(December 26, 2010) — Zealously hunting for a rationale to indict Julian Assange for the Wikileaks documents reveals the obsession of presidents to suppress information exposing improper or illegal conduct. They treat the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment as privileges to be withdrawn when those freedoms threaten to cause them a serious problem. Their pretext for their response is to blur the distinction between subversion and dissent.
Together with the suppression of individual freedoms, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, unwarranted search and seizures, assassination squads, harsh response to protests and the designation enemy combatant are part of a security regime that leads Americans on a dangerous path to tyrannical government, some might even say dictatorship. Ironically, the structure of American democracy was heavily based on the fear of monarchies and the accumulation of too much power at the highest levels of government.
A healthy democracy is based on an open society with a free exchange of ideas and tolerance of dissent where seeking the truth is considered the noblest pursuit. John Adams warned us about the dangers of tyranny even in a democracy when he uttered the words: “The Jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arms always stretched out if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”
Former British foreign secretary Robin Cook postulates a far grimmer scenario when he claimed that: “All the checks and balances that the founding fathers constructed to restrain presidential power are broken instruments.”
At the extreme end of the spectrum are those who believe that the United States is becoming or is a police state. Naomi Wolf, author and political consultant, argues that: “It is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps [to becoming a fascist state] have already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.” As well, Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, worries that: “It is no exaggeration to say we are moving toward a police state.”
There have been numerous attempts since 1798 to suppress dissent in the United States but in recent years the sophistication of technology, a corroborative media, a climate of fear and the abdication by Congress of its critical role as a check on the powers of the president, not to mention its collaboration in the expansion of his powers, has resulted in significantly greater powers of the chief executive to suppress dissent.
Previous attempts to suppress dissent usually occurred when perceived internal or external threats induced fear over the security of the state in the same way that terrorism justifies the extreme security measures that are in place today.
When the United States was on the brink of war with France in 1798, the Federalist Party passed the Alien and Sedition Acts to safeguard the union from internal threats. The Alien Act targeted immigrants who might side with France and the Sedition Act criminalized malicious writings which defamed, brought into contempt or disrepute, or excited the hatred of the people against the Government, the President, or the Congress, or which stirred people to sedition.
Then in 1962, President Lincoln facing an armed rebellion within the United States suspended habeas corpus, the foundation of all the freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.
During the outset of the civil war, President Lincoln, facing riots and hostile militias, particularly in Maryland, suspended Habeas Corpus in Maryland and parts of some mid-western states. Article 1, Section 9 of the constitution prohibits the suspension of Habeas Corpus “unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it”. Since Section 9 refers to Congressional powers, Lincoln’s decision was very controversial.
President Wilson signed the Espionage Act into law in 1917 which criminalized vaguely defined anti-war activities such as gathering information with the intention to injure the United States or with the intention of promoting its enemies during World War 1. It was followed by the Sedition Act of 1918 which defined as illegal acts defaming the American flag or the uniforms of military forces.
During Word War II, President Roosevelt issued executive order 9066 granting the military the power to create internment camps to hold all persons of Japanese ancestry for the duration of the war.
Other attempts to suppress dissent include the FBI Cointelpro program which appallingly authorized the assassination of suspected internal threats to American security and the harsh treatment of protestors at various events including the 1968 Chicago Convention, Berkley sit-ins and Kent State.
Since 9/11, civil, political and legal rights both nationally and internationally have been severely curtailed all in the name of protecting the security of the United States.
One of the cornerstones of the emerging quasi-police state in America is the Patriot Act which grants agents of the state the powers to treat ordinary American citizens as suspected terrorists if, in their judgment, there is reasonable cause.
US government officials can now name individuals as terrorists without a public hearing, conduct search and seizures in private homes, tap telephone lines, subpoena anyone’s telephone, medical and university records without any real legal obstacles.
Surreally, it expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, enlarging the scope of activities to which the Patriot act implies. Since its passage, Americans can be detained indefinitely under the aegis of the Patriot Act. In addition, it granted immigration authorities the power to detain and deport immigrants.
Congress overwhelmingly supported passage of the original and reauthorization Bills with the Senate voting 98 in favor in 2001 and 89 in favor in 2006. In the House, 357 voted in favor in 2001 and 280 in favor in 2006.
On February 2010, President Obama signed into law, legislation that would temporarily extend for one year three controversial provisions of the Act.
In contrast, there was sharp opposition in Congress to the Sedition Act of 1798. Vice President, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the entire Democratic-Republican Party condemned the Act as unconstitutional. As well, there was strong public opposition to the Sedition Act.
When Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, the press and Supreme Court opposed it as unconstitutional. Congress called an emergency session to introduce a bill to provide indemnity for President Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus although the democrats strongly opposed the suspension. The press demanded that the suspension be tested in the courts to determine its validity.
President Wilson’s introduction of sedition legislation in 1918 met with considerable opposition from Republicans and the final vote in the Senate was 48 to 26 and in the House 293 to 1 in favor. Congress repealed the Sedition Act on December 13, 1920.
Although the Sedition Act was upheld in the Supreme Court in Abrams v. United States in 1919, it was subsequently considered unconstitutional in cases such as Bradenburg v. Ohio in 1969 which virtually rendered it extremely unlikely that similar legislation would be considered again.
Massive popular non-violent protests acting within the law are a key mechanism for communicating to the administration and Congress that there is opposition to government policies. Clearly, first amendment rights protect the protesters from intimidation, harassment or detention by agents of the state.
Following the principle that First Amendment rights are only privileges, President Obama mobilized all the resources at his command to ensure that protesters at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh were denied an opportunity to deliver their message and furthermore he precipitated a deterrent to dissuade people from participating in future demonstrations. Highly militarized police from across the nation attacked the protestors with batons, pepper gas and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD)
In all the above pre-9/11 examples involving the suspension of civil, legal and political rights, there was strong opposition and the above-mentioned Acts were short-lived. There was no danger that those security measures would lead to a permanent and growing abrogation of constitutional rights.
Dissent has always been fragile but is now becoming a security threat that requires an immediate and harsh response. Without dissent, there is no democracy. Just ask Julian Assange.
Author’s Bio: I have been a professor of political science at Seneca College in Toronto. I have published five books the last of which Selling Out: Consuming Ourselves to Death was released in May/08. As well, I have been featured in CounterPunch, Z Magazine,Dissenting Voice and College Quarterly. Additionally, I have delivered numerous papers at international academic conferences including Cambridge and Oxford. Author’s Website: http://consuming-ourselves.blogspot/
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(December 25, 2010) — Throughout this year, I’ve devoted substantial attention to WikiLeaks, particularly in the last four weeks as calls for its destruction intensified. To understand why I’ve done so, and to see what motivates the increasing devotion of the US Government and those influenced by it to destroying that organization, it’s well worth reviewing exactly what WikiLeaks exposed to the world just in the last year: the breadth of the corruption, deceit, brutality and criminality on the part of the world’s most powerful factions.
As revealing as the disclosures themselves are, the reactions to them have been equally revealing. The vast bulk of the outrage has been devoted not to the crimes that have been exposed but rather to those who exposed them: WikiLeaks and (allegedly) Bradley Manning.
A consensus quickly emerged in the political and media class that they are Evil Villains who must be severely punished, while those responsible for the acts they revealed are guilty of nothing. That reaction has not been weakened at all even by the Pentagon’s own admission that, in stark contrast to its own actions, there is no evidence — zero — that any of WikiLeaks’ actions has caused even a single death. Meanwhile, the American establishment media — even in the face of all these revelations — continues to insist on the contradictory, Orwellian platitudes that (a) there is Nothing Newâ„¢ in anything disclosed by WikiLeaks and (b) WikiLeaks has done Grave Harm to American National Securityâ„¢ through its disclosures.
It’s unsurprising that political leaders would want to convince people that the true criminals are those who expose acts of high-level political corruption and criminality, rather than those who perpetrate them. Every political leader would love for that self-serving piety to take hold. But what’s startling is how many citizens and, especially, “journalists” now vehemently believe that as well. In light of what WikiLeaks has revealed to the world about numerous governments, just fathom the authoritarian mindset that would lead a citizen — and especially a “journalist” — to react with anger that these things have been revealed; to insist that these facts should have been kept concealed and it’d be better if we didn’t know; and, most of all, to demand that those who made us aware of it all be punished (the True Criminals) while those who did these things (The Good Authorities) be shielded:
Wikileaks Releases Video Depicting US Forcs Killing of Two Reuters Journalists in Iraq.
— Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2010
â€˜Ha Ha, I Hitâ€™emâ€™: Top Secret Video Showing US Helicopter Piltos Gunning Down 12 Civilians in Baghdad Attack Leaked Online.
— â€¨Daily Mail, April 7, 2010:
Iraq War Logs: Secret Order that Let US Ignore Abuse
— The Guardian, October 22, 2010
Iraq War Logs Reveal 15,000 Previously Unlisted Civilian Deaths
— The Guardian, October 22, 2010
Clinton Ordered American Diplomats to Spy on UN Officials
— Foreign Policy, November 29, 2010:
Obama and GOPers Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe
— Mother Jones, December 1, 2010:
US Maneuvered to Stop High Court Cases
American embassy issued threats over the cases of ‘Guantanamo’, ‘Couso’ and ‘CIA flights’ – Politicians and Spanish prosecutors collaborated on the strategy
— El Pais, November 30, 2010:
The Day that Barack Obama Lied to Me.
— Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer, responding to the cables from Spain, December 1, 2010:
US Pressured Germany Not to Prosecute CIA Officers for Torture and Rendition.
— ACLU, November 20, 2010:
The CIAâ€™s El-Mosri Abduction: Cables Show Germany Caved to Pressure from Washington.
— Der Spiegel, December 9, 2010:
Yemeni President Lied about US Strikes.
— Sydney Morning Herald, November 29, 2010:
Contrary to Public Statements, Obama Admin Fueled Conflict in Yemen
— Salon, December 9, 2010:
Wikileaks: India â€˜Torturedâ€™ Kashmir Prisoners
— BBC, December 17, 2010:
UK Training Bangladesh â€˜Death Squadâ€™
— BBC, December 22, 2010:
UK Agreed to Shield US Interests in Iraq Probe: WikiLeaks
— Reuters, December, 1, 2010:
Wikileaks: Pope Refused to Cooperate in Sex Abuse Investigation.
— MSNBC, December 11, 2010:
Wikileaks, Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup.
— The Guatemala Times, November 28, 2010:
WikiLeaks: China Behind Google Hack
— CBS News, November 29, 2010:
WikiLeaks Cables: US Special Forces Working Inside Pakistan
— The Guardian, November 30, 2010:
Wikileaks Reveal the Obvious Dangers of Afghanistan
— Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post, July 27, 2010
Afghanistan War Logs: Massive Leak of Secret Files Exposes Truth of Occupation.
— The Guardian, July 25, 2010
Those are just some of the truths that led WikiLeaks — and whoever the leaker(s) is — to sacrifice their own interests in order to disclose these secrets to the world.
Author’s Bio: For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges, civil rights cases, and corporate and securities fraud matters. I am the author of the New York Times Best-Selling book, How Would A Patriot Act?, a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
NEW ORLEANS (December 26, 2010) — In November, more than 400 Christians gathered in New Orleans for the Centennial Gathering of the National Council of Churches (NCC). One focus of their work was to grapple with a paper on “Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terror(ism).” The issue is how to reconcile allegiance to the teachings of Jesus Christ with serving in the military, especially when ordered to engage in military actions that are believed to be inconsistent with Jesus’ message.
This is not a new dilemma. The teachings of Jesus have perplexed those engaged in military action and war from the time of Constantine the Great (circa 280 – 337 CE), the first the first Roman Emperor to become a Christian. As the emperor, he used his armies as his means to sustain control of the Roman Empire. As a Christian ruler unwilling to give up his armies, he needed to reconcile the teachings of Christ with militarism. This is what the Just War Doctrine purports to do.
The inception of the Just War Doctrine as church law is traced to the theologian Augustine in the fifth century, although he drew upon established Roman practices and the tradition of punitive justice that extended back to well before the time of Moses. While probably the original intent was to limit war, or control the conditions of war, in so doing, it has had the significant effect of condoning war.
The doctrine holds that war is moral if it is executed in accordance with certain tests that Augustine defined as follows: right authority, a just cause, right intent, the prospect of success, proportionality of good to evil done, and that war is a last resort. The problem with these tests is this: any aggressor, by his own measure, can claim to have met them all.
The test of right authority is easily met if the aggressor is a state. A just cause, from the aggressor’s perspective, is a given. The prospect of success is often pure speculation for which little objective evidence is likely to exist.
Proportionality of good to evil done is a matter of perspective based upon what interests are at stake. That war is a last resort has been claimed even when the enemy is not planning an attack, as in the Iraq War. Each test being subjective, the Just War Doctrine provides a form, without substance, for justifying war.
The fact that the Just War Doctrine does not include the question, “Are you doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?” is not an oversight — it is a test that war cannot pass. As a result, rather than providing a safe haven for the oppressed, the church has too often accommodated the state by permitting church doctrine to serve the aggressor.
But it seems like there might be a shift occurring, with more Christians questioning this doctrine than in the past. Section 4 of the NCC report on understanding war, a section entitled “Tending to the Injury of War and Supporting Christian Discernment and Conscience,” urges Christian churches to “much more vigorously stand with their members in the military who seek to follow church teaching. Churches should energetically support their members in uniform who face disciplinary measures for refusing to work with certain weapons systems or participate in particular military campaigns.”
The report encourages churches to appeal to the US government to establish selective conscientious objector status. “Without such status Christians may be assigned to work with nuclear weapons or be pressed to perform other duties that violate their conscience.”
The report states that churches should provide clear teaching about the moral danger of participating in military actions that are deemed to be unjust.
“Given the immense tension and contradictions of trying to both follow the One who died on the cross for his enemies and being an active participant in the largest military enterprise in world history, some churches may join their voices with the churches of former East Germany and counsel their members to choose conscientious objection as ‘the clearer witness’ of God’s call to peacemaking.”
For 2,000 years many Christians have resolved the conflict between Christ’s teachings and war in favor of war. We know what the world looks like when that has been the choice. Imagine what the world might look like if Christians actually took Jesus at his word.
Attorney, author, blogger and former trial attorney Sylvia Clute became disillusioned with the legal system and turned to writing books. She had authored Beyond Vengeance, Beyond Duality: A Call for a Compassionate Revolution, and a novel, Destiny Unveiled. A pioneer in legal reform, she spearheaded changes in Virginia’s laws relating to women and children. She holds an MA in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law, and an MA in Public Administration from the University of California at Berkeley. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia. Author’s Website: www.sylviaclute.com
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Tri-Valley CAREs Sues to Compel Open Government Litigation to have National Impact, Charges Energy Dept. “Pattern & Practice” of Abuse
(December 28, 2010) — This morning, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) filed major litigation in the federal court for the Northern District of California against the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for numerous failures to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires federal agencies to respond to public requests for information within 20 days.
According to the lawsuit, in seven separate instances the DOE and NNSA failed to provide responsive, unclassified documents regarding operations at the agencies’ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as required by law. The information that is the subject of the litigation is overdue by time periods ranging from six months to more than three years.
“The DOE and NNSA are egregiously out of compliance with the law,” noted Tri-Valley CAREs’ Staff Attorney, Scott Yundt. “This frustrates the public’s basic right to know. The information is of urgent importance to the community, and involves Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plutonium transport, bio-warfare agent experiments, hazardous materials usage, worker exposures, financial irregularities involving Lab management, start up plans for the “Tritium Facility Modernization Project,” and a proposal for future research and development.”
“As a ‘watchdog’ organization, Tri-Valley CAREs relies on open government laws like the FOIA to do its work and inform the community,” stated attorney Iti Talwar, a member of Tri-Valley CAREs’ Board of Directors who helped prepare the litigation filed today.
“By dragging its feet for up to three years and more, and not providing the requested information, the government has not only violated the law but has potentially degraded the value of the information sought, which is often time-sensitive,” Talwar added. “In some cases, public comment timeframes have elapsed and projects have gone forward while the group’s information requests went unanswered.”
“Many of the documents Tri-Valley CAREs requested contain information about the dangers faced by our community from spills, accidents, releases and potential acts of terrorism. Keeping this information hidden does nothing to protect the public,” charged Marylia Kelley, the group’s Executive Director. “Instead, it robs the community of the opportunity to press for changes that would better safeguard worker and public health and the environment.”
Kelley continued, “Moreover, DOE and NNSA are illegally withholding detailed information we requested about costs incurred by LLNL programs, like the National Ignition Facility, and the Lab management’s practice of shifting the burden to other projects.”
“The DOE and NNSA have exhibited a ‘pattern and practice’ of not responding to FOIA requests in the manner prescribed by statute,” Staff Attorney Yundt stated. “Routinely, these federal agencies have failed to fulfill Tri-Valley CAREs’ FOIA requests within the allotted timeframe.”
