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Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: Trying to Support the Troops
Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: Trying to Support the Troops
It must have been several years ago because the signs we held said “Free Bradley Manning,” and we Vets for Peace didn’t have to defend Chelsea Manning’s transgender rights while bringing attention to the persecuted, military whistle-blower Americans were trying to ignore. At an event in Riverfront Park, I was approached by two burly young men who said they were active duty military and considered Manning to be a traitor. They thought the army intelligence analyst’s reporting a massacre by U.S. helicopter crews was insignificant compared to the release of other classified information to Wikileaks. At least they knew something about the case. But then, they issued a challenge they might like to have back, now. “If you want to do something for an American soldier, put our government to work to free Beau Bergdahl.”
How things change. Private Manning, known now as Chelsea, is serving a 45-year prison sentence while the soldiers she reported remain uncharged and unpunished. Sgt. Beau Bergdahl is back in the U.S. after a controversial hostage/prisoner exchange, awaiting a decision on whether he will be charged with a crime. The story is different from the one several years ago, and several men from his unit want to see Bergdahl punished for being a deserter and putting them at risk.
I have an affinity for Chelsea Manning and Beau Bergdahl, not because they found themselves in the midst of a stupid, illegal war, as I once did, but because they dared to break away from the herd, assert their individuality, and distance themselves from the senseless killing that is part of every war. I knew the military could not be trusted to spare Manning for her courageous display of integrity, but I’m not ready to accept her harsh sentence, either. Most of Bergdahl’s story remains mysterious, but it seems to me that he could not justify what he was being told to do regarding people he did not hate. I don’t expect him to be treated very well.
Manning’s supporters are struggling to raise legal funds, but the media are tired of the story, which never had much traction with them, anyway. Bergdahl’s case, too, is slipping out of the public eye, as we are quietly told, every week or two, that a decision will be made, soon. The Pentagon spin doctors don’t want you to remember the soldiers whom they can’t squeeze into the hero mold. For instance, they’re not going to email you updates on how Sgt. Bales is getting along in prison for practicing his military craft on randomly selected Afghan civilians. It’s hard enough for them to keep a lid on the most egregious cases of military sexual trauma.
Meanwhile, we are treated to plenty of media coverage of other byproducts of perpetual war, and we’re warned about public comments regarding our military adventures and adventurers. The Brian Williams kerfuffle reminds us that we can even get into trouble for the way we praise our heroes in the armed forces. In fact, I contemplated writing about Williams’ problems, myself, until it became clear that every valid observation and conjecture on the subject has already been
made, at least once, but I would point out that his buddy, the retired sergeant major, credited with his safety when he wasn’t almost shot down, didn’t bother to correct his memory when they had a high-profile reunion at a hockey game
Speaking of the hero mold, Chris Kyle seems to have broken the mold and been elevated, posthumously, to an exclusive pedestal. It wasn’t sufficient that his memoir captivated war fans around the country before he was shot to death while trying to help a marine veteran deal with his PTSD. Self promotion could not achieve what Hollywood has for the former sniper, and his film story is now in the record books for legendary money-making. Kyle will be, if he is not already, the most famous enlisted person in U.S. military history and will probably surpass John McCain as the most recognizable figure to have been in the U.S. Navy and not been subsequently elected president. Have your kids ever heard of John Paul Jones or David Farragut? Not that I think they should.
While American Sniper, the film, continues to bust blocks, the Kyle saga continues in a Texas courtroom. Perhaps there’s a verdict as you read this, but I’m betting there’s no closure. Not for the families of the victims or the 27-year old defendant or the millions to whom the deadliest sniper, ever, is an object of adoration and patriotic pride. Certainly not for the military which relies upon the uncritical loyalty of each pillar of American values.
Eddie Ray Routh is on trial for the murder of Kyle and Chad Littlefield, two years ago. His plea is: not guilty due to insanity, and early testimony makes one wonder why the prosecution would take the case to trial and make it painfully obvious that Routh should have been hospitalized upon discharge from the Marines in 2010. From my perspective, the state risks confirming our fears that the U.S. military routinely recruits mentally ill persons and trains them to kill, or trains fine young people to kill before placing them into a crucible which will ensure moral and/or physical wounds which will limit their capacities for constructive citizenship.
If you miss the irony in the movie or book, I doubt you can avoid it in the courtroom. Littlefield, not a veteran, had tried to help a number of PTSD victims and was something of a Kyle groupie. Although the good Samaritans realized their charity case was seriously delusional, it didn’t occur to them that handing him a loaded gun was a bad idea. And, regardless of the outcome of the trial, it appears Kyle will be remembered as a great patriot and hero who lived and died trying to help his fellow Americans. Many of us who learned too much, too soon, about war, will never be able to think of a prolific sniper in a far-away country as someone who is saving lives, and it’s torturous to contemplate navy recruiters telling teenagers that if they’re good enough for the SEALS, they could be like Chris Kyle.
