Friday, November 30, 2012

I Dream of Pakistan

A Creative Writing Piece on the Drone War in Pakistan and the Hope of Nonviolent US Resistance

By Meghan M.M. Trimm

I am in a dream. I see an SUV hit a biker, with a child carrier. It was an Arab-looking man with a baby on the back of his bicycle. I hear wailing -- an infant’s cries. The father’s skull is cracked on the pavement. He is dead. The streets around him are paved in red. All around me I notice my neighbors going to work, mowing their grass, sipping tea on their front lawn, but there is no one scrambling to aid. I have the stunning realization that I am the only person in this world who knows what is happening. I try to yell for help, but there is no sound like someone pressed the mute button.

The woman who was following them is in shock -- the mother. She puts down her bike, shaking, and falls on her knees. I can see the blood of her husband seeping into the threads of her burka around her knees. She hasn’t even cried yet -- her face caught in an agony that cannot yet bear sound. I feel compelled to move, but I am rooted to the ground until the spreading bodily fluids reach my sneakers. Suddenly I am in full motion, dashing to the baby carrier. The child’s arm is crushed between her seat and the pavement by the weight of her father. She is bleeding from her head with cuts around her mouth and eyes. She landed in broken glass. I feel shame for the trash thrown in the streets of my careless city. I want to lift her out of there and give her comfort, but I know I could do more harm than good if she has an injured spine.

The mother is screaming, she is moving toward her lost husband on her hands and knees. She does not feel the glass, or if she does she doesn’t care. I feel I can do nothing. I am on my knees holding the infant’s hand.

The blood covering the streets is seeping up into the neighbors’ yards. It reaches beyond this invisible scene, creeping up and soaking the lawn, drenching the lawn furniture; it reaches my neighbors' hands. I look on in amazement as they go about their lives unnoticing. How can they not see they have blood on their hands!? I feel angry and helpless.

The SUV, with tinted windows, backs up and attempts to drive past. I have found my purpose. Without thinking I step into its path. The engine roars at me like a mad beast, but I know I have to stay. Scrambling my phone from my pocket I call for emergency care.

As I stand there waiting in the path of the beast I feel a tug on my jeans. I look down and see the child. She has grown into a 3 or 4 year old now. She looks up at me with sparkling piercing happy eyes. When I meet her gaze, I am awake.

Her Name is Peace
by Meghan M.M. Trimm

Monday, November 5, 2012

Benson to CIA's Top Lawyer: "Your time has come to do the right thing."

Elizabeth I. Benson
Chicago, IL 60626

October 31, 2012

General Counsel Stephen Preston
Central Intelligence Agency
Offcie of General Counsel
Washington, DC 20505

703-482-1739 703-613-3007

Dear General Counsel Preston,

I am writing to express grave concern about targeted killing strikes carried out by the CIA and the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command outside the context of armed conflict and against people who do not pose an imminent threat. It is in your power to help put an end to illegal targeted killings, including those that target U.S. citizens.

Targeted killing is illegal both under U.S. law and international treaties signed by the U.S. The only exception is when a person poses a concrete, specific, and imminent threat or, in the context of armed conflict, against a person who directly participates in hostilities. Even in these narrow circumstances, all attempts to capture the person must be exhausted and the government must take measures to protect civilian bystanders from harm. But these are not the standards your agency is using.

I reject the proposition that your agency can carry out targeted killing of people who do not pose an imminent threat in coutnries with which and in which our nation is not at war. I am also deeply concerned about reports that the CIA is carrying out "signature strikes" based on patterns of behavior, and that the CIA presumes "all military-age males" in particular strike zones are targets unless intelligence proves them innocent -- after they are dead.

As the top legal authority at the CIA, you have the power to advise decision makers to follow the law. Your time has come to do the right thing.

I look forward to your earliest possible response to my concerns and requests. Thank you.


Elizabeth I. Benson

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Nearsighted Drone

Previous installment: "Modern Applications of the Buddha's Teachings on Love and on the Suffering Attributable to Misperception"

by Jack Lawlor

Drone warfare may reflect an anxious, fearful society deeply out of touch with its highest values, and lost in misperception.