The group’s lawsuit asks the judge to issue a court order appointing a Special Counsel to investigate the pattern of abuse wherein DOE and NNSA fail to comply with the law. The Special Counsel would then determine whether disciplinary action is warranted and against whom. “A positive ruling could set a precedent with national implications,” said Yundt.
Tri-Valley CAREs was forced to bring similar FOIA litigation in 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2008. “We should not have to file lawsuits in order to obtain public information,” said Talwar. “Congress enacted the FOIA specifically so that organizations like Tri-Valley CAREs would have free access to unclassified, non-exempt records that disclose the operation of the government.”
“We are prosecuting this lawsuit in order to hold the DOE and NNSA accountable and to vindicate the public’s right to be informed and to knowledgeably and democratically influence LLNL projects and the nation’s nuclear weapons policies,” concluded Kelley. “The information we seek impacts our lives and our future.”
Tri-Valley CAREs was founded in 1983 in Livermore, CA by neighbors of the Dept. of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of two locations where all US nuclear weapons are designed. The LLNL Main Site in Livermore was placed on the federal Superfund list of most contaminated sites in the country in 1987. LLNL’s Site 300, located between Livermore and Tracy, was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1990. Tri-Valley CAREs represents 5,600 members, most of whom live and/or work in the shadow of LLNL.
A PDF of the Complaint filed today will be available on our web site at www.trivalleycares.org. We can also email or fax it upon request. Call us at (925) 443-7148.
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, 2582 Old First Street, Livermore, CA, USA 94550
Ph: (925) 443-7148
Fx: (925) 443-0177
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (June 21, 2010) — An organization looking to help with world peace wants to recruit some special people. The Nonviolent Peace Force was co-founded by a Minnesota man in the early 1990’s. There are peacekeepers in Sri Lanka, the South Philippines and the Sudan. The peacekeepers are unarmed and only go to places where they are invited.
The Sudan is expected to possibly have violent outbreaks before a January vote to for independence between Northern and Southern Sudan.
Just the presence of an international Nonviolent peacekeeper can stop violence. The peacekeepers go through three weeks of training to learn cross-cultural communication, team building and self-care.
They do have an interpreter, but don’t have weapons. Then they train over seas and can help mothers get back their kidnapped children, or help villages under siege.
Mel Duncan, the co-founder of the Nonviolent Peace Force says, “they will be working in dangerous areas and there is the likelihood they will face violence. Having said that, we’re meticulous about our security because we’re not doing this to create martyrs, we’re doing it because its an effective way to deal with violent conflict.”
Peacekeepers commit to at least two years and all expenses are paid, plus they get a $1500 monthly stipend and insurance. It cost the peace force 65 thousand dollars a per person per year to train and have a peacekeeper work.
No one has died while working with the group, but one person was injured with shrapnel from a grenade and another jailed for more than 100 days. If you’d like to learn more visit www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org
(November 29, 2010) — When the US surrounded Iraq at the start of the second Iraq war, I imagined that if our military forces just remained at the Kuwait border long enough, they would be welcomed with no bullets fired. But news reports at the time indicated that waiting for Saddam to retire was too expensive. And the soldiers might get bored. I guess these were practical considerations. But everyone has the same hope: to see wars thwarted or ended by peaceful, nonviolent means.
What would it take to make this happen?
A few months ago, I discovered a small NGO with a simple vision that can be applied to many conflict zones. On the face of it, their idea seems so simple that I feared they were suicidal.
So, during the flurry of meetings at the recent UN General Assembly in New York, I sat down with Mel Duncan, Founder and Special Projects Director of Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP). Counterbalance to his gentle Midwestern demeanor, Mel brought along Rolf Carriere, a seasoned NP advisor from the Netherlands who recently retired from UNICEF with executive experience all over Asia.
Nonviolent Peaceforce is a group of civilian, unarmed peacekeepers who are dedicated to protect threatened people, reduce violence in conflict areas and improve human rights situations through negotiation. Invited by all aggrieved parties, and working with specific and approved plans, the peacekeepers can understand local conflicts and diffuse them before they become national emergencies.
They call themselves a force. A force expends energy to make change. On the ground, NP members are conscious eyes and ears and tasked with nonpartisanship.
Mel and Rolf believe the very presence of witnesses builds peacemaking and peace-building into a moral force that can extend the life of treaties. These witnesses are also negotiators working through agreements that already exist or need to be implemented on by locals on the ground.
One of Rolf’s main contentions is that a majority of peace treaties fail within five years because of lack of follow-up. NP currently has operations in Sri Lanka and the Philippines and a small contingent in Sudan. Early next year, South Sudan is expected to vote for a split from the North, which will result in two countries six months later. Anticipating even further degradation of their quality of life, Southerners living in the North are already heading back to their ancestral homelands, where there are no jobs and little food.
It is estimated that more than 20% of the population of the South are already living on starvation diets. This will inevitably create tension. It’s easy to see how some peacekeepers might be able to help South Sudan mitigate conflict.
In Sudan, NP is positioned in three counties in Western Equatoria and in Greater Mundri. Tiffany Eashom, NP in-country Director write to me, “We are told repeatedly by civilians that… while peace agreements, boundary issues, resource use are being negotiated in capitals — civilians bear the brunt of the impact. Families, homes, crops are destroyed because most resources go high level issues.”
In 2009, violence in the South resulted in nearly 2000 deaths, mostly caused by increasingly violent cattle raids that seem to occur most often during the dry season — exactly when the country can be mobile and vote.
NP hopes to stand between the parties, continue to monitor Referendum-related activities and promote nonviolent response to conflict as well as work with schools that have had violence sufficiently intense enough to result in closure.
According to Easthom, “We have had direct requests from three other states — Northern Bahr El Gahzal,Unity State and Jonglei — all flashpoints for return to conflict scenarios and places where violent conflict occurs on multiple levels regularly — to deploy civilian peacekeeping teams and repeated requests to increase our presence in Western Equatoria.”
In the future, Peaceforce could operate as an option when treaties are being negotiated or as an alternative to underfunded yet expensive UN military operations that are often ineffective because they are seen as an outside military force preying on local populations.
Even when conflict zones are in poverty, the local and international costs of any war can rise to billions of dollars and create inflation. Once treaties are in place, unarmed peacekeepers may be better developing the peace and keeping it.
Would you like to join Nonviolent Peaceforce? About three-quarters of their complement are individuals recruited from local ethnic groups. They, and their international coworkers, go through a three-week educational screening period, after which everyone is paid to complete a two-month training course in peaceful, nonpartisan, conflict resolution. Each peacekeeper makes a two-year commitment. â€¨â€¨Despite his denial, Mel Duncan is raising an army.
Mel Duncan: My name is Mel Duncan and I am the founding director of Nonviolent Peaceforce. I was inspired to help create Nonviolent Peaceforce through a number of encounters, especially living in a monastery with a Vietnamese monk. It was upon leaving there that I wrote a thought-piece about civilian peacekeeping.
About six months later I found myself at The Hague Appeal for Peace in May 1999 where 9000 people had come together to put together an agenda to do away with war over the next century. And it was there that I found a number of people who had been working on the same concept of nonviolent peacekeeping.
We decided to put our resources together — our intellects, our spirits, our finances, our lives — to increase the scale, the scope and the professionalism in the international nature of civilian peacekeeping.
So we created a proposal and spent the next two years visiting with people in some of the most violent places in the world, learning from them what they were doing that was working and what, if anything, they could need from a group of well-trained unarmed civilians. We also conducted an academic research analysis of this work.
In late 2002, we convened organizations from around the world who were interested in creating Nonviolent Peaceforce and we officially began in December 2002.
MK: So before then, what were you doing?
MD: I’ve been an organizer all my life. I’ve been an organizer around issues of peace, justice, and sustainability since I was 16 years old.
MK: So where did you grow up?
MD: I grew up in Iowa and went to college in Minnesota.
MK: What were the hallmarks of your previous activism?
MD: I started organizing with people with disabilities in the early 1970s. That led to the first of many statewide statutes to protect people with disabilities. And that, along, with the work of a lot of other people around the country led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the early 1990s. [I organized] a variety of a other human rights initiatives. I also worked with a coalition of labor unions and peace organizations on Peace Conversion- â€¨â€¨MK: What is that?
MD: The conversion of military dependent industries to socially useful production.
MK: And when you worked on nuclear waste, what was that about?