I don’t recommend that you disparage Kyle publicly, unless you are prepared for ostracism, at best. But if someone wants my opinion about snipers, I’ll recommend they read a significant part of my favorite American novel, The Brothers K, by David James Duncan.
When I went to Vietnam, in 1967, I was a true believer and a good shot. There were times I wished to be enlisted instead of commissioned, but I never wished I’d been a sniper. Today, I wish someone had told me, “Don’t kill for me. I feel safer with no enemies.”
Warrior Songs Spokane hosts retreat and “A Public Listening”
There are so many unacceptable costs of war from human life to the “demonic destructive suction tube” draining resources from our federal budget. While we continue to oppose each and every act of war, let us not also tell the truth about the costs incurred by veterans, their families, and our communities resulting from these acts. Please spread the word about this great healing opportunity for veterans with PTSD to anyone you know who may benefit from it. There is also a public event on Saturday Nov 22 for community members to learn more and show support.
Warrior Songs Spokane:
A healing retreat for veterans with PTSD
November 19-23, 2014 Read more »
Director’s reflection: How to build peace
This spring, as we sat down with our 2013-2014 community organizing interns to talk about their experience with us, we realized that somehow none of them had led chants into a bullhorn, none of them had held banners while we marched, none of them had managed sign-in at a rally. We were shocked when we realized we hadn’t held a major march or rally since our rapid response in September which was part of the successful national push-back against US war on Syria.
This summer has looked far different! Starting with a Global Day Against Military Spending action, we’ve mobilized in April rain, May sun, June heat, July 4th weekend traffic, and late July wildfire smoke for actions calling to “End the Spiral of Violence: End these Endless Wars” with a focus on opposing increased US military presence in Iraq, extending our occupation of Afghanistan into 2016, and US-funded military attacks on Gaza.
Repeatedly as we get ready to mobilize, I look for the writings of thought-leaders and opinion-makers on what to call for instead of the latest proposal to bomb. This is especially necessary because the pro-war extremists have been pretty consistent about adding a humanitarian talking point to their list of reasons war is the answer, and that talking point is effective. Read more »
Israel’s hypocritical claim of “self defense” goes largely unquestioned in U.S. media
Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/Bloglander/archives/2014/07/12/israels-hypocritical-claim-of-self-defense-goes-largely-unquestioned-in-us-media)
Posted By Taylor Weech on Sat, Jul 12, 2014 at 9:43 AM
Five days ago, when I interviewed Ayman Nijim, a Gazan masters student working on his degree in Vermont, the bombardment of his neighborhood and other major population centers in Gaza had barely begun. Since then, he has posted updates that tally the numbers of dead and wounded in his town and others in the besieged area and memorialized specific friends killed in the bombing. While the news we see here might portray the success of Israel in targeting Hamas specifically, the stream of images coming directly from Gaza tells a different story. An ambulance carrying wounded to a hospital that can’t sustain electricity for more than 12 hours a day targeted and destroyed; homes, churches, and stores bombed without warning; children dead in their parents’ arms or missing entire pieces of their bodies. Read more >>
PJALS leader Mike Nuess has this strong op-ed on Truth-Out:
While thinking about Syria it may be valuable to keep in mind something Chomsky regularly and wisely suggests: that the realization of a just and eventually peaceful world certainly requires our sustained commitment to the fundamental moral principle of universality, which simply means that we hold ourselves to the same set of standards that we expect of others. Then it would be complete hypocrisy to consider ourselves civilized were we to claim an act wrong for others but not for us.
On August 26, 2013 US Secretary of State Kerry said, referring to Syria, “The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children, and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.”
Yet Kerry should know the U.S. has failed to renounce both its direct use of and complicity in the use of chemical weapons to indiscriminately kill thousands—possibly millions—in Vietnam, the Iran-Iraq war, the 2003 Iraq Invasion and 2008-9 in Gaza. The hypocrisy of our own government’s barbaric sale, tolerance and use of internationally outlawed weapons lends no credibility to its current claim that Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons is its real motive for attacking that nation.
Every act of state terrorism needs its pretext. … Read the full article here.