Are we proceeding with an assumption that certain "types" do not deserve to live?

Rather than take the time and look deeply into what we are doing, who we are targeting, and providing rudiments of due process and the rule of law, we are slating growing numbers of people for assassination. Rather than question the saneness of this approach, its morality, its relationship to the rules of engagement in warfare, and how we found ourselves in need to use robot aircraft, we push ahead and set a lethal precedent for other nations.

Rather than learn from the protestations of others who protest the sudden death of so many innocent from within their territory in our pursuit of untried terrorist suspects, we purchase and accelerate the use of more and more drones, never pausing to contemplate the world we will have created once other nations have this technology within a few years.

Despite the optimism of children teaching their parents of how the Buddha met the Jetsons, and despite the pleas of Tolstoy to make what's good and what's whole possible again, our hearts are somehow hardened to the possibility of beginning anew, in wisdom and compassion.

In reliance on technology, we understand less and less, rather than more.

What are the underlying causes and conditions of our suffering, and of the suffering we inflict on others?

How did we get to this place?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Body Pieces

by Pat Chaffee
“We are still finding body pieces.”

My job was to gather the body pieces after an IED explosion, trying to keep pieces on one body together.”

“My uncles were cut in pieces.”
I heard the first statement when I volunteered at the rest station set up for first responders in St. Peter’s church near Ground Zero. The second statement I heard during an NPR interview with a Marine.

I heard the third statement as I sat on the floor in the office of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) in Islamabad, an organization that provides legal aid for victims of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. Shahzad Akbar, founder of FFP, had invited -- or more accurately, challenged -- Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war activist group CODEPINK, to bring a delegation to Pakistan to meet with victims and survivors of drone attacks.

So, on October 4, 2012, thirty-four U.S. citizens and one Canadian sat on the floor listening. Kamir Kahn, a survivor in his fifties, wearing traditional tribal garb, told of the drone attack on his village on December 31, 2009, that killed his 18-year-old son and his brother. He picked up their body pieces for Muslim burial.

Body parts. I invite us to say the words slowly: body parts. A body ripped apart by an airplane crashing into a building, by an IED, by a drone. In Waziristan, we must picture not only the limbs of women and men, but also the severed head of a child.

Noor Behram, a brilliant, committed Pakistani photographer, overwhelmed the delegation with his photographs of children killed in drone attacks. They are not pleasant to look at. Why does Noor take on this horrific mission? Why does he drive seven hours to take the picture of a shrapnel-riddled child before he is buried?

He does it for the same reason that I went to Pakistan—to give the lie to the official report from the U.S. government that drones are smart weapons, that in the past year, not one single civilian was killed in a drone attack. Noor has no images of women killed by drones. This does not mean that drones spare women; Islamic custom forbids photographing women. Noor, however, does his best to work around this law. He photographs the bloody clothing of women. And in one photo of a dead woman with a dead child,, he cut away the image of the mother. We could see the curves of the child holding on to his mother’s body.

A gruesome topic -- body parts. Disturbing to our protected sensibilities. We were so maddened by body parts falling from the towers of the World Trade Building, we determined to blow other people to pieces. We mourn over our own women and men blown apart by IED’s; yet we continue of slice the heads of babies with drone strikes.

“When you go home, tell your government to stop sending drones.” We were given this plea by Karim, Noor, and the hundreds of Pakistanis we encountered.

Pat Chaffee
Racine, Wisconsin

More on Pat Chaffee's Pakistan trip: "Why Do They Hate Us?" on the No Drones Wisconsin website.

For more photos see the Code Pink delegation photo site.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Irish-Americans and War (Part 2)

by Jack Gilroy

(Continued from Irish-Americans and War (Part 1) "voices of Irish American human rights activism . . . the Berrigans . . . Kathy Kelly . . . Megan Rice . . . Brian Terrell . . . the Hancock 10 . . . .")

But these Irish-American activists of today find little company in the United States Federal Government. Few Catholics, Irish or otherwise, are ready to strongly oppose war and the preparation for war. In fact, Irish-American leadership in militarism is the norm.