MD: That was trying to stop the building of a high-level radioactive nuclear waste dump on banks of the Mississippi river a few meters away from a Native American reservation. That was an 18-month struggle and we lost, and the nuclear waste dump was built on Prairie Island and is still there.
MK: So, 2002 was the beginning. Rolf, were you involved?
Rolf Carriere: I was there at the Hague, but there were over 9,000 people there and that was not the time for us to meet. But in 1999, I had been to the meeting at the Parliament of the World Religions, in Capetown, South Africa. It was the second such meeting. I presented some papers there to about 15,000 people including the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I talked there about child survival and the kind of issues I was dealing with as a UNICEF country director in several countries — Bhutan, Burma, and Bangladesh and later Indonesia. And I came across someone who sat down for lunch who had a bunch of stencils which asked, “Do You Want to Create a Nonviolent Peaceforce?” So, I said to this guy, ‘can I have a copy?’ So I read it, and I thought, “Shit, why didn’t I think of that idea? This is actually a good idea. Why hasn’t The World come up with such an idea?” So I came back to Washington, and I called David Hartsough, whose name was on the card, and I said, “I’d be interested in helping you with this idea.”
And we did some brainstorming about what country would be the first for such a deployment. The places where it is not happening is all the conflict zones in the world so let’s go there and accompany health teams into those conflict zones and have “Zones of Peace” or “Corridors of Tranquility” and see if they could take place.
Soon thereafter, I was UNICEF representative for Indonesia. I could see violence happening in Papua New Guinea. And so I invited David Branch, someone who was already working with Mel, to come as a consultant for three months.
In 2005, I retired from the UN. Mel said, “Why don’t you become an advisor and let’s find a strategy to work with the UN?” It’s entirely clear that this idea needs the imprimatur, endorsement and even the active support of the UN even though we are not aiming to be a UN agency and even though we are not looking to work under the aegis of the UN. We are a global civil society organization made up from people all over the world. And responding to requests from people and organizations in the global south, people who are living in conflict zones and are threatened. So it is a transnational solidarity effort. And so I’ve been working as a pro bono advisor for the last five years. Averaging a day or day and a half a week. Sometimes a lot more.
MD: What Rolf is illustrating is a dynamic we have found over and over again. When we would lay out this vision of unarmed civilian Peaceforce, there will often be an air of recognition from people. People would say, “We did that in our village” or “I wrote a paper about this in university” or “My whole life has prepared me to do this.” And while David Hartsough and I are credited with starting the organization, we much more held the focus for a recurring vision that had occurred and recurred to enough people around the world that there was a critical mass of people who stepped forward and said, “Let’s do this.”
RC: What really interested me in the vision they had was to go to scale. In my 34 years at the UN almost entirely in Asian countries, I’d seen lots of well-intentioned small-scale activities that should be supported for sure but were never going to make a dent to meet the enormous needs that were there. So you need to think at a different scale. You need to really scale up in a quantum kind of way to begin to do that. So with regard to protection of civilians who are under threat, we have 115,000 blue helmets from the United Nations in 17 conflicts deployed right now. If you ask how many unarmed civilian peacekeepers there are out there — it’s just a few hundred. There is not even a thousand.
So the idea that Mel had was — let’s go for 2,000 to start, then we’ll be noticed. Because if you have 2,000 courageous people in conflict zones who are willing to stick their necks out, who are professionals, smart and well-trained and understand the conflict dynamic and who is in charge [on the ground] and how the chain of command works and if you will monitor and record all that is happening — then the next phase will be one of recognition of the concept. And our organization called Nonviolent Peaceforce will also be recognized. And people like yourself will come and record this and take this to a new level. The idea that you called didn’t surprise me.
MK: (laughs) You guys called me. â€¨â€¨RC: That surprises me even less.
MK: But that’s OK. Because even when we talked on the phone, you didn’t tell me anything about co-founder David Hartsough. But I made my first film about Iraq war conscientious objectors and guys who were in combat with enemies they could not see or meet. Now, if I am correct, he was a conscientious objector in 1959?
MD: David Hartsough is a lifelong Quaker. In 1955, as a young teenager, his father took him to Montgomery Alabama to take part in Church action to support the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He met a young, recently graduated Rev. Martin Luther King.
MK: So David is white and his father took him to support the black bus boycott?
MD: Which is the spark of the Civil Rights movement. Then David went on to Howard University and in 1960 took part with his classmates in the lunch counter sit-ins. As soon as exams were over, they went to Virginia where they had just made it a felony to sit at a segregated lunch counter. And as so often happened at that time, the police were not called, but the thugs were allowed in and attacked them at the counter. He’s organizing a trip to Iran right now.
MK: Good luck with that.
MD: It’s his second one…
MK: Is he your mentor?
MD: My associate, my collaborator. Really the way things broke down, he was much more the nonviolent theorist, and I am much more the implementer. So, together, we can get some things done.
MK: So what ideas did he have that were specifics you could apply yourself to?
MD: He had been advocating for large-scale civilian peacekeeping for quite a while. I was at the Hague, feeling rather discouraged, crammed into a room, and I hear this guy lay out the same vision I had — but his was explained as a question. I grabbed him by the arm and I said, “If you’re serious we have to start organizing right now.”
MK: So how did September 11th affect what you’re doing?
MD: On September 11th, 2001, I was actually at the European Parliament with a man who is now the Executive Director, Tim Wallis. I was located at our Brussels Office. And I was evacuated; everyone was evacuated because they thought that might be another target. And what we found was that there was a recognition on the part of many people that you could not deal with these kinds of acts within all the looming violence in the world by introducing more violence. That it didn’t make sense to invade Afghanistan or Iraq.
MK: But they didn’t realize that immediately.
MD: A lot of people did.
MK: On that day?
MD: Maybe not on that day, but soon afterwards. And certainly by the time of the proposals for those invasions.
MK: So you were automatically against the proposal to go to Afghanistan.
MK: Why?â€¨â€¨MD: Because it made no sense to me to invade a country to go after a lawless element that could easily transfer from one country to another.
MD: Who had been in Saudi Arabia, who’d been in Somalia. Now they happen to be in Afghanistan.
MK: Sudan, too.
MD: Secondly, I knew enough about history to know that nobody’s going to subdue Afghanistan. You can go back to Genghis Khan. Talk to the Soviets. The British. It just made no sense. It was a police action. And to deal with it with a military invasion makes no sense now, and made no sense then.
MK: So, when it happened, what were you thinking? “OK, this is bad.” But if you were President of the United States, what would you do? Assuming you got elected for your ideas, and then you were president, what would you have done?â€¨â€¨MD: I would have engaged with the international community about engaging in a police action that would have gone directly after the people responsible and held them accountable.
MK: But would you have used a military force with guns?
MD: I would have used a police force, yes.
MK: With guns.
MD: But not military. There’s a difference between police and military.
MD: There is.
MK: But I’m not sure in Afghanistan what the difference is.
MD: Well, it’s more precise. It doesn’t involve occupying territory. It doesn’t involve overthrowing governments. It involves pursuing and bringing to justice criminals.
MK: So, maybe a special forces operation from the military with the intent to apprehend and remove.
RC: But a global one, not a US.
MD:Not a unilateral.
RC: This was not an attack on the US only. This was an attack on civilization, full stop. So therefore, I think this merited an approach through the UN, not a single country.
MK: Does the UN have the ability of apprehending a person with the intent of a terrorist?
RC: That’s perhaps something that needs to be set up and this could have been an opportunity to set it up. The charter of the UN always foresaw that the UN would have a standing military force. It’s one of the first articles of the charter. It’s never been acted upon because clearly the US was the victor of the Second World War, with the Soviet Union an important second. But it was clear that the US was not going to cede to the UN its prominence due to the maintenance of peace and security. That it was going to be that power. And that to this day, is the big weakness of the UN. The UN then created the idea of peacekeepers. They were not mentioned in the charter of the UN. It was a Canadian proposal. The first deployment was between Israel and Egypt. But there’s never been a serious attempt to create a standing force that was ready to go. It takes months, sometimes years, before you have the full complement of the military peacekeepers in place. And at a very, very, high cost.
MK: So, then the next logical question is: would there have been a place, in fall 2001, for Nonviolent Peaceforce in Afghanistan?
MD: Probably not. We have a set of criteria that we look at and that we analyze very carefully before we go in. We have to be invited by local civil society. And we have to be in a place where we are able to protect. In the fall of 2001, there was not a war going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those had not been initiated. There were governments we disagreed with that were clearly repressive. I mean, I was in Iraq in 1999. I saw exactly what was happening. But we don’t invade countries because we disagree with them.
