are real
The people you stand firm for are real and true
The visionary will outlast the cynic, the impotent and depraved

It is a matter of time
Only a small matter of time
The freedom spirit is soaring from heart to heart
around the world

To stop for six hours for convenience?
No, Nelson, Nelson
How you knew how time is precious
How you knew to keep on soaring

Oh, Mandela, Mandela
Keep on soaring

Campaign for support for ACLU's lawsuit against USA DHS kidnapping and torturing of USA Citizens traveleing outside the homeland

"ACLU in Court Wednesday to Challenge FBI Agents’ Unlawful Detention and Abuse of U.S. Citizen Abroad; New Jersey Man Held for Four Months in East Africa, Threatened With Torture and Disappearance"
2013-12-10 press release from "ACLU" []:
More information and case documents are at: []
WHAT: Oral argument on the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Amir Meshal, an American citizen who was detained and mistreated by U.S. officials in Kenya and Ethiopia.
WHO: Jonathan Hafetz, cooperating attorney with the ACLU, and attorneys from the Justice Department will appear before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.
WHEN: Wednesday, December 11, 1 p.m.
WHERE: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Courtroom 24A, located at 333 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON - December 10 - The American Civil Liberties Union will appear in court on Wednesday on behalf of a U.S. citizen who was illegally detained and mistreated by American officials in three east African countries in 2007. After fleeing unrest in Somalia, New Jersey resident Amir Meshal was arrested, secretly imprisoned in inhumane conditions, and harshly interrogated by FBI agents over 30 times before ultimately being released without charge four months later.
The ACLU argues that Meshal’s treatment violated his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights to a judicial hearing and the prohibition against torture under U.S. law. The government’s motion to dismiss the case was first argued in July 2011, and the court has ordered a second argument to address the impact of four appeals court decisions issued since then. The government argues that the case should not be considered on its merits because it relates to national security, even though it would leave Meshal with no legal remedy.
“The harsh treatment and mental anguish this man suffered should never be experienced by anyone, let alone an American citizen at the hands of his own government," said Jonathan Hafetz, cooperating attorney with the ACLU, who will argue in court Wednesday. “When an American’s constitutional rights are violated by law enforcement officials, courts must hold them accountable.”
In December 2006, Meshal was studying in Mogadishu when civil unrest broke out. He fled to neighboring Kenya, where he wandered in the forest for three weeks seeking shelter and assistance before being arrested. He was then repeatedly interrogated by FBI agents, who accused him of receiving training from al Qaeda, which Meshal denied. The American interrogators threatened him with torture and kept him from contacting a lawyer or his family.
Meshal was subsequently rendered to Somalia and then Ethiopia, where he was secretly imprisoned in filthy conditions with inadequate access to food, water, and toilets for more than three months, and again harshly interrogated by U.S. officials, who bore responsibility for his rendition and continued detention.
“The government’s argument that FBI agents should bear no responsibility for subjecting Mr. Meshal to unlawful detention and harsh abuse while he was at their mercy is extreme and untenable,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “We hope the judge will reject what amounts to a request for immunity when law enforcement officials violate Americans’ constitutional rights abroad.”

"UN’s First War Threatens Mission of Peace"

from "Project Censored" []:
Student Researcher: Shelby Wade (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Robert McNamara (Sonoma State University)
Source: “The United Nations in Congo: Art of Darkness,” The Economist, June 15, 2013, [].
The United Nations has been on a peacekeeping mission in the Congo for 14 years with little success as the death toll rises. Now, the UN Security Council has set a new plan in place. The Security Council has voted to deploy 3,000 troops to fight some of the rebel groups. This is the first time in history that the UN is actually sending its own troops into battle. They will be responsible for artillery fire, helicopter gunships, and the resulting casualties. The 3,000 UN enforcers are not especially cohesive or powerful and some may have ulterior motives, which could damage the UN’s reputation and undermine its mission.
While this may seem like a tactic that has the potential to end the “African World War,” there is a question as to whether going to war threatens the purpose of the UN, which is to keep peace. If the UN becomes yet another participant in wars, can the world really defend them as a peace keeping organization? It would seem that war and peace are opposites. However, despite concerns, the UN seems to think potentially ending the conflict is worth the risk.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Campaign for Peace and Justice in Honduras!