Peace & Justice Action Committee: A new model to advance our work
by Shar Lichty
After a summer off, our Peace & Justice Action Committee (PJAC) will be resuming our meeting schedule on Sept. 19th with a new approach: leadership development and campaign-specific organizing. Read more »
Fretting about Fairchild …and other chronic ills
Rusty Nelson on Peace and War
Long ago, in a time of relative innocence and prosperity, the people of the Spokane area hitched themselves to the star of the U.S. Air Force. It didn’t take much reflection or study, just a simple faith that our country and it’s military establishment had always been noble and right and would never betray our confidence that Fairchild Air Force Base would make us all safer, prouder, and wealthier.
As the USAF celebrates 65 years, many of us have been cynical for a long time, especially we who have done horrible things under military orders and then watched as our safety, pride and wealth are stripped from people and bestowed upon corporations. In spite of hard numbers and unresolved superfund sites, we are expected to believe that Fairchild is the best thing that ever happened to our area’s economy. Read more »
Our Community of Action Going Forward Together
by Liz Moore, PJALS Director
What I love most about PJALS is being part of a community of people who take action together based on the connections between human rights, economic justice, & peace.
Our Steering Committee asked you, PJALS members, to guide strategic planning for 2013-2014. We learned that you overwhelmingly support organizing to raise revenue & reject cuts as well as to counter the costs of militarism and to demand money for people, not for war. You’re also passionate about alternatives to incarceration & police accountability. You value that we create community together through our events & campaigns. You strongly support our Young Activist Leaders Program & our interns. You love our Action Conference. You want PJALS to continue to strengthen our connections with communities of color & with rural people.
Why prioritize those areas? Read more »
Pull the Pentagon Pork: Protect our Priorities, Protect Families
Update: Check out our photo petition on the National Day of Action to Pull the Pentagon Pork here!
By Lucy Vazquez
On Tuesday February 19th PJALS members met with John Culton, the Eastern Washington Director for Senator Patty Murray as our second mobilization, following up on our December action, where we delivered over 1,100 signatures of individuals and 18 different organizations that have signed on as part of PJALS’ Bring Our Billions Home Campaign. As the fight over the budget continues and more cuts to social programs are on the chopping block, PJALS decided to make a stance and urge Senator Murray to protect our communities and fight to reduce wasteful Pentagon spending.
Sitting in Senator Murray’s Eastern Washington Director John Culton’s office with seven PJALS members–veterans, students, farmers, mothers and fathers, and other everyday people–and listening to their stories made me realize this is not about numbers, it’s about impacting real people and communities. Read more »
pulling at the threads of our culture of violence
by Liz Moore, PJALS Director
I hope you will join us on Thursday February 7, in the Community Building Lobby, 35 W. Main from 5:30-8pm for our panel discussion of the culture of violence
Like you, my thoughts, heart, and sorrow have been with the families, children, teachers, and entire community of Newtown, CT, in the wake of the devastating tragedy of 28 people, including 20 children, shot and killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School. I have felt the need not to engage with much media coverage of this heartbreaking event, but I do feel the need to share some reflection and thoughts with you here.
This horrible atrocity is part of a pattern of violence in our country. A timeline of most deadly mass shootings from 1989 to the present is a shocking and saddening set of information, showing increasing frequency in more recent years. And at the same time, our federal budget puts 47% of our national budget into past and current Pentagon spending, Read more »
Spokane’s Pax Christi Engages the New National Strategic Narrative
By Mike Nuess
Capt. Wayne Porter, USN, proposes that a new world vision and strategies for strategic security and prosperity that he presents in Mr. Y: A National Strategic Narrative (NSN) should replace those presented in George Kennan’s 1946 document, Mr. X: The Sources of Soviet Conduct, which defined the U.S. government’s Cold War vision, strategies and tactics still in place today.
Last April Pax Christi-Spokane and Gonzaga University’s Departments of Political Science and Religion hosted Capt. Porter in a one-day conference. Porter explained the new vision in terms of the need to respond to new threats requiring new ways of thinking. For examples, we are confronted by a global resource crisis where shortages of food supplies, water and the impending demise of fossil fuels challenge us to think of sustainable solutions that bring security; we must understand and adapt to an extremely turbulent change in climate, which will likely affect large populations around the planet, further impacting strategic and economic security. Read more »
PJALS Tells Senators Murray and Cantwell, “Money for People, Not for War!”
by Josh Neil
The fight over the fiscal bluff continues to heat up. Members of PJALS, Veterans for Peace, the Progressive Democrats, the EWU chapter of MEChA, and leaders in the faith community came together to lift our collective voice in order to tell Senators Murray and Cantwell, “Money for People, Not for War!”