MK: So Peaceforce is a job, like any other job. It’s an army without weapons.
RC: It’s a force more than an army.
MD: It’s a moral force.
RC: Because it takes a lot of conviction, and courage to go in there and to do this. I mean people are damn conscious. This is not just a 9 to 5 kind of job. In fact, quite often it is a 24-7 job. Particularly when you are doing the direct bodyguarding of someone who is under threat of assassination. So it is, this tough work. It’s not something you can fall asleep over. â€¨â€¨MD: This isn’t just where you sit around and sing Kumbaya.
MD: As to our basic ability to protect — one of the primary sources is relationship. And building trust in relationship on the local levels. And that doesn’t come quick.
RC: With all the conflict parties.
MK: So you need to build the force, you need to build the people in the force. You are building an army. You are building an army.
MD: They are a force of… nonviolent peacekeepers.
MK:I never went to bootcamp. So you guys seem to have actual bootcamp. What do you call it?
MD: We call it Mission Preparedness Training.
MK: You need a cool name.
MD: That’s not very cool, is it? That’s the first three weeks. It focuses on three primary concepts. One: The primacy of local actors. Two: nonpartisanship. And Three: nonviolence. So people come out of there knowledgeable about how nonviolent peacekeeping works. This also serves as a protracted screening, so not everybody makes it out of this. If they do, then they go on to in-country training, which typically takes 6 to 8 weeks.
MK: It seems to me that if I was in the military in the past, and I wanted to keep doing the things I was doing in the military, but not do them in a military way, I would seek you out.
MD: (shows a photograph): This guy right here is a veteran of the Irish military and was on UN armed peacekeeping missions. And now he’s our security coordinator. We do have a number of military veterans who have served with us.
MK: And it seems like if you ever needed to recruit, they would be perfect. After all, they’re doing Blackwater things, but you’re doing the things they thought they would be doing when they first joined the military.
MD: There’s a little bit of a pay disparity between Blackwater and us. â€¨â€¨MK: Oh, come on. You’re just starting out. (Laughs). Would you try to form a Peaceforce and place it somewhere where there are two factions you equally, strongly, dislike? Where both sides have committed reprehensible acts?
MD: We’re totally nonpartisan, and lots of times, it’s pretty damn easy.
RC: There’s not really a question of “liking a party.” By being there, by being proactively present, you are able to deter violence and human rights violations because these people understand that you represent the eyes and the ears of the world. You’re witnessing, you’re monitoring what’s going on. And people don’t like to be seen, they all have their vulnerabilities. They all would like to be Prime Minister. They don’t want to go to The Hague or the I.C.C. for being the perpetrators of some act. So that is how you function in a conflict situation where all the parties are perpetrators.
MD: Even in the perpetrator, it’s important to recognize the humanity in that person. And I can remember spending one night, early on in the Sri Lanka project with one of the leaders of the Tamil Tigers. Clearly a group that executed — and that’s the proper verb — some very brutal acts, for a long time. And this fellow was killed a year and a half ago. And at the end of spending the evening with him, he had been a child soldier himself, he walked with a limp because he’d been shot. By the end of the evening, he was sharing with me his deep sorrow that he and his wife were unable to conceive children. So, there’s humanity in all of us, and it’s up to us to recognize it.
MK: But do you try to use that? Is it a ploy?
MD: A ploy?
RC: You appeal to their humanity. You appeal to that sensitivity, to that vulnerability. Because that’s the only way you can dissuade people from doing what they might have been planning to do. There is no other way. And just by being there, and being in a relationship with these people — no matter all the reprehensible things they may have been doing — that helps at least for now — here and now — to not kill someone.
Even if there were individuals who felt under threat, maybe they were running for political office. And they felt under threat. They could turn to us and ask for protection. And we individualize our protective accompaniment, is what we call it. And it can be for a week, maybe for a month. And the same with communities, they may feel under threat and they may ask us to stay with them because the argument is that if there are eyes and ears, the perpetrators will not create any acts of violence.
MK: When you stage a Peaceforce, it’s a combination of nationals and foreigners?
RC: It’s very important because the people from the global level bring a certain strength and independence. And the people from the local level, they know the culture, they know the language — they know what to do, what not to do. And it’s the combination — the Glocal combination — that actually provides you with the formula where you can get the best of both worlds. If it were only international, we would be making many mistakes. If there’s only nationals, particularly people from the ethnic groups for example, the religious groups that are at war against one another, it’s not going to work. The combination is vital.
MK: Talk about Sudan. Why are you there?
MD: We were invited by two civil society groups. SONAD — the Student Organization for Nonviolence and Development and the Institute for the Promotion of Civil Society. They actually took buses to come to our International Assembly in Nairobi and presented this proposal. We reviewed it and looked at it according to criteria. Based on that, our governing council, which is elected by our member organizations, green signaled it. So we sent an exploratory team for three months to work with our local partners. That was November 2009 through February 2010. Based on that, they put together another proposal, which the governing council accepted. And so we started raising money and doing the training. So our first team hit the ground in late May early June. We’ve been invited because of the Referendum. Both to protect civilians and prevent violence in the run up to the Referendum. And then also, [we will] do the same in the post Referendum period. So we anticipate we will be there at least two years. â€¨â€¨MK: Why are you in Western Equatoria?
MD: There’s the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army, a terrorist group once based in Uganda now spread in small amounts throughout South Sudan). There’s other more historical points of violence between the herders and the farmers, and different South-South tribal potentials. And all of that is happening right now in a tinderbox that could explode into a war that nobody wants, like prior to 2005. So if we can help in a little way to prevent violence and prevent those sparks from starting a fire, then that’s been a good day’s work. We have a provable, workable method that will protect civilians and prevent violence. We shouldn’t have to scrape to send more peacekeepers.
(December 28, 2010) — “As the only organization focused solely on the direct protection of civilians…, there is both a moral imperative and a strategic opening for NP to take a lead role in [Sudan’s north-south borderlands].” Tiffany Easthom, Country Director.
In November, Nonviolent Peaceforce conducted two assessment missions along the tense border dividing north and south Sudan, one in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and one in Unity state, areas selected for their strategic significance, conflict dynamics, and importance as sites of return for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Sudan’s North-South Border: A Role For Civilian Peacekeepers?
In November 2010, Nonviolent Peaceforce conducted two assessment missions along the tense border dividing north and south Sudan. Country Director Tiffany Easthom and Program Officer Anna Stein were invited by AECOM, a US contractor, to visit Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Unity State, areas selected for their strategic significance, conflict dynamics, and importance as sites of return for internall displaced persons (IDPs).
The mission team met with a broad spectrum of actors from state level government, county level government, civil society and international organizations, and surveyed the situation on the ground first-hand. The purpose was to assess the current and projected conflict dynamics, operating environment, existing protection and prevention mechanisms, and entry points for unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
Northern Bahr El Ghazal
Only 30% of the villages in Northern Bahr el Ghazal have access to improved drinking water and and 93% of villages have no access to health services. Approximately 140 000 people are considered severely food insecure, and an additional 309 000 people are moderately food insecure. Conflict between the pastoralist Dinka and Arab nomadic Misseriya and Rezeigat communities increases during the dry season migrations, resulting in abductions, cattle rustling, and burning of homes. The state is also exposed to violence spilling over from the conflict in Darfur: in November, the Sudanese military conducted four separate aerial bombardments inside Northern Bahr el Ghazal, pursuing rebels from Darfur.
NP had the chance to attend a reconciliation workshop facilitated by the US Institute of Peace in Wara Wara. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together Dinka and Misseriya for dialogue regarding migration-conflict.The common message from both sides was a shared interest in mutual coexistence coupled with a mutual frustration regarding broken or unimplemented agreements.
Since 2008, there have been many workshops and many conferences, but little ground-level support for stabilization and violence reduction. The mission team assessed this as an obvious entry point for unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
In Unity State, the humanitarian situation is no less dire: despite the fact that it contains much of Sudanâ€™s oil reserves, the benefits of resource extraction have not trickled down to the state’s citizens. Half of the households in Unity State are food insecure, one-fifth of them severely so; 42% of villages use untreated river water as the main source of water. Only 19% of villages have a school of any kind, and fewer than one in three girls are enrolled in formal education.
As the site of a disputed border and rich oilfields, and the battleground for recent political and militia conflicts, Unity State regularly experiences localized medium- to high-intensity violence. Cattle, land-use and migratory conflicts are particularly acute along the state’s borders. As observed by the assessment team, these issues are virtually identical to those in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. In recent months, rumors circulated that a troop build-up is occurring on both sides of the north-south border; NP was only able to verify a build-up on the south side.
