Oh, for someone like Charlie…

President Trump is upsetting, yet let us remember he is nothing different than what we have experienced before. We have had less loutish and buffoonish presidents, but Trump’s lack of eloquence from the podium should not let us forget that the worst thing he has done as President has been to continue President Obama’s mass killing of brown skinned and Muslim people in seven different countries.

What is different from the past is the absence of highly visible principled resistance to Trump, which is not to be confused with the #Resistance that exists for the sake and well being of the Democratic Party and favors outrage over Trump’s words as opposed to his actions. Tellingly, it his actions overseas that make Trump not very different from the war and money interests of the Democrats and it is where the honest and necessary resistance to his killing is most lacking among those who influence policy, media and culture, and the American people.

From today’s entry on Carl Bunin’s Today in Peace and Justice History:

September 19, 1952 

“The United States prevented Charlie Chaplin, the British director, actor and producer, from returning to his Hollywood home until he had been investigated by Immigration Services.

He had been on the FBI’s Security Index since 1948, and was one of over 300 people blacklisted by Hollywood film studios.

Chaplin was unable to work after refusing to cooperate during his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Informed that he would not necessarily be welcomed back, he retorted, “I wouldn’t go back there if Jesus Christ were president,” and surrendered his U.S. re-entry permit in Switzerland. ”

You can subscribe to Today in Peace and Justice History here.

Chaplin has a special place for me as it is his speech from The Great Dictator that I ask all young men and women who are thinking of joining the military to watch.

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

“Don’t give yourselves to brutes!” Chaplin thunders. It was a mistake I made and it is important we try and keep others from making the same, giving their lives to brutes.

Chaplin was a man who followed his principles, his values and what his life’s experience had taught him were true and meaningful, and he didn’t give in, despite the ridicule, the loss of money and the danger of being unpopular. Trump is a brute who only wants to be liked and will kill thousands and hurt millions more in order to be an idol to his twitter followers and his sychophants on Fox News or in the Wall Street Journal.

After Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly, I saw an expert on CNN, she was a former Obama State Department person and is now at a think tank in Washington, D.C., her reason for being upset with Trump’s remarks were that he hurts American credibility. Not that his policies of violence are vile, destructive and counter-productive, but that his words are not tactful or timed correctly and so American “credibility” is hurt. Nowhere on the mainstream television today or in the decision making circles of Washington, DC is a man or woman like Charlie Chaplin.

Through a discussion over email I recently became aware of a quote by Leslie Gelb, the man who helped write the Pentagon Papers for Robert McNamara, spent decades at the New York Times, ran the Council of Foreign Relations and who is now their President Emeritus.

Gelb explained his support for the Iraq War, and by extension the support of other “experts” in the foreign policy communities for the United States’ decades of organized murder that we call war, this way:

“[his] initial support for the war was symptomatic of unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility.”

Oh, for someone like Charlie Chaplin today.

The Divine that Exists In the Resistance

Update: I had this essay posted by Common Dreams:

I have a benefit tonight that I am speaking at in support of Palestine. In the toast I am to give, I will reference other struggles against oppression and occupation, particularly those resistance struggles that I was grateful to be given the opportunity to stand with in solidarity this past year: in Okinawa, at Standing Rock and in Palestine.

For someone like me, who had professionally studied war and insurgencies for years, and then executed such knowledge on behalf of the US government in support of the occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, being on the other side of the rifle was heartbreaking and difficult, as seeing the military and police enforcing the racist occupations, political oppression and environmental destruction was a mirror held up to me, reflecting my own past, my own mistakes, my own collaboration with greed, hate and subjugation. Being allowed the opportunity to stand with these resistance movements was rewarding and it was healing, as it was a form of recovery for my moral injury and guilt from the wars. I can never undo or repair what I took part in in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I can, going forward in my life, live a life working with others for peace and justice, both at home and abroad.

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Veterans For Peace members march in Hebron, Occupied West Bank, February 2016. Photo credit: Ellen Davidson, Veterans For Peace
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Members of Veterans For Peace and Palestinian Youth Against Settlements leader Issa Amro intercede with the Israeli police and military to stop firing in Hebron, Occupied West Bank, February 2017. Photo credit: Sabah Media

The commonness and similarities that exist between these resistance movements are many: a firm belief in and understanding of non-violence; the use of music and song; and the graciousness and openness to outsiders, like myself and other white veterans of the American military whose relationship to the occupation forces and powers cannot be ignored or dismissed, but are understood as the actions of the colonial and imperial powers and not the actions, will or soul of the individual soldier, or Marine in my case.