Paul Ryan and Joe Biden square off.
During the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate, Catholic Vice President, Joe Biden, told his Catholic opponent, Paul Ryan, that what he was saying was “a lot of malarky”. That was, Biden noted, “Irish talk”.

Yet, neither candidate talked the real talk of political violence. Like most good Catholics, they skirted Catholic Social Teaching. The first basic principal of Catholic Social Teaching is Life and Dignity of the Human Person. The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Every person is believed to be precious. Does this not mean people outside of the geographic borders of the United States?

What the nonviolence of their Catholic faith insists on is trumped by political reality. Both Democrat and Republican candidates accept violence of war, violence of assassinations and preparation for war violence.

Did Biden and Ryan actually ever have a class on nonviolence during their Catholic education? Not likely. American Catholic schools K-12, as well as, American Catholic colleges and universities are major recruiting centers for the military. Over 100 Catholic colleges and universities have Reserve Officer Training Schools (ROTC). Most Catholic High schools allow military recruiters into their schools and some Catholic Middle and High schools have Junior ROTC training for their students.

While investigation, interrogation and arrest is police work, the prime function of the military is to find the enemy and kill them. Catholic Social Teaching has a place for police work but it cannot justify militarism and its killing machine.

Yet, Catholics are often leaders in teaching and accepting military and extrajudicial killing. Names like Mullen, Dempsey, Brennan, and Donilon are leading characters in modern American militarism.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain note that since President Obama took office between 285 and 535 civilians were credibly killed by drone strikes including more than 60 children. A joint study of drone causalities by New York University and Stanford University has much higher civilian death rates.

President Obama in the Oval Office with Thomas E. Donilon, left, the national
security advisor. On the right is John Brennan, Chief Counter terrorism advisor.
(Photo: Pete Souza/The White House)

John Brennan, Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, made the claim in 2011 that no civilian causalities occurred. Brennan, son of Irish immigrants, had a K -12 Catholic education then went on to graduate from a Catholic university (Fordham). Brennan says that while riding a bus to Fordham, he saw a sign for CIA recruiting and decided it was something he wanted to do “for public service”. Fordham honored Brennan in 2012 with an honorary doctorate degree. Former White House CIA analyst, Irish American, Ray McGovern, said “John Brennan’s open identification with torture, secret prisons and other abuses of national and international law, led to Fordham University’s invitation to him to give the commencement address on May 19 brought, well, shock and awe to many Fordham students, faculty and alumni.”

Pictured with Brennan and Obama in a NY Times article, (May 29, 2012) studying the weekly ‘kill list’ in President Obama’s office, is Thomas E Donilon. Donilon, National Security Advisor, figured prominently during formulation of strategy for Afghanistan and associated discussions, notes Bob Woodward's 2010 book, "Obama's Wars". Donilon, a grandson of Irish Catholic immigrants, attended Catholic schools K-12 before graduating from Catholic University.

Donilon had previously worked with Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen.

Admiral Mullen attended Catholic schools K-12 in California before going off to the US Naval Academy.

When Admiral Mullen retired as Joint Chief, President Obama appointed General Martin E Dempsey as the present Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dempsey attended John S Burke Catholic High School in Goshen, NY. Dempsey’s family is from the Irish speaking region of Donegal.

Admiral Mike Mullen
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
General Martin E. Dempsey

With all that history of Catholic military leadership, one might want to label the group as the Irish American Military Mafia.

However, Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, had Italian parents. Panetta attended Catholic elementary schools in Monterrey and in 1960 graduated from Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution, and three years later received his law degree from Santa Clara.

If this group of Catholics represent Catholic Social Teaching, it begs the questions: Is it time to revise Catholic Social Teaching to fit American culture?

It’s said that WC Fields, the American humorist of the 1930’s and an avowed atheist, was found with a Bible on his death bed. Asked what he was doing, Fields said “looking for a loophole.”

Is it time for Catholic lay and clergy teachers to find some loopholes to allow a clear conscience for Catholic students who have been taught to embrace violence and military heroes who have served their county in violence?

Or is it time to insist on teaching the nonviolent message of Jesus to love one’s enemies, not kill them?