NP met Mayom County Commissioner John Madeng, who identified a number of key conflict drivers in the county. In March of this year, an estimated one thousand heavily armed Dinka civilians carried out an attack in an area inhabited by Nuer, in which over 1800 cattle were stolen and ten people killed, including children. Commissioner Madeng said there have been 123 incidents of “revenge killings” in Mayom in 2010, and attributed these to citizens engaging in vigilante justice. The Commissioner has formed fledgling committees intended to deal with issues of conflict resolution, peace-building and security and expressed great concern that without technical support and security, these communities would not become effective. Providing protection, de-escalating violent conflict and supporting the implementation of these committees are key entry points for unarmed civilian peacekeeping in the county.
Unity State has also received over 27 000 IDP returnees since October; IDPs are returning from the north due to concerns about their status and security if the January 2011 referendum results in South Sudanâ€™s secession. Many IDPs are now living in schools in the state capital, Bentiu, waiting to return to home villages; displaced women and children are at heightened risk of sexual- and gender-based violence and abuse. NP met with the South Sudan General Women’s Association, whose members highlighted the need for civilian mechanisms designed to monitor the security of vulnerable IDP returnees.
Urgent Need, Urgent Response
NP has had significant success in its efforts to protect civilians and reduce violence in Western Equatoria State (WES) since establishing a field presence there in mid-2010. With support from the Government of Belgium, our work in WES will continue into 2011, with a particular focus on averting and de-escalating violence resulting from the January 2011 referendum on South Sudanâ€™s independence.
But last month’s mission made clear that the needs are equally urgent on the north-south border, and NP is expoloring a possible response. According to Country Director Tiffany Easthom, “Our strategy would be to position civilian peacekeeping teams at flash points along the north-south border area. As the only organization focused solely on the direct protection of civilians from physical violence, there is both a moral imperative and a strategic opening for NP to take a lead role in this region.”
If activated, the short- to medium-term impact of this strategy would be violence reduction, stabilization and direct civilian protection in a vulnerable, under-served area. The longer-term impact would be civilian peacekeeping teams able to take on a potential lead role in the civilian component of border monitoring, should next year’s referendum create a new international frontier.
Due to the strategic relevance of the border area, donor interest in stabilization and security programming is high. Given the prevalence of oil, the heavily-disputed border demarcation process, and the large-scale influx of returning IDPs there is particular donor and political interest in Unity State. Multiple organizations are conducting assessment missions in the area and donors can expect a barrage of proposals in the immediate future.
There is significant and vocal interest and support from county, state and regional government officials for an international civilian peacekeeping presence, and NP will seek to leverage that support if expansion to the borderlands takes place.
For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about NP in Sudan, click here:
As 2010 draws to a close, we are delighted to share with you what a difference your support has made in the lives of civilians in urgent need of protection. With deepest thanks for the lives you help save:
2010 Accomplishments And Moving Forward:
Goals for 2011
Created Peace Committees in schools. A school was so wracked by fighting that it became impossible for students to attend classes. NP worked with teachers and students to develop a peace committee, providing a forum for students to proactively address conflict triggers. The school has re-opened and students are continuing their educations.
Prevented cattle raiding violence. Conflict between migratory cattle-herders and farmers often escalates to violence, kidnapping and death. Stolen cattle and kidnapped children were returned after NP brought community leaders together to discuss the raids and alternatives to violence. Today the two communities continue to coexist peacefully.
Encouraged leaders to see eye-to-eye. Friction between a new governor and his predecessor caused regional instability soon after the 2010 election. At a conference in the state capital, NP facilitated a face-to-face meeting between the leaders, which resulted in a cooling of tension.
Sri Lanka Accomplishments
Protected and trained election monitors. During tense January 2010 presidential elections, NP accompanied, protected, and trained 60 Sri Lankan election monitors. As a result, the vote was conducted freely and fairly at 79 polling stations across the country.
Trained over 200 people in unarmed civilian peacekeeping. NP pioneered workshops and mentoring in Sri Lanka to help vulnerable communities address their security challenges. More than two-thirds of participants were women, and NP continues to showcase the value of women’s engagement and leadership on security and protection issues.
Protected children and prevented disappearances.
NP is now the only international organization doing civilian protection work in Sri Lanka. Our work was officially approved by the Presidential Task Force. NP continues to work closely with local groups and state partners like the Human Rights Commission on child protection, disappearances, and security issues.
Accepted an official role on the International Monitoring Team. NP is now protecting civilians and encouraging confidence in the peace process alongside the International Red Cross and the Mindanao People’s Caucus. This official role is an extraordinary honor and a testament to the confidence invested in NP by stakeholders.
Protected people who were forced by violence to flee their homes. NP made hundreds of visits to evacuation centers and private homes in the most vulnerable communities. And when a local feud erupted, peacekeepers ensured the safety of displaced people by repeatedly visiting an elementary school that had been turned into an evacuation center.
Facilitated dialogue between Catholics and Muslims. North Cotabato has been hard-hit by armed violence involving members of Catholic and Muslim communities, and between ethnic Moros and the non-Moro population. NP dialogues have helped local leaders to de-escalate tension and create long-term solutions.
Presented at the prestigious Caux Forum on Human Security in Switzerland. NP was invited to present unarmed civilian peacekeeping to an audience of 250 peace-building professionals from 41 countries, including ambassadors, academics, imams, bishops and a king.
Met with UN and international partners in New York City and Geneva. NP made the case for unarmed civilian peacekeeping as an effective alternative to military peacemaking to UN peacekeeping veterans, senior humanitarians, and other key policymakers.
Presented at the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists in Qatar. NP brought unarmed civilian peacekeeping to a new audience, and several individuals from both state and non-state institutions approached NP for further consultation and engagement.
Moving Forward: Goals For 2011
Implement an effective, comprehensive civilian protection scheme in Mindanao that creates space for the renewed peace process to move forward.
Open a new office in Mvolo County in Western Equatoria. Establish an international protective presence in volatile Unity State along the border between north and south Sudan.
Lauch NP’s first European project in the South Caucasus and provide nonpartisan, third-party intervention to help ease the conflict between Georgia and the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Shift from a focus on protective accompaniment of threatened individuals in Sri Lanka toward strengthening development of community-based protection and violence reduction mechanisms.
NP is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Nonviolent Peaceforce USA, 425 Oak Grove St. Minneapolis Minnesota 55403. 612.871.0005.
US Navy Displacing Heartbroken South Korean Villagers Guest post by Bruce Gagnon & Sung-Hee Choi / All Voices.com
HAENAM, South Korea (December 27, 2010) — As I write this, the people of the Gangjeong village on Jeju Island in South Korea are in the midst of the fight of their lives. It is today that they face down the Navy and the plans to destroy their sacred coastline for the Navy base where US Aegis destroyers (built here in Bath, Maine) will be ported.
As I write this they might be sitting in the road trying to block the construction machinery from beginning work. They might be getting arrested in large numbers. They are so isolated and few around the world know anything of their struggle to save the rocks, the water, the coral, the fish and their way of life.
On Christmas day a Catholic mass was held for the villagers along the rocky coastline by the Bishop of Jeju Island. Below is the latest report we got from Global Network board member Sung-Hee Choi who has been at the village for the last couple of weeks standing with the people and helping to spread word about their fight to others in Korea and around the world:
In the Joongduk coast – the planned naval base area – snowflakes fell onto the beautiful coast rocks and sea, as well, displaying a mysterious view as the sea horizon became clouded. It was a terrible feeling to think that the most beautiful rocks and sea in the Jeju Island might be covered with concrete if the naval base construction is enforced.
At 3:00 pm, there was a peace mass, called, â€˜the Christmas missal to save life and peace of the Jeju Island,â€™ lead by Fr. Kang Woo-Il, Chairman of the Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Conference of Korea & the Bishop of the Catholic Jeju district, along with many fathers and nuns in the Jeju island. The event was hosted by the Special Committee for the Island of Peace, Catholic Jeju district. About 400~500 followers and Gangjeong villagers gathered and represented their will to save the Jeju island of Peace from the naval base construction.
Bishop Kang Woo-Il led the mass and said, “Military base cannot save peace and life” and that he “would be together with the lonely and oppressed Gangjeong villagers.”
The least we can do is to let others know about this terrible moment so that the valiant struggle of the Gangjeong villagers is not done without the world knowing about it. Please pass on word about this and also call the South Korean embassy in your country and protest the construction of the Navy base for US warships on Jeju Island.