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Veterans For Peace members and Okinawan resistance members block the road in Okinawa to protect the Yanbaru forest from US military construction, September 2016. Photo credit: Mike Hastie, Veterans For Peace.
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Members of Veterans For Peace and Okinawan resistance members resisting attempts by Japanese police to move them as they protect the Yanbaru forest from US military construction, September 2016. Photo credit: Mike Hastie, Veterans For Peace

There is also something that runs very deep, is very true, and that exists within all these resistance movements. Something prime and underlining, a force that is infinite and enduring is the intangible reality that exists in all of the men, women and children who are struggling for their society’s freedom, for the preservation of their land, water and air, and for the chance for their children and grandchildren to live lives not held in obeyance to the guns and violence of a foreign, abusive and repressive power. I have no other choice for my description of what I witnessed and stood among than to use the word divine to explain what it is that moves, sustains and carries forward these movements and people. Words like justice, peace, freedom, and safety have their well deserved places as descriptions of what these movements strive for, but it is the word divine that I come back to when I think of what it is which motivates, maintains and upholds these movements and what it is that links them together across continents, religions and races, and, ultimately, time.

Police start to move on the people in the tipi.
Tarak Kauff and Matthew Hoh of Veterans For Peace participate in a non-violent action with Native American water protectors to block construction of the DAPL pipeline, October 2016. Photo credit: Ellen Davidson, Veterans For Peace
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Veterans For Peace members Matthew Hoh and Tarak Kauff are arrested along with Native American water protectors while conducting a non violent action to block the DAPL pipeline, October 2016.  Photo credit: Ellen Davidson, Veterans For Peace.

I saw this again in Charlottesville a few weeks ago, where myself and other white allies escorted black students from Howard University through the city streets. There was something divine, again a better word I stumble trying to find, behind the purposes of those students from Howard, a very existent and timeless connection to something beyond the human experience that animates our desires for truth, justice, equality and peace. This force, this beyond-human force, ties together these movements now, and ties them to the movements of the past, to their ancestors who suffered and were persecuted in their struggles of liberation, fights for peace, and marches for equality, whether there be a direct lineage of descent to those ancestors or an ancestry consisting of purpose and principle removed by epochs of historical and geographic separation.

I’m an intellectual, logical and rational atheist a good 6 1/2 days a week, but what I experienced in Okinawa, Standing Rock, Palestine and Charlottesville these past twelve months moved me with a force much greater than any and all of the spirited nationalist formulations or conceptions of brotherhood I ever encountered or beheld in my time as a Marine or while working for the US government. This force, this divine presence, cannot be discounted, diminished or dismissed, but is as factual and proven to me in its effect and purpose as any rifle I ever held, any money I was ever paid, or any exceptionalist American myth I ever consumed.

It is why anyone who has taken part in these movements can receive healing from their own sins in war, as I have; it is why even those who have been silenced by jailing or with bullets and bombs have never truly been defeated – lost to us with great sorrow and grief, yes, of course – but not defeated; and it is why these movements will ultimately be successful, because the divine that is the foundation of these movements and these people cannot be extinguished, cannot be undone, bought or quieted, as this spirit will always carry forward this generation and subsequent ones.

To see and understand some of the divine involvement that is present in the people of Palestine and the Palestinian Popular Resistance movement, please watch Chris Smiley’s latest video of the Veterans For Peace delegation I participated in to Palestine earlier this year.

Wage Peace.

Unclaimed Remains

Veterans For Peace and nine allied peace groups held an anti war rally at the Lincoln Memorial, along with other observances in Washington, DC last week as Memorial Day was observed in the US, thousands of men, women and children were killed, injured and made homeless by American bombs overseas and US defense corporation profits exceeded the marks set in previous years. Nothing new, go back 150 or 200 years and the same things would have been written.

I have things I do want to share, but I want to provide Sarah Mess’ poetry by itself here. Sarah is a veteran of Somalia and her poem, Vietnam on My Mind, is staggering.

Advertising For Peace

Veterans For Peace is holding a series of events and actions this upcoming Memorial Day weekend in Washington, DC. The events begin on Thursday, May 25th with the Swords into Plowshares Belltower at the Lincoln Memorial and culminate Tuesday, May 30th with a rally and speakers at the Lincoln Memorial and a march to the White House and a presentation of demands.

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More information on the events in DC can be found here.

In order for us to let people know about the events and, in particular, the rally, we need to advertise. We have a TV advertisement, which we will run in the Washington, DC area on MSNBC. If you can, and I know everyone is receiving many, many requests for money and donations right now, but if you can, please help us advertise, so that we can let as many people know as possible that veterans are gathering against war, against militarism and against the system that is destroying our society, our future and our planet.