Join the Solano Peace, Justice and Freedom coalition and the Peace and Freedom Party of California to Call on State Department to stop legitimizing fraudulent Honduran elections! Join the campaign here [link]!

Peace and Freedom Party of California, in solidarity with the people of Honduras, calls on the U. S. government to cut U. S. aid and training to the Honduran military and police; withdraw U. S. troops and armed Drug Enforcement agents and contractors; and end U. S. intervention in Honduras" election particularly under the guise of "democracy promotion" funding by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy. Furthermore, Peace and Freedom Party of California joins Amnesty International in calling on the authorities in Honduras to drop charges against three indigenous leaders; Berta Caceres, Tomas Gomez and Aureliano Molina.

"Call on State Department to stop legitimizing fraudulent Honduran elections"
 On Sunday, November 24, Hondurans went to the polls in record numbers to vote in their presidential elections. In the country with the highest murder rate in the world and targeted repression of the opposition and social movements, many Hondurans voted for change, including for Xiomara Castro, the candidate for the new LIBRE party which was created out of the resistance to the 2009 SOA-graduate led coup that ousted her husband, President Mel Zelaya. Despite outright vote buying, vote counting problems, selling of election credentials, irregularities in posted voting certificates [], discrepancies in the results released by Honduras' Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and those received by the parties, and other signs of fraud, Juan Orlando Hernandez of the ruling (National) party was declared the winner. Libre and PAC, another new party running on an anti-corruption platform, have refused to accept the TSE's results, citing widespread fraud, but the US has supported the ruling party, calling the elections "transparent." Call on the U.S. to stop legitimizing fraudulent elections in Honduras!
On Sunday, December 1st, thousands of Hondurans took to the streets demanding an end to fraud and the recognition of Xiomara Castro as the legitimate President of Honduras. See a photo report here [].
On Monday, December 2nd, Castro presented an official request to the TSE for a recount of all the voting certificantes in the presence of Libre. However, with the TSE, Executive Branch, current Congress, Supreme Court, and Attorney General all controlled by the ruling party (Hernandez himself led the Congress in firing 4 Supreme Court justices last year and replacing the Attorney General in a highly controversial process just months before the elections), there is little hope that Honduran system will resolve fairly.
The US State Department has white-washed the elections, commending the TSE for "its professional counting of the vote," when the reality is that the elections were full of problems. Send an e-mail to the State Department and Congress urging them to condemn the fraud, irregularities, and violence during the Honduran elections [].
SOA Watch's election delegation to Honduras, along with many other delegations as part of the Honduras Solidarity Network observed problems with vote counting, reports of dead people voting, voting table credentials of other parties used by the ruling party, breaking of the rules during vote transmission, suspicious results from voting tables reported by the TSE, and numerous opportunities for alternation and manipulation of the results [].
Read the report back from the SOA delegation here [].
Libre has also documented numerous alternations and manipulations, including the tabulation of 82,301 too many votes counted in favor of the National (ruling) Party and 55,720 votes not counted for LIBRE [].
Even the European Union election monitoring delegation, which white-washed the elections for political reasons, reported that 30% of the voter rolls were people who were dead or have left the country, making fraudulent voting all too easy [].
The day before Libre activists prepared to take to the streets to demand a recount, Jose Antonio Ardon, a well-known member of the resistance movement and the motorcade that accompanied Xiomara Castro, was brutally murdered by death squads while organizing for Libre's march. This political assassination sent a clear message: you will continue to be murdered for speaking out. Prior to the elections, at least 18 Libre candidates and activists were murdered, more than all other parties combined. Two additional campesino leaders and Libre activists were murdered the evening before the elections as they returned from election training and a citizen was beaten on election day for asking for the votes to be read out loud as they were counted []. Just days after the elections, the police tear gassed and violently repressed thousands of university students protesting against fraud and the imposition of Juan Orlando as president of Honduras [].
International observers were also intimidated, with migration raids targeting accredited observers from the Honduras Solidarity Network and other groups. The SOAW delegation, together with the US-El Salvador Sister Cities delegation, was blocked for over 5 hours from visiting Rio Blanco [], where Lenca communities are resisting the construction of an illegal hydroelectric dam and facing death threats and severe repression, including the murder of Tomas Garcia this July.
As Sunday's mobilization came to an end, Xiomara Castro stood beside the casket of Jose Antonio Ardon, which accompanied the mobilization outside the TSE to demand a recount of the votes, and declared "Today we have pain in our hearts and tears in our eyes and it is precisely because of this, and for the 350 other martyrs, that we will not give up. Because of this we continue. We believed the false promises that there would be clean elections… Over 1 million people went out to vote for us… They have stolen our victory and implemented fraud. We will not give up until we achieve… our hope of constructing a better Honduras for all".
As the ultra-right seeks to consolidate its stranglehold on Honduras through fraudulent elections aimed at imposing the presidency of Juan Orlando Hernandez and unleashing repression against those who stand up against the looting of the country by multinational corporations and the oligarchy, it is more important than ever to stand in solidarity with the people of Honduras. Demand that the US stop legitimizing the elections and instead condemn the widespread fraud and the murders of Libre activists [].