Our country has a choice to make: we can either work towards prosperity for our working families and the middle class (who make up the majority of our population); or we can continue to pour money down the drain, into the mouths of the millionaires and CEOs. I think the choice is crystal clear. Forty-seven percent of income taxes for 2013 will go towards Pentagon spending–spending that creates fewer jobs than spending on education, healthcare and other social services. Read more »
The Government and Your Guns
By David Swanson, originally posted at War Is A Crime
“There is no correlation between personal liberties in a nation and its gun ownership.”
We’re in the grip of twin madnesses, and those who have overcome one of them can still be completely controlled by the other.
The first madness is the idea that spending a trillion dollars a year on weaponry and war preparations makes us safer, that 1,000 military bases abroad protect rather than provoke, that nuclear arsenals discourage terrorism, that drones have civilized the act of blowing up somebody’s house, that the Pentagon’s business really is “defense.”
Why should our 4% of humanity need more weaponry than the rest of the world for protection? Read more »
We said: “Money for People, Not for War!”
With the support of 18 faith communities, businesses, and organizations, we delivered 1123 signatures to Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell, urging them to vote for “Money for People, Not for War!” Thank you for signing in support! You can still endorse this important campaign here: www.pjals.org/billions.
Diane Randall: “Change is All in the Timing: NOW is the Best Chance in Decades to Turn the Tide on Pentagon Spending!”
Local faith and justice groups are host national peace leader Diane Randall on national budget priorities and opportunities, and we want you to join us!
Our Fall Advocacy Forum on Saturday, October 27, will feature keynote speaker Diane Randall, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a 70-year-old peace lobby in Washington, D.C. Randall will present: “Change is All in the Timing: NOW is the Best Chance in Decades to Turn the Tide on Pentagon Spending!” Read more »
Good news: WA state Senate Committee calls for “Money for People, Not for War!”
URGENT ACTION NEEDED! Sign the petition here for a full Senate vote!
A Washington State Senate committee passed SJM 8014, calling upon Congress to stop the Afghanistan war, bring the troops home to their families, cut the military budget, and shift spending to job creation, education, healthcare, environmental protections, and lifeline programs for struggling families! Now we need your help to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote!
SJM 8014 is now in the Senate Rules Committee, where it will languish unless a member of the Senate Rules Committee pulls it by Tuesday Feb 15 at 5pm to send it to the floor for a vote by the entire Washington State Senate. Fortunately, Spokane 3rd LD State Senator Lisa Brown serves on the Rules Committee and is the powerful Senate Majority Leader. Please contact her IMMEDIATELY and ask her to send SJM 8014 to the floor. TIME IS SHORT, SO PLEASE ACT NOW.
Phone: 360-786-7604 or (509) 456-2760
(sample message below)
Read more »
Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: we can refuse to have people for our enemies
By Rusty Nelson
Here in our golden years, in our pastoral, rustic homestead, Nancy and I watch quite a few movies. It’s sometimes a good way to escape reality and, sometimes a way to confront and examine reality, depending upon perspectives. As movie-watchers, we found ourselves viewing the whoop-de-do around the presentation of the Golden Globe Awards, holding out the hope that a “Hollywood Liberal” or two might make an inspiring statement about Martin Luther King or the Occupy movement, or denounce militarism or capital punishment or money-driven elections in the temporary, bully pulpit.
My moment arrived when Iranian director Asghar Farwadi went to the stage to accept the award for his film, “A Separation.” Read more »
Work Not War: Bring Our Billion$ Home
by Shar Lichty, Organizer
On Saturday, October 8 PJALS held what has sadly become a yearly event, a march against US war and occupation to commemorate the 10th anniversary of US war in Afghanistan, now the longest war in US history. As part of our Bring Our Billion$ Home campaign this year’s theme was “Work Not War.”
We kicked off the event with a community speak-out, hearing from veterans and community members on the human and economic costs of war. Speakers included Rusty Nelson and Mike Edwards from Veterans for Peace, service providers David Brookbank and Reese McMullin-Holford and Pastor Liv Larson-Andrews from Salem Lutheran Church. The speak-out was followed by a march through the Garland District in a show of support for our local, small businesses. (Pictures after the jump!) Read more »
Community Speak-out and March for Work Not War
1:00 pm, Saturday, October 8, Clarke Park on the corner of Garland and Division
Join PJALS members like you to commemorate 10 years of US war and occupation in Afghanistan. Speakers will include veterans and community members on the many costs of war including out-of-control military spending and the resulting lack of funding for lifeline programs for struggling families in our communities.
And, two days prior, join us to Meet and Eat
Thursday, October 6, 5:30-7:00pm, Lobby of the Community Bldg, 35 W. Main