If you can give $5, $20 or more we can let millions of people know we will be there, in DC, the heart of the Empire, so they can join us and so they, thousands of them, may join us outside the Lincoln Memorial, march to the White House and fight for Peace and against war; for Life and against death; for Love and against hate; for those things we need and we cherish in our society; and against the greed and the destruction that we have too much already in our society. Please donate here.

This is the advertisement we will run. Please feel free to share it widely:

 

I’ll be one of the speakers that day.  I will say something similar to what I said to the tens and tens of thousands of people I spoke to in February on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh when I was blessed to be a part of Reverend William Barber’s Moral March:

Below, from last month, is Reverend Barber’s sermon from the Riverside Church in NYC on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Beyond Vietnam speech. If you have not seen or heard it, please take an hour to do so, it is well worth the time. I do not think there is a better explanation for the purposes behind what we will be doing in Washington, DC at the end of this month than Reverend Barber’s sermon.

Finally, I have pasted below the letter that Barry Ladendorf, the President of Veterans For Peace, sent to President Trump in March of this year. Of course, Barry has not received a reply from the White House.

Wage Peace.

Letter from Barry Ladendorf, President, Veterans For Peace to President Donald Trump, March 30, 2017:

Dear President Trump,

We want our Peace Bonus.

As you may know, a bonus was promised to the American soldiers who fought World War I—the “war to end all war,” but they called it, “hell on earth.” More than their bonuses, those soldiers wanted peace. They gathered in Washington in 1932 to demand payment of their bonus, but they were met with violence, in their own nation’s capital, just for trying to claim what was rightfully theirs.

I am president of Veterans For Peace (VFP), a national organization of military veterans with a visceral understanding of war and its causes. We have come to believe in nonviolence as a more effective and humane response to conflict.

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said prophetically, A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

I wish to convey our serious opposition to your administration’s policy of increasing the military budget while decreasing and even eliminating funding for vital social services.

As veterans, we have long recognized that increases to an already bloated Pentagon budget are what keep us in the business of war. We in VFP are not fooled into thinking that this budget makes our country any safer.

Marine General Smedley Butler, two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, pronounced, “War is a racket.” We believe that and we are sick of it. Butler’s sentiment is still resonant today. In the words of our own Matt Hoh, a former State Department official and Marine captain: “The killing, the organized murder we engaged in, benefitted only the profits of the defense corporations, the salaries of retired generals, and the terrorist groups themselves.”

We speak for the majority of U.S. citizens, who believe your policies are taking innocent lives and endangering more of our young soldiers, who have already given so much in the needless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we have sent more Marines into Syria. Your policies are also causing suffering and despair among immigrants, Muslims, communities of color, women, Native Americans, and LGBTQ communities, and if implemented, these policies will further destroy the environment. Ultimately, they make all of us considerably less secure.

Since these policies do nothing to promote human or planetary betterment, we are left to conclude they are intended to maintain and advance what has sadly become the global U.S. Empire—an empire that, like all empires of the past, exploits and oppresses other nations and the earth itself in order to increase the wealth and power of the very few. Meanwhile common people’s lives become more and more impoverished.

We are now requesting that a delegation from Veterans For Peace be invited to meet with you in person to speak about your policies and how they affect peace, at home and abroad—with independent media present.

Like the bonus marchers of the 1930s, we demand our bonus. The bonus for our service and the many sacrifices of our comrades is peace.

Most sincerely yours,

Barry Ladendorf, National President

Veterans For Peace

U.S. Navy, 1965-69

Veterans For Peace in Palestine: 12 Years of Resistance in Bil’in

The first of several documentaries to be produced about our recent delegation to the people and popular resistance movement of Palestine. This short documentary covers our first day in Palestine, as we took part in the 12th anniversary of weekly demonstrations in the village of Bil’in against the Apartheid Wall and the seizure of the village’s farming lands.

Will Griffin, who was a member of our delegation and runs The Peace Report, put this doc together and, along with film maker Chris Smiley, will be putting together further videos and documentaries.

Will also did me a great favor by finding and posting, on The Peace Report, the recent United Nations report that established “on the basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid” (emphasis mine). This report generated great controversy as the United States, Israel’s lone supporter in the world, with the exception of one or two other nations, forced the UN to pull the report from the world’s view. The UN Under Secretary General for West Asia, Rima Khalaf, resigned her position in response to the UN’s cowardice and the US’ obscuration. The report, Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, can be found at The Peace Report.

Please give the documentary a watch and please share it widely. Wage peace.

God and Caesar

Thank you brother. Let us not give anymore to the violence and the killing.

soitgoes1984

Both God and Caesar

have more than enough resources

so, as for me

I’ll render unto my fellow peasants

the pennies the tax collector has come calling for.

I’ll let the Romans crucify me

before I ever pay for war.

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