As you can see in the small yellow signs being held by the people in the crowd that read “No War” the villagers understand that construction of this Navy base, so close to China’s coastline, is a wildly provocative move in the US military strategy to surround China. It will only bring more conflict to their part of the world.
Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, published this today (12/27/2010) on his blog Organizing Notes. His first person opinion column is reprinted with his permission.
Resistance Begins on Jeju Island Bruce Gagnon / Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
(December 27, 2010) — I’ve not yet heard from Sung-Hee Choi yet, she might have been arrested for all I know.
It is obvious that the Navy has pushed through with their cement trucks and will now begin to pour concrete over the sea life that lives among the rocks along the coastline of the Gangjeong village.
All of this in order to build a Navy base that is needed as the US Navy builds more ships and deploys them in the region. Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snowe (Republican) has said over and over again to the media in our state that more Navy ships are needed to “protect” against China’s expanding power. There can be now doubt that this base has nothing to do with North Korea.
It is all about projecting power toward China in order to block their ability to import oil on ships along the waterway between Jeju Island and mainland China. The Chinese import 80% of their oil via this sea route and if the US can successfully “choke off” their ability to transport oil then the US, who can’t compete with China’s growing economy, would be able to still hold the “keys” to their economic engine.
It is hardball politics that the US is playing here in this expensive and dangerous game. The people on Jeju Island, sadly enough, are just pawns in the way of imperial designs.
(December 28, 2010) — The protests against the Navy base on Jeju Island (in the Gangjeong village) moved to the biggest city on the island today — Jeju City — as activists attempted to set up an encampment vigil outside the Island assembly building. (You should remember that Korea is about 13 hours ahead of us in time.)
Sung-Hee Choi reports from Jeju Island:
Yesterday, while I was in the village, the Pan Island Committeee Against the Military Base confronted the Jeju City authorities and police as the city did not allow the activists’ tent vigil in front of the Island assembly. One member was arrested and two women — of whom, one was greatly wounded in her face — were carried to the hospital.
Otherwise, the Lee Myung bak [right-wing] national government announced on Dec. 27 that it would manage 10 ports as the governmental management port including Gangjeong (Civilian-military complex), Hwasoon (maritime police port) in the Jeju island, and Chuja Island in the southern part, near the Jeju Island. The other two ports will be in the East Sea (Japan Sea) while five ports will be in the western sea. People say the plan must be against China.
Bruce K. Gagnon is Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652, Brunswick, ME 04011. (207) 443-9502
WikiLeaks: Call of Duty: Leaks have made it harder for Western governments to dupe their citizens into accepting potential future wars.
(December 9, 2010) — For professional historians, the publication of the vast trove of diplomatic cables is a bittersweet affair.
No one outside of the Washington establishment and the myriad foreign leaders shamed by revelations of their penchant for hatred, hubris and pedestrian peccadillos can seriously argue that the release of these classified documents has done anything but good for the cause of peace and political transparency.
Whether about Iraq, Afghanistan, or the minuate of American diplomacy, they have shed crucial light on some of the most important issues of the day and will make it much harder for Western or Middle Eastern governments to lie to their people about so many aspects of the various wars on/of terror in the future.
Indeed, if there’s anyone who deserves the next Nobel Peace Prize more than the courageous American soldier, Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have given the documents to Wikileaks in the first place, I’d like to know.
At the very least, given what a mockery President Obama has made of the principles for which the prize is supposed to stand — evidence of which, like pressuring Spain to drop criminal investigations into Bush administration torture, have only come to light thanks to the latest WikiLeaks release — the Nobel Committee should demand his medal back and give it to Manning or whoever the leaker is.
A New Approach to Diplomacy:
Honesty and Transparency
Already, thanks to WikiLeaks, citizens in the West and Middle East know more than they were ever supposed to about how corrupt, misguided, incompetent and mendacious, are their leaders and the policies pursued in their name.
As each new revelation comes to light, I can’t help thinking, why was this secret in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better if American and other diplomats shared their concerns openly rather than hiding them from the public?
How about everyone telling the truth for once and letting the people decide? Aren’t Italians better off knowing that the American Ambassador thinks Berlusconi is too old to party like a rock star and too corrupt to be trusted with his country’s leadership? Shouldn’t Americans know that the Saudis continue to funnel huge sums of money to militants and that Pakistanis are refusing to hand over nuclear fuel they long ago promised to give up?
Wouldn’t Mexicans be better off knowing just what the US thinks of their anti-drug efforts, and Americans better off knowing just how badly the drug war is proceeding? And certainly the news that Saudi Arabia, at least, supports attacking Iran has already led Iran to tone down its rhetoric and seek to reassure its neighbors of its peaceable intentions.
As far as I can see, the best development that could come out of Wikigate would be that diplomats around the world begin tweeting their previously secret observations on a daily basis, so that everyone knows where everyone else stands and governments can no longer hide behind diplomatic courtesy to continue with the all-too-often reprehensible “business as usual”. The world has never needed honesty more than it does today.
Looking for Shelter in an Increasingly Dangerous World
If there’s anyone who doesn’t think the world — and particularly the United States — desperately needs WikiLeaks, I offer you “Exhibit A” of why this is the case: the star-studded official trailer for the “Call of Duty: Black Ops” first person shooter video game.
Regular readers of this column might recall my November 16 article, “Nowhere Left to Run,” where I discussed the cultural implications of “Black Ops” after spotting a poster for the game in a Berlin subway around the time of its release.
Since then I have seen the trailer, whose slogan is “There’s a soldier in all of us” and features both ordinary people — a secretary, fry cook, hotel concierge, and the like — along with celebrities like Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, and late night American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
After watching the trailer I was so exasperated I emailed a colleague at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies here at Lund and asked him, “Where is Ice Cube when you need him?” His reply stunned me: “LoL you don’t know where Ice Cube is? He’s doing the voice of Bowman in ‘Black Ops’…”
In case you’re not a hiphop fan, once upon a time Ice Cube was the terror of law abiding white citizens across America as a member of the highly political gangsta rap group NWA. In fact, their song “F*** Da Police” almost got them into as much trouble with the US government as is Julian Assange today.
But those days are long forgotten. Today Mr. Cube spends his time, when not playing secret service agents in movies, providing the voice for one of the lead characters in “Black Ops.”
But it’s not just hiphop that’s prostituted itself to violence and big corporations. The rock n’ roll establishment has equally shamed itself, as none other than the Rolling Stones allowed their song “Gimme Shelter,” one of the most important anti-war songs of the Vietnam era, to be used as the soundtrack for the trailer, which shows Kobe Bryant smiling widely as he and innumerable other “ordinary” people blast away an unseen enemy in a clearly Middle Eastern landscape (not surprisingly, digital sales of the song and other Stones hits spiked in the wake of the trailer’s release).
A Chilling View of American Culture and Values
The “Black Ops” trailer makes for chilling viewing, as it tells viewers — successfully, apparently, given the record — breaking sales of the game — that they can derive great pleasure from taking a break from life to pretend to kills people half way around the world.
Perhaps most troubling, the colours and landscape of the trailer are eerily reminiscent of the infamous killing of a dozen Iraqis by a US helicopter crew, some of whom are laughing as they fire missiles at their targets. Not surprisingly, the only reason we know of this event is because WikiLeaks put the classified video, dubbed “collateral murder,” into the public domain last April, in one of the releases that first made the organisation (in)famous.
Apparently Bryant, Kimmel, Cube, the Stones and the designers of “Black Ops” are all either ignorant of, or more likely unmoved, by the reality that ordinary Americans — fry cooks, secretaries, concierges and other working class people — have been forced to answer the “call of duty” for extended tours in Iraq and now Afghanistan during the last decade, where many have been forced into precisely the life and death situations of extreme violence that Bryant and his famous friends were no doubt paid handsomely to pretend so thoroughly to enjoy.
This is the mindset, at all levels of American society, against which the truths revealed by the hundreds of thousands of WikiLeak documents must stand. And the potential for changing peoples’ minds is clearly disturbing enough to the US government that it has begun, when not calling for Assange’s arrest and worse to warn students at elite institutions like Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs that they risk never being hired by the State Department if they even mention the WikiLeaks documents on any social media sites in which they participate.
Like the corrupt law firm that hired innocent newbie attorney Tom Cruise in the movie “The Firm,” the last thing the Government wants is for prospective employees to understand what it’s really up to until they’re sucked in too deep to change it.
