Since its inception in 1946, the SOA – or as critics often referred to it, “the School of Assassins” – has epitomized America’s peculiar brand of “outsourced imperialism.” The list of leaders dispatched by the SOA, the catalogue of criminal indictments and the not-insignificant death tolls tallied in SOA-linked civil wars and so-called “counter-insurgencies” is, for lack of a better word, impressive. For the last 25 years, the school’s critics – ranging from religious activists to members of Congress to indigenous rights’ leaders – have regarded its programs, and theinfamous training manuals made public in 1996, as uniquely responsible for theterrible consequences – unintended or otherwise – of America’s long-standing policy of arming, training and dispatching generations of military leaders around Central and South America.
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.
On Thursday, November 13, I dropped down in my seat at the hearing room of the House Armed Services Committee on the Administration’s Strategy and Military Campaign against ISIL, a little depressed at what was to come. More war, less hope for peace. Just two days earlier, on Veterans Day, I was at the widely advertised and well attended “Concert for Valor” on the National Mall. Veterans Day was previously known as Armistice Day, started after WWI as a day to celebrate an end to war. Now it’s a day to glorify warriors, and I was threatened with arrest for having a sign that read “Celebrate the Peacemakers”. The moment I sat down in the Congressional hearing and heard the conversation between Chairman Buck McKeon and the witness Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a warm rush of thoughts came over me that made me feel very nostalgic.
To our brothers and sisters in the Missouri National Guard: We are writing to you as active-duty U.S. service members and veterans, most of us having served in the Iraq war. You have a choice you can make right now. The whole world is watching the Ferguson police with disgust. They killed an unarmed, college-bound Black youth in broad daylight, and subsequently responded to peaceful, constitutionally-protected protests with extreme violence and repression. Countless constitutional and human rights violations by these police have been documented over the course of the Ferguson protests; from attacking and threatening journalists, to using tear gas against peaceful protesters, including children.
Next Monday, November 24, I’m launching a new campaign, “We Stand With Shaker,” with my colleague Jo Macinnes, and the support of organisations including Reprieve and the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, born in Saudi Arabia, who has a British wife and four British children. Shamefully, for both the US and the UK governments, Shaker is still held despite being approved for release under President Bush in 2007, and under President Obama in 2009, following the deliberations of the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that the president established shortly after taking office for the first time in January 2009.
Takeshi Onaga, who had vowed to block the shifting of U.S. flight operations from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Camp Schwab, defeated incumbent Hirokazu Nakaima handily Sunday in Okinawa’s governor race. With 99.68 percent of the votes counted by press time, Onaga had garnered 360,536 votes to Nakaima’s 260,727. Former state minister Mikio Shimoji and musician-turned-representative Shokichi Kina received 69,212 and 7,795 respectively. All eyes had been on the race as it had widely been seen as a referendum on Tokyo’s policies regarding U.S. military posture in Japan, as well as a new U.S. military runway slated for the northern city of Nago. Onaga, who will take office Dec. 10, had vowed to block efforts to move flight operations from Futenma to Camp Schwab, if elected.
Twenty five years ago this week, six Jesuit scholars at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in El Salvador opened the doors of their residence to members of a government death squad, who had been armed and trained by the United States. The soldiers marched the priests to the back garden. They were ordered to lie face down. They were shot and killed like dogs along with their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. Father Ignacio Ellacuría Bescoetxea, one of the six Jesuits executed that night, had been a vocal advocate for a negotiated political settlement to the war that had devastated the small Central American country over the course of the decade. On November 16, 1989, Ellacuría would become one of the more than 75,000 killed in the brutal violence carried out by the military dictatorship. The ruling junta was the beneficiary of billions in military aid from the United States government, which they received for their efforts to suppress a populist rebellion by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). Nine years earlier, Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero had been gunned down at the altar by a death squad member while he was in the middle of celebrating Mass. Before his assassination, Romero had sent a letter to President Jimmy Carter pleading with him to stop sending military aid to the Salvadoran military junta.
Medea Benjamin is internationally renown for standing up for the oppressed and against violence and war. The co-founder of Code Pink, Women for Peace, is also no stranger to hostile situations involving law enforcement. Media Benjamin painting by John ZangasBut she never expected to be ordered off the National Mall or face arrest if she didn’t stop holding heart shaped peace signs and wearing a shirt with a peace messages on it. But that is what happened to her and eleven other peace activists at the Concert For Valor on Veteran’s Day. Benjamin has worked internationally on peaceful solutions to world conflict and went to the Mall to reach out to the public about U.S. plans to send troops back to Iraq.
While Congress may soon debate the ongoing US wars in Iraq and Syria, a new FAIR study shows that at the critical moments leading up to the escalation of US military action, mainstream media presented almost no debate at all. The study of key TV news discussion programs from September 7 through 21 reveals that guests who opposed war were scarce. The study evaluated discussion and debate segments on the Sunday talk shows (CNN’s State of the Union, CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC’s This Week,Fox News Sunday and NBC’s Meet the Press), the PBS NewsHour and a sample of cable news programs that feature roundtables and interview segments (CNN’s Situation Room, Fox News Channel’s Special Reportand MSNBC’s Hardball).
On Nov. 10, after just two hours of deliberation at the Detroit federal courthouse, a jury decided that Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian American community leader, is guilty on one count of unlawful procurement of naturalization. Rasmea faces up to 10 years in prison and could be deported. The defense is going ahead to file an appeal of the verdict after sentencing. Both the prosecution and the defense teams were informed by Judge Drain that the jury had wanted to meet with them after the announcement of the verdict; however, the jurors only met with the government attorneys and never asked to speak with the defense. “That’s the kind of jury we had: they were kept ignorant of 75 percent of our defense and then they didn’t even want to hear from us at the end,” told Michael Deutsch, lead defense attorney to the crowd of supporters outside of the courthouse after the verdict.
With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens. As in prior military operations in the Greater Middle East, U.S. forces fighting IS have been aided by access to and the use of an unprecedented collection of military bases. They occupy a region sitting atop the world’s largest concentration of oil and natural gas reserves and has long been considered the most geopolitically important place on the planet. Indeed, since 1980, the U.S. military has gradually garrisoned the Greater Middle East in a fashion only rivaled by the Cold War garrisoning of Western Europe or, in terms of concentration, by the bases built to wage past wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Code Pink activist Tighe Barry was arrested and charged with disruption of Congress today during an Armed Service Committee hearing on the subject of The Administration’s Strategy and Military Campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). “This is the first hearing since Obama announced that there are going to be 1,500 more troops sent to Iraq,” Medea Benjamin told me as we waited to enter the public hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building, and added: “let’s remember that it is months now since the (U.S.) bombing started in Syria and Iraq and Congress has never taken a position on this. In fact, Congress went off for the election season without fulfilling its duty, which is to declare war or give the President the authorization.
Israel denied entry on Wednesday evening to members of a UN commission appointed by the Human Rights Council to investigate possible war crimes committed during Operation Protective Edge. Members of the committee, often referred to by the name of the lead investigator, Prof. William Schabas, had arrived in Amman before asking permission to enter Israel. Jerusalem refused their request and the decision led to an announcement that Israel would not cooperate with the commission. The Schabas commission was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the heated confrontation last summer.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that he will call the Missouri National Guard, should violence erupt after the grand jury decision in the case of Darren Wilson. During a press conference on Tuesday, Nixon also said that more than 1000 law enforcement officials have completed 5,000 hours of specialized training over the past two months, in preparation for the verdict, which will be announced any day now. In addition to the use of the National Guard, three police agencies including St. Louis County Police, city police, and highway patrol will follow the same command, if Darren Wilson is not indicted and protesters take to the streets. Many departments have invested in new riot gear.
On 1 June 1954, less than a year after America exited the Korean War in defeat, the US congress got rid of Armistice Day, which was established in 1919, and started Veterans Day. In place of what had been a celebration of peace, Congress instituted an annual veneration of those who fought in war. America would ever after celebrate not the beauty of peace, but its purveyors of state violence in World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Kosovo, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and more. Governments had meant to do the opposite in 1919: if you go back and read the newspapers of the time closely enough, you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief and jubilation on the first Armistice Day. Millions celebrated peace and renounced war. Kurt Vonnegut, a World War II veteran, wrote in 1973: Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. “Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not. So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.”