2013-11-27 Flashpoints FM Radio Interview with Occupy Beale AFB! concerning current U.S. Drone warfare

[], news archive for the Peace vigil and Occupy action at Beale AFB! [].

2013-12-09 message from Michael Kerr:
As a Veteran, I was part of a radio interview on Flashpoints by Dennis Bernstein with two other anti-drone activists Toby Blome and Shirley Osgood after we were arrested at Beale Air Force Base north of Sacramento, CA Tuesday November 26. I think our interview is very important for all military personnel, veterans and everybody to listen! If you forward to the 24 minute mark, our interview is about 15 minutes! []
I am so fortunate that my children are not in the military and will never be forced or placed in a position that they would be required to kill women, children and other civilians as many of our soldiers are currently forced to do!
PTSD is ramped in the military! There are more military suicides than combat deaths. Imagine when you come home from active service duty, what it must be like for many of today's soldiers who have fought and killed only civilians during the past 11 years of occupations ever since President Bush declared the Iraq military defeated and the war over! Every time you see your wife and children or family & friends and their children, you can be subject to horrible flashbacks of times you and your service buddies killed innocent civilians and especially women and children! Now our soldiers are being asked to participate in the extra judicial killing of civilians who pose no immediate threat to them or our country by remote control drone in countries we are not at war. Our soldiers are being required to participate in continuous war crimes and violations of International laws and our Constitution.

In Peace & Justice, "Maybe some day we will not have a War Criminal President and Congress in office! So far not in my lifetime!", [signed] Michael E. Kerr, web moderator for []

Letter to Senator Feinstein Deploring Her Persistent Ignorance of the Current Crisis in Surveillance Policy

Call for an international bill of digital rights [link]

An Open Letter to Senator Feinstein Deploring Her Persistent Ignorance of the Current Crisis in Surveillance Policy, issued by the Shame on Feinstein Coalition [], press inquiries []:

Summary -
We, the constituents of Senator Dianne Feinstein, are dismayed and embarrassed by her decision to defend unconstitutional surveillance. As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she is required to oversee data surveillance to protect her constituents and all Americans. Instead, she has decided to use this moment of crisis to expand surveillance powers to include all bulk data collection. Feinstein has transgressed on our trust and support that has sustained her for decades. To regain that trust, she must make amends by resigning as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and withdrawing her NSA legalization bill.
Dear Senator Dianne Feinstein,
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, write to you today to express our profound concern and outrage at your attempt to codify unconstitutional privacy violations by the National Security Agency (NSA) with the so-called FISA Improvements Act (S.1631). We demand that you withdraw the bill in its entirety and support legitimate legislation to bring the NSA and all other federal agencies engaged in data collection and surveillance into compliance with the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, your failure to meaningfully act on this issue has left us no choice but to demand your resignation from the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee because you have demonstrated a complete lack of accountability to the people who elected you to represent them.

The FISA Improvements Act Is A Complete Failure -
The bill you have proposed to address these constitutional violations is wholly inadequate. It subverts the Constitution by effectively legalizing the conduct of the NSA. The spying operations of the NSA and other domestic intelligence gathering agencies have chilled First Amendment freedoms of speech and association at home and wounded the United States' reputation abroad. We oppose the FISA Improvements Act for the following reasons:
1) Section 1(a)(6)(B) fails to improve Congressional oversight over the FISC. The mere reporting of FISC activities does nothing to provide a meaningful check on FISC authority.
2) Section 3(1)(C) needlessly increases criminal penalties for already illegal conduct as a cowardly reaction to the government whistleblowing that has brought disgrace to your position as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
3) Section 6(m)(1) expressly legalizes the practice of bulk data collection against U.S. citizens in clear violation of the principles outlined in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
4) Section 6(m)(3)(B) expands bulk data collection authority beyond the National Security Agency (NSA) and permits any query for "law enforcement purposes."
5) Section 12(a)(3)(A)(i) fails to provide meaningful reporting of FISC determinations by maintaining the practice of requiring a report only if the FISC makes "novel or significant interpretation of law[1]."
The FISA Improvements Act is not the kind of law the American people expect of the elected representatives tasked with protecting our interests and defending the Constitution. It fails on its own premise of regulating the practice of bulk data collection. We demand that you immediately abandon the bill and consider other legislation that meaningfully confronts the threats to American civil liberties posed by the intelligence community.

The FISA Improvements Act Is Particularly Weak Given The Existence Of More Meaningful Legislation -
Other bills have been introduced in Congress that address the topic of unconstitutional government spying. Senator Leahy and Congressman Sensenbrenner have authored the USA Freedom Act (S.1599). This bill effectively confronts the threat bulk data collection presents to constitutionally protected privacy rights. Unlike the FISA Improvements Act, the USA Freedom Act presents an enforceable ban on the bulk data collection of domestic communications. It does not merely render the practice legal, as your bill does.
The USA Freedom Act creates a body specifically tasked with protecting privacy with appellate authority to challenge FISC warrants. This Act also makes FISC reporting mandatory, increasing Congress's ability to conduct oversight and making the decisions of the Court transparent and accountable to the people.
By contrast, the FISA Improvements Act does none of this. It includes distractions such as a specific provision further criminalizing the unauthorized disclosure of FISC holdings, conduct that is already illegal. The inclusion of this provision demonstrates a petty attempt to stifle the kind of whistleblowing that brought public awareness to the constitutional violations of the NSA. The FISA Improvements Act will continue to allow the FISC to operate in total secrecy, it will legalize domestic spying and it will continue to erode our country's ability to effectuate meaningful diplomacy abroad by compromising longstanding diplomatic relationships with allies like Germany.

We Demand Your Resignation As Chair Of The Senate Intelligence Committee -
As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee you are tasked with providing "vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States[2]." In this capacity, you have failed your country. Under your watch the NSA has shredded the Constitution by engaging in bulk data collection and spying on American people, on American soil. Your failure to act in your capacity as chair of the committee tasked with overseeing federal intelligence programs has enabled these constitutional violations to continue. Your resignation is essential towards rebuilding the collapsed credibility of the oversight committee that is supposed to keep the intelligence community accountable.

Conclusion -
For the above-mentioned reasons, we reiterate our demands that you:
1) Withdraw the FISA Improvements Act and,
2) Resign as Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Without real action on your part, you will have shown voters that you are unaccountable, lack transparency, and believe yourself beyond the influence of those who democratically elected you to represent their best interests.

Solano Peace, Freedom & Justice coalition

[1] Under this discretionary standard, no FISC determination has ever been reported to Congress, despite the revelations made possible by whistleblower Edward Snowden that the NSA has gained authority to conduct dragnet domestic bulk data collection operations.

[2] S. Res. 400, 94th Cong., 2d Sess. (1976).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Call for an international bill of digital rights

* Letter to Senator Feinstein Deploring Her Persistent Ignorance of the Current Crisis in Surveillance Policy [link]
* Five Eyes [link], a union of clandestine agencies from USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

"State surveillance of personal data is theft, say world's leading authors; 500 signatories include five Nobel prize winners; Writers demand 'digital bill of rights' to curb abuses"
2013-12-09 by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor from "The London Guardian" []:
More than 500 of the world's leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.
The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people's digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.
They have urged the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights that would enshrine the protection of civil rights in the internet age.
Their call comes a day after the heads of the world's leading technology companies demanded sweeping changes to surveillance laws to help preserve the public's trust in the internet – reflecting the growing global momentum for a proper review of mass snooping capabilities in countries such as the US and UK, which have been the pioneers in the field.
The open letter to the US president, Barack Obama, from firms including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, will be followed by the petition, which has drawn together a remarkable list of the world's most respected and widely-read authors, who have accused states of systematically abusing their powers by conducting intrusive mass surveillance.
Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Irvine Welsh, Hari Kunzru, Jeanette Winterson and Kazuo Ishiguro are among the British authors on the list.
It also includes JM Coetzee, Yann Martel, Ariel Dorfman, Amit Chaudhuri, Roddy Doyle, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and the Russian Mikhail Shishkin.
Henning Mankell, Lionel Shriver, Hanif Kureishi and the antipodean writers CK Stead, Thomas Keneally and Anna Funder are other globally renowned signatories.
The Guardian has published a series of stories about the mass surveillance techniques of GCHQ and its US counterpart, the NSA, over the past six months; two of the most significant programmes uncovered in the Snowden files were Prism, run by the NSA, and Tempora, which was set up by GCHQ. Between them, they allow the agencies to harvest, store and analyse data about millions of phone calls, emails and search-engine queries.
Though Tuesday's statement does not mention these programmes by name, it says the extent of surveillance revealed by Snowden has challenged and undermined the right of all humans to "remain unobserved and unmolested" in their thoughts, personal environments and communications. "This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes," the statement adds.
"A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space."
Demanding the right "for all people to determine to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed", the writers call for a digital rights convention that states will sign up to and adhere to. "Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property, it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else – the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty."
McEwan told the Guardian: "Where Leviathan can, it will. The state, by its nature, always prefers security to liberty. Lately, technology has offered it means it can't resist, means of mass surveillance that Orwell would have been amazed by. The process is inexorable – unless it's resisted. Obviously, we need protection from terrorism, but not at any cost."
The intervention comes after the Guardian and some of the world's other major media organisations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel, began disclosing details of the extent and reach of secret surveillance programmes run by Britain's eavesdropping centre, GCHQ, and the National Security Agency.
The revelations have sparked a huge debate on the legal framework and oversight governing western spy agencies. Obama has launched a review of US intelligence operations, and earlier this month the UN's senior counter-terrorism official, Ben Emmerson, announced an investigation into the techniques used by both US and British intelligence agencies.
Civil liberties groups have criticised the UK government for putting intense political pressure on the Guardian and other media groups covering the leaks rather than addressing the implications of the mass surveillance programmes that have been uncovered. But campaigners hope Tuesday's statement will increase the pressure on governments to address the implications of the Snowden revelations.
"International moral pressure is what's needed to ensure politicians address the mass invasion of our privacy by the intelligence services in the UK and US," said Jo Glanville, from English Pen, which along with its sister organisations around the world has supported the Writers Against Mass Surveillance campaign. "The signatories to the appeal are a measure of the level of outrage and concern."
Tuesday's statement is being launched simultaneously in 27 countries, and organisers hope members of the public will now sign up through the website.
Eva Menasse, one of the group of German writers who initiated the project, said it began with an open letter from a group of authors to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, when the first Snowden revelations came to light. "When we started, we did not know how far we would get. But more and more colleagues joined us and within the last weeks we were sitting at our computers day and night, using our networks as more people came forward. This started as an entirely private initiative, but now has worldwide support."
Another author who helped set up the campaign, Juli Zeh, said writers around the world had felt compelled to act: "We all have to stand up now, and we as writers do what we can do best: use the written word to intervene publicly."
Winterson told the Guardian she regarded Snowden as a "brave and selfless human being"."We should be supporting him in trying to determine the extent of the state in our lives. We have had no debate, no vote, no say, hardly any information about how our data is used and for what purpose. Our mobile phones have become tracking devices. Social networking is data profiling. We can't shop, spend, browse, email, without being monitored. We might as well be tagged prisoners. Privacy is an illusion. Do you mind about that? I do."

"State surveillance of personal data: what is the society we wish to protect? One of the writers who signed a letter demanding an international bill of digital rights, says 'our masters are in the grip of a delusionary nightmare'"
2013-12-09 by Tom Stoppard from "The London Guardian" []:
What in principle would justify the scope of the surveillance revealed by the Snowden leak? Would it be enough, for example, if it could be shown that a specific potential act of terrorism had been prevented by, and could only have been prevented by, the full breadth and depth of what we now have learned is the playing field of the security services?
We should hesitate before we stray off the touchline. The idea that public safety, the safety of the innocent, is an absolute which trumps every other consideration, is tacitly abandoned in the way we live.
Nobody would be killed on the roads if the speed limit were 10 miles an hour. Flying would be safer if airport security demanded body searches with no exceptions and the examination of every item in every piece of luggage. On the matter of surveillance in general we have, without much discussion, learned to live with almost blanket surveillance by CCTV in our towns and cities. As a result thousand of crimes, including murder, have been solved and perhaps many more prevented. But how many more would there have been if we doubled the number of cameras, or increased them tenfold, a hundredfold?
Between that and the surveillance we are now talking about there is a qualitative as well as a quantitative difference which hardly needs pointing out. The cameras are in public places, they are not in our houses or our cars or even in our gardens. By contrast, the world of surveillance operated by the people we pay to guard us exceeds the fevered dreams of the Stasi.
Even so, let's go carefully here. The Stasi were not dealing with a global threat of murderous malignity. The constituency of everything to be feared has also been altered dreadfully by a technology which vastly underwrites a capacity for evil as it does the capacity for the social good. As for our spooks, I know what I want from them. I want them to eavesdrop on the phones, the emails, on every tap of the keyboard of anybody who comes under suspicion. Somebody somewhere has the responsibility, indeed the necessary duty, of identifying those who bear us ill. I would like there to be secret cameras in their houses. I would applaud the technological means to survey and interpret every breath they take. However, metaphors for the expansion from this selflimiting scope beggar the imagination. If the world of secrets is its own universe, here we have an expansion of the universe which brings to mind something cosmological.
It had to happen. When all that possibility of expansion became available the spooks were going to avail themselves of it as naturally as night follows day.
Imagine that some law enforcement agency received reliable information that a drug lord or a suicide bomber or a murderer on the run was at this moment hiding out in … let's say Beaconsfield. Should we have a problem with the idea that for the next few days there was going to be blanket electronic surveillance on every message or metadatum flowing in and out of Beaconsfield? Would I get worked up about that? Not much. How about Swindon? Manchester? You can see where this is going. At some point in the expansion there is a phase transition our attitude will undergo. Something that seemed OK no longer seems OK.
The impulse we are now experiencing goes back as long as we have been living in groups. How much do we owe each other? How much of our very self, our individuality, our privacy, our subjective and autonomous freedom to live as utterly unique human beings, is up for grabs on the say so of whoever is making the rules for the group, not withstanding that the rulemakers have been validated by all of us?
It is no light matter to put in jeopardy a single life when it is the very singularity of each life which underpins the idea of a just society. But it appears to me that our masters are in the grip of the delusionary nightmare of completeness: the complete annihilation of every rogue bacillus. It's as if there is a belief that in the end the virus has no riposte, that there cannot be and will not be a means to evade blanket security if it is blanket enough.
What is the society we wish to protect? Is it the society of complete surveillance for the commonwealth? Is this the wealth we seek to have in common - optimal security at the cost of maximal surveillance? Not that anybody asked us. It takes a brave newspaper to have forced the question into the open.