Truths that Must Be Learned, the Sooner the Better
Chances are, if your government is telling you not to read something, you should be reading it twice as closely.
The detailing of all the problems the Bush and Obama administrations have had in executing policies in the Muslim world have done an invaluable service to any citizen who wants to understand whether the government’s claims as well as aims in the war on terror are both reasonable and feasible on the ground (sadly, it seems more often than not, the answer is they are not).
Certainly, I will urge my own students to read the various WikiLeak documents and compare them with documents we have from wars past, to gain greater insight into the continuities and changes in war-making, diplomacy, and the motivations behind both over the course of modern history.
But if the release of over countless classified documents has given the world a “banquet of secrets” to feast upon (as Timothy Garton Ash put it in The Guardian), historians might be tempted to wonder what scraps we will be left to scrounge over when it comes time to write histories of the events covered by the various WikiLeaks documents with the nuance and perspective that only comes from a certain amount of historical distance from the events in question.
And it’s not merely professional jealousy by people used to having largely exclusive access to the historical record– after all, who but historians is willing to sit in dusty archives for years searching through hundreds of thousands of documents for a few gems that can advance the state of knowledge on a topic? With easily searchable data bases, now — Heaven forbid! — anyone can be an historian, rendering judgment on events and motivations that members of the previously closed historians’ guild normally have to wait decades to get access to.
Or can they?
Despite the huge volume of cables and documents released by WikiLeaks, they only offer a very partial account of the realities they discussed. The often unguarded and even eloquent language of the writers of the dispatches does not change the fact that they were written by US government employees (whether soldiers or diplomats) for their superiors, addressing issues from an American perspective and a set of interests that can’t be assumed to match those of the myriad other actors in the dramas these documents reflect.
Multiple Perspectives Provide the Best View
No matter how much we think we can learn about the realities of the Afpak, Iraqi or larger Middle Eastern conflicts from WikiLeaks, the limited perspective of the documents WikiLeaks has been able to obtain reveals that there is still an incredible amount to learn before we come close to having the full picture of the history-making events of the last decade.
And unless there are British, French, Iraqi, Afghan and other soldiers with a similar access to classified documents and a reckless disregard for their own future, it is likely that the full accounting of the “Wikiwars” will likely wait until the historians of tomorrow are finally allowed to peruse the far larger volume of documents that governments will work even harder than before to keep out of the public domain.
Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Avatar Story Was So True to Life Sadly, the violent displacement of indigenous people by ruthless companies doesn’t happen just on screen Jonathan Glennie / The Guardian
(December 24, 2010) — Avatar was the biggest cinematic event over the last year. Set in 2154, it tells the story of the violent displacement of indigenous people from their jungle homes on a planet called Pandora, as a ruthless company searches for a precious mineral. But I wonder how many of the millions of people who went to see Avatar realised just how true to real life the story is.
Director James Cameron located his film in outer space. But violent displacement is neither science fiction nor ancient history for millions of indigenous people who today — in country after country around our world — are fighting for their survival so that people elsewhere can have the things they want at a price they think they can afford.
Although the details of each case are different, the story is usually the same. A company, backed by (the threat of) military might, moves in to displace people after attempts at “dialogue” have failed.
In November, Survival, an organisation that fights for the rights of tribal peoples, sent a letter to oil companies in Peru to demand their immediate withdrawal from an area inhabited by uncontacted tribes.
In the same month, it launched a campaign in defence of the Kalahari bushmen of Botswana, described by the country’s minister of environment, wildlife and tourism, as “living in the dark ages in the middle of nowhere.” Not in the middle of nowhere as it happens, but on top of a very large diamond deposit. Sound familiar? The list could go on.
One difference between Avatar and reality is that the military employed to forcibly remove people in our world is not usually a private force but the national army of the country involved. Rather than protecting its people, the army actually attacks the most vulnerable communities in the name of development.
When I worked in Colombia I would regularly talk to communities living in fear of displacement by oil/banana/African palm companies. I used to repeat one message: “You are not alone. The tactics you are experiencing are the same all over the world: divide, threaten, buy off, displace. Only with unity, international support and a positive alternative, can you win.”
This is true. The first tactic of companies around the world is to divide a community, picking off leaders and sowing discord among families so that some are with the company and some against it. Only communities that manage to maintain unity despite the odds have any chance of winning the battle.
But that in itself is not enough.
Unfortunately, a forgotten community deep in the jungle or high in the mountains stands little chance against the might of a multinational working with the national government and its army. Only with constant international attention, usually led by NGOs and the media, can they win the moral case, the first step towards winning the fight.
But you can’t just say “no” — you also need a positive “yes” to a different type of development, both to maintain unity and to garner that national and international support. Luckily, there almost always is a positive alternative, but sometimes communities and NGOs need to be more adept at communicating it.
But there is one quality I should have added: perseverance. I was once with an indigenous community trying to explain the dangers of climate change. I emphasised that, unlike other threats, this was a threat to survival itself, if allowed to continue, and I was surprised how unconcerned the community leader was.
Later, he told me that since the arrival of the Europeans their community had had to struggle for survival against renewed and different threats. The threat of climate change was no more worrying than any other.
In August, the Indian government suspended the Vedanta mining company’s plan to mine Niyamgiri, a land sacred to the Dongria Kondh tribe. It was a great victory for a marginalised community over a powerful corporation. Unfortunately for the Dongria Kondh people, they have only won the battle, not the war.
Their holy ground will always be valuable in the marketplace, and in a couple of years there is little doubt that they will have to organise again, to resist attacks on their dignified way of life. They will be accused of being Maoist rebels, again. They will be kidnapped and beaten, again. They will receive threatening phone calls, and be harassed by the government, the army and their allies in the press. Again.
Sound like a Hollywood movie? It is happening now, to real people. We watch Avatar and emerge from the cinema raging against the fictional mining company. But we are complicit in a thousand similar tragedies, as peoples are displaced and forests destroyed in our names.
This is the modern face of racism and, as with racism’s most iconic expression, the black slave trade, the world needs to make a moral decision. Some will argue that compromises must be made for the progress of humanity. After all, we need oil, wood, gold, diamonds, coltan, copper. But are we prepared to see people die and their cultures die out? Is there another way? Or is it time for us to redefine progress?
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
ACTION ALERT: Two Years after “Cast Lead,”
Obama Administration Must Hold Israel Accountable
(December 27, 2010) — Two years ago today Israel launched a horrific attack, codenamed “Operation Cast Lead,” against the 1.5 million besieged people of the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
In an all-out, 22-day assault that shocked the conscience of millions around the globe, Israel killed approximately 1,400 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians .
Although a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has largely held since then, Israel continues to collectively punish Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip through an illegal siege.
Its leaders have not been held to account for what the Goldstone Report  documented to be violations of human rights and international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity.
Join the US Campaign’s call upon the Obama Administration to:
1. Demand that Israel end its illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, and
2. Stop blocking the international community from holding Israel accountable for its actions.
Three weeks ago, on Human Rights Day, the State Department told us that there is a “single universal standard that applies to every country, including our own. We apply it to Israelis,” and that it views “Palestinians as being human beings under the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] and entitled to these rights.” Our camera recorded these remarks in the following video clip.
We need to hold the Obama Administration accountable because its policies don’t match its rhetoric. State Department spokesperson Robert Wood infamously refused to answer whether the United States considered pasta — an item denied to Palestinians under Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip — a “dual-use item.”
The United States, as revealed in a State Department cable  posted by Wikileaks, has also been colluding with Israel to deflect further damage to Israel’s image from the Goldstone Report, rather than hold it to the “single universal standard that applies to every country.”
In hope for a new year when US policy upholds Palestinian rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
Dear President Obama,
On the two-year commemoration of Israel’s killing of approximately 1,400 Palestinians during “Operation Cast Lead,” I urge you to demand that Israel stop inflicting collective punishment on the 1.5 million residents of the Palestinian Gaza Strip through its illegal siege.
I also urge your Administration to stop blocking the international community from holding Israel accountable for its actions in “Operation Cast Lead,” during which–the Goldstone Report found–Israel committed violations of human rights and international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity.
On Human Rights Day, 2010, the State Department said that there is a “single universal standard that applies to every country, including our own. We apply it to Israelis,” and that it views “Palestinians as being human beings under the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] and entitled to these rights.”
I urge your Administration to live up to these words in its policies toward Israel’s actions upon Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
(1) Fatalities during operation “Cast Lead”
(2) The Goldstone Report
(3) Wikileaks: US Tel Aviv Embassy Cable: ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE