May 17, 2009

Since the first American missile was launched at Iraq, Said has not slept well. "How could I sleep while hearing explosions and shouting behind my bedroom every day," he said by telephone from his home in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. When Said leaves his home, he is not sure if he will come back.

His situation is not unique. The mother of another young Iraqi man named Fareed complained in a hoarse voice on the telephone, "My son went out one day and never came back. ... I don't know whether he died or not. ... He suddenly disappeared."

Life is unforgiving in Mosul, where American forces have become the guards of the city. When I asked Said and Fareed's mother if the withdrawal of American forces would affect the people there, both said it does not matter.

"This is not a safe environment," Fareed's mother said. "There is no safety here. ... Americans just protect their interests."

May 3, 2009

On April 29, in a packed Monroe County Library meeting room, Veterans for Peace President Mike Ferner gave a lecture titled "Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan."

Ferner, who has been to Iraq twice, once before the 2003 U.S. invasion and once afterward, said, "I am basing much of my statements on the 'Beyond Vietnam' speech which Martin Luther King gave at the Riverside Church in April 1967. It is a sad commentary on our times that much of what King spoke is still true today."

Ferner, who lives in Toledo, was brought to Bloomington by the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition (BPAC), the Bloomington branch of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom and peace activist and Bloomington Alternative contributor Linda Greene.

April 19, 2009

Mike Ferner, president of Veterans for Peace (VFP), will speak in Bloomington on April 29, at 7 p.m. in room 2B of the Monroe County Public Library.

Ferner, who served as a Navy Hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War, took care of hundreds of wounded soldiers and was discharged as a conscientious objector. His arrests for "disturbing the war" include disrupting a session of Congress.

Founded in 1985, VFP is a national organization with headquarters in St. Louis and chapters and at-large members around the country. The organization includes women and men veterans of all eras and duty stations, from the Spanish Civil War to the Iraq war.

April 5, 2009

To activists accustomed to participating in peace marches involving hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., the March 21 march on the Pentagon, which commemorated the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was disappointing: no more than 10,000 protesters participated in the rally and march.

According to Michael T. McPhearson, executive director of Veterans for Peace and co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, this demonstration was critical in guiding the Obama administration from the ground up.

"We must confront [the power brokers and financiers] at their seat of power," McPhearson wrote in an e-mailed letter. "President Obama must know that we hold him accountable for his promise to bring the troops home from Iraq. He is now the Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces. Their use is up to his discretion."

April 5, 2009

The second teach-in sponsored by the IU student activist group Indiana Students Against War (ISAW) focused on the global “War on Terror” and attracted about 40 people to the four-hour event on April 2.

ISAW member and teach-in moderator Sandrine Catris said in her opening remarks that the purpose of the teach-in was twofold: to recruit more activists and to critique the War on Terror.

“ISAW believes that if people honestly and openly discuss what is happening that they will become activists,” she said.

March 8, 2009

On March 20, a few days after the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 55 intrepid Bloomingtonians will board a bus bound for Washington, D.C, for a peace march on the Pentagon. Thirteen hundred organizations and individuals have endorsed the march, the first national one against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since President Barack Obama was elected.

The demonstration's rallying cries are, “From Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine, Occupation is a Crime” and “We Need Jobs and Education, Not Wars and Occupation.” The demonstrators will urge an end to the war threats and economic sanctions against Iran and will protest the illegal U.S. program of detention and torture.

"It's important to let the new administration and Congress know that the public is still very much aware of and opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mike Ferner, president of Veterans for Peace, said in an e-mail. “We do not like what we're hearing about slowly pulling out of Iraq while leaving 50,000 troops there permanently, and we don't believe that Afghanistan is somehow the 'right' war that we should be waging seriously.”

January 25, 2009

About 75 people attended the Indiana Students Against War's (ISAW) first of several planned teach-ins on the IU campus. This four-hour event on Jan. 22 at the Indiana Memorial Union focused on the violence happening in the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

“The purpose of our gathering is twofold,” moderator Sandrine Emmanuel Catris said when opening the event. “First, we realize that the mainstream U.S. media and politicians have been mis-educating and misleading the U.S. public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The hope was that the teach-in would help everyone better understand that the situation in the Middle-East has nothing to do with a war between Judaism, Islam or Christianity for that matter, but that it has everything to do with colonialism and imperialism, she said.

“Our second goal is to recruit more activists,” Catris continued. “ISAW believes that positive social changes can only happen through activism and the building of a grass-root movement devoted to social justice.”

October 19, 2008

Dear Smiley-face Doll from Alaska, listen please:

You've accused Barack Obama of "pallin' around with terrorists." You were speaking of a professor named William Ayers, who got way too angry in his youth.

When Ayers was an alleged "terrorist" Obama was a 7-year-old boy who didn't know him. Ayers was violently opposed to the Vietnam War, as was a large proportion of the American public at the time. The Pentagon was a target because that's who was running that misbegotten war. Millions of Americans opposed that war because the United States was bombing and strafing Vietnamese cities and villages, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Our bombings were terrorist acts on a huge scale.

The silver-haired old gent beside you now, the one who picked you to be his running mate in the presidential campaign, was one of those people who flew fighter-bomber planes over Vietnamese cities and killed innocent people in their own country. To them, such pilots were genuine terrorists.

October 5, 2008

This semester, I'm teaching a course that examines U.S. press performance during the Iraq War. We've been using books -- such as Michael Massing's eminently readable, if deeply disturbing, Now They Tell Us -- that document the extent to which American journalists uncritically accepted the Bush administration's rationale for war with Iraq.

My students are bright, and they certainly appreciate the importance of critical thinking. Nonetheless, they have had a hard time accepting the awful truth that the U.S. press corps was complicit in the administration's propaganda campaign to secure popular support for the war.

September 7, 2008

It's hard to refrain from saying, "I told you so."

I first began pleading, way back about 18 years ago: "Let's not start wars in the Middle East. Please. Don't attack Iraq, George Bush."

The first time, I was speaking of George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. He was getting ready to hit Iraq for attacking Kuwait. Old George's popularity ratings were way down (as Bush popularity ratings tend to go as soon as they get in the White House), and here was a chance for him to look righteous and strong, even if it meant turning suddenly against an old ally, Saddam Hussein.

We know Hussein was vicious and nuts, but we'd been sucking up to him because of certain oil-supply realities and because he was an enemy of our "enemy," Iran. Maybe you remember that photograph of Donald Rumsfeld bowing to and shaking hands with Saddam, who had been gassing Kurds with chemical weapons acquired from American businesses. It's one of my favorite news photographs of all time, because it is the purest image of political hypocrisy that ever stood before a camera lens.

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