Obama’s hidden war

DATTA KHEL, Pakistan — This was once an oasis of calm, a peaceful town in a region famous worldwide for its lawlessness and violence. But in 2007, all that changed when Datta Khel became the primary target of unmanned U.S. drones armed with hellfire missiles.

Even with the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden outside of Islamabad on May 2, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials believe this town is the command and control center for members of Al Qaeda and its remaining senior leadership. It is also, they say, home to the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan militant group that has launched continuous attacks on U.S. and NATO forces operating in Afghanistan.

Many of these militants have poured into Datta Khel, which borders northeastern Afghanistan, and the nearby town of Mir Ali in recent years as they have fled Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley.

Further reading.
(Three stories)

Sacred Peace Walk: Day One: Downtown Las Vegas to the Martin Luther King Monument

The Nevada Desert Experience’s stone at the brick wall of the Atomic Test Site
Our Sacred Peace Walk started at the Atomic Test Museum

We read out a poem by Marritte Funches dedicated to the NDE, heard contributions from several people, were Spiritually Cleansed, and set off…

 
Johnnie Bobb and Jeremiah at the Las Vegas Catholic Worker, holding up the spirits

Press Release: Sacred Peace Walk 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

From:Nevada Desert Experience
1420 W. Bartlett Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89106
(702) 646-4814
jim@nevadadesertexperience.org
megan@nevadadesertexperience.org

What:Activists Start Sacred Peace Walk Outside Atomic Testing Museum

Contacts:
Jim Haber
702.646.4814 or 415.828.2506 (cell)
jim…at…nevadadesertexperience.org

Megan Rice
702.646.4814 or 702.574.7420
megan…at…nevadadesertexperience.org

When:Tuesday, April 19, 2011
8:30 am Blessing
9:00 am Walk Begins

Where:
Atomic Testing Museum (at the outdoor Brick Way)
755 E. Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, Nevada

What:
The Sacred Peace Walk will walk through the heart of Las Vegas on Tuesday, April 19, starting outside the Atomic Testing Museum, including stops at the offices of the Nevada Site Office of the National Nuclear Safety Administration and the National Security Technologies, LLC which operates the NNSS for the Department of Energy.The rest of the walk will commence Wednesday from the junction of US-95 and NV-156, demonstrations and spiritual observances through April 26 will include vigils and demonstrations at Creech Air Force Base and the Nevada National Security Site, formerly the Nevada Test Site.

Who:
Nevada Desert Experience, Veterans For Peace, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service along with concerned citizens from all walks of life and faith communities. Bishop Dan Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese and Chief Johnnie Bobb of the Western Shoshone National Council will offer opening blessings on the group. See the Nevada Desert Experience website for more details about the schedule and issues raised by the Sacred Peace Walk.

Why:
By walking in Las Vegas, the Sacred Peace Walk participants will reach a cross-section of society from all over the country and world with the message that we need to liberate ourselves from the threat of nuclear weapons and power, and from the increasing reliance on new weapons systems which continue to cause untold accidental and civilian casualties. By walking from the museum which celebrates the work involved in making the atomic bomb and its role in the cold war and including stops at offices sites of Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) managers, the walkers are making the connection between the historical work at the NNSS and the ongoing support for war underway there and at nearby Creech AFB.

Fukushima is an enormous wake up call for the world. Nuclear weapons, nuclear power and nuclear waste are profoundly dangerous and that other catastrophes cannot be avoided. The harm caused from mining, the inability to store wastes safely in the long or short term, from accidents, and from the threat of nuclear attack by the U.S. and others is bringing more people into a consensus against nuclearism. We sincerely hope a doorway to understanding will finally open so we may avert further calamity both at home as well as in the rest of the world.

The war economy is not working for the USA. Proposed budgets don’t reflect the true cost of war on the economy and people. Programs that cost pennies on the dollar compared to military programs are fighting for survival. Without deep cuts to military spending no change can come. As Martin Luther King said before he was assassinated, there needs to be a “radical revolution of values” in this country, against “militarism, economic exploitation and racism.”

The events at Creech are done in solidarity with the Upstate (NY) Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, a group of concerned citizens from Buffalo, Rochester, Ithaca, Binghamton, Syracuse, Rome and Albany, have organized a week of education and action to protest the Reaper Drones at Syracuse’s Hancock Air National Guard Base, culminating in a rally at Hancocok Airfield, April 22 at 3pm.

Recent incidents of children being killed while gathering firewood, killings of two US service-members by drones, and an estimate by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that 957 people were killed by US drone strikes in that country in 2010 all point to the drones as being a failure if the goal is to end hostilities. Nevada Desert Experience and Sacred Peace Walk participants walk because the evidence has continued to mount, against drones and armed robotics systems as untrustworthy and indescriminating.

Hence, the following portion of the April, 2009 statement from the action that was later dubbed the “Creech-14” remains tragically valid:

“The idea that technology can provide a cleaner and safer battlefield is seductive but has been proven a lie. From the catapult and crossbow, through the use of poison gas and airplanes in World War I, the atom bomb, helicopters and napalm in Vietnam to the “smart bombs” of the Gulf War, war has only grown deadlier. Technological advances may reduce the danger of casualties among the military personnel in the short run, but with each advance the number of civilian deaths multiplies and every war of the past century has numbered more children than soldiers among its victims.”

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Prison for Peacemakers in Tacoma, Washington

From Common Dreams, please also follow the blog http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/ for updates!

Two Grandmothers, Two Priests and a Nun Go onto a Nuclear Base

by Bill Quigley

Two grandmothers, two priests and a nun were sentenced in federal court in Tacoma, WA Monday March 28, 2011, for confronting hundreds of US nuclear weapons stockpiled for use by the deadly Trident submarines.

Sentenced were: Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York, who was ordered to serve 2 months in federal prison and 4 months electronic home confinement; Fr. Bill Bischel, 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington, ordered to serve 3 months in prison and 6 months electronic home confinement; Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, Maryland, ordered to serve 15 months in federal prison; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington, ordered to serve 6 months in federal prison; and Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California, ordered to serve 15 months in federal prison. They were also ordered to pay $5300 each and serve an additional year in supervised probation. Bischel and Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, a community resisting Trident nuclear weapons since 1977.

What did they do?

In the darkness of All Souls night, November 2, 2009, the five quietly cut through a chain link perimeter fence topped with barbed wire.

Carefully stepping through the hole in the fence, they entered into the Kitsap-Bangor Navy Base outside of Tacoma Washington – home to hundreds of nuclear warheads used in the eight Trident submarines based there.

Walking undetected through the heavily guarded base for hours, they covered nearly four miles before they came to where the nuclear missiles are stored.

The storage area was lit up by floodlights. Dozens of small gray bunkers – about the size of double car garages – were ringed by two more chain link fences topped with taut barbed wire.

USE OF DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED one sign boldly proclaimed. Another said WARNING RESTRICTED AREA and was decorated with skull and crossbones.

This was it – the heart of the US Trident Pacific nuclear weapon program. Nuclear weapons were stored in the bunkers inside the double fence line.

Wire cutters cut through these fences as well. There they unfurled hand painted banners which said “Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral”, knelt to pray and waited to be arrested as dawn broke.

What were they protesting against?

Each of the eight Trident submarines has 24 nuclear missiles on it. The Ground Zero community explains that each of the 24 missiles on one submarine have multiple warheads in it and each warhead has thirty times the destructive power of the weapon used on Hiroshima. One fully loaded Trident submarine carries 192 warheads, each designed to explode with the power of 475 kilotons of TNT force. If detonated at ground level each would blow out a crater nearly half a mile wide and several hundred feet deep.

The bunker area where they were arrested is where the extra missiles are stored.

In December 2010, the five went on trial before a jury in federal court in Tacoma charged with felony damage to government property, conspiracy and trespass.

But before the trial began the court told the defendants what they could and could not do in court. Evidence of the medical consequences of nuclear weapons? Not allowed. Evidence that first strike nuclear weapons are illegal under US and international law? Not allowed. Evidence that there were massive international nonviolent action campaigns against Trident missiles where juries acquitted protestors? Not allowed. The defense of necessity where violating a small law, like breaking down a door, is allowed where the actions are taken to prevent a greater harm, like saving a child trapped in a burning building? Not allowed.

Most of the jurors appeared baffled when defendants admitted what they did in their opening statements. They remained baffled when questions about nuclear weapons were objected to by the prosecutor and excluded by the court. The court and the prosecutor repeatedly focused the jury on their position that this was a trial about a fence. Defendants tried valiantly to point to the elephant in the room – the hundreds of nuclear weapons.

Each defendant gave an opening and closing statement explaining, as much as they were allowed, why they risked deadly force to expose the US nuclear arsenal.

Sojourner Truth was discussed as were Rosa Parks, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.

The resistance of the defendants was in the spirit of the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the suffragist movement, the abolition of slavery movement.

Crowds packed the courtroom each of the five days of trial. Each night there was a potluck and a discussion of nuclear weapons by medical, legal and international experts who came for the trial but who were largely muted by the prosecution and the court.

While the jury held out over the weekend, ultimately, the activists were convicted.

Hundreds packed the courthouse today supporting the defendants. The judge acknowledged the good work of each defendant, admitted that prison was unlikely to deter them from further actions, but said he was bound to uphold the law otherwise anarchy would break out and take down society.

The prosecutors asked the judge to send all the defendants to federal prison plus three years supervised probation plus pay over five thousand dollars. The specific jail time asked for ranged from 3 years for Fr. Kelly, 30 months for Susan Crane, Lynne Greenwald, 7 months in jail plus 7 months home confinement, Sr. Anne Montgomery and Fr. Bill Bichsel, 6 months jail plus 6 months home confinement.

Each of the defendants went right into prison from the courtroom as the spectators sang to them. Outside the courthouse, other activists pledged to confront the Trident in whatever way is necessary to stop the illegal and immoral weapons of mass destruction.

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Bill Quigley is part of the legal team supporting the defendants and was in Tacoma for the sentencing. You can learn more about the defendants at disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com.


Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Contact Bill at quigley77 @ gmail.com