July 2009 Archives

Stand With the G-20 Protesters


The most blatant show of military and police force left protesters tear-gassed, subject to piercing sound, shot with rubber bullets, and not allowed to assemble, while the population of Pittsburgh was kept off the streets and rounded up along with people there to deliver messages of opposition to the G-20 ministers.

We put a quick letter together which we will deliver on Thursday.  Please circulate this link everywhere so that thousands sign on.

The week after our big protest at Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley Law) where we had confronted Torture Professor John Yoo himself, August 27 was the second day of classes for the main UC campus and World Can't Wait had called for another action.  This time, we took to the campus crossroads of Sproul Plaza during the noon hour to be out among the students there.  This demonstration - again protesting John Yoo's continued tenure at UC - was a great success.  In fact everyone thought the action was so successful that on the spot we agreed to do it again the following week, which we did.

On the 27th about twenty of us did this action together from World Can't Wait and some faith-based activist friends (Pax Christi, St. Joseph the Worker church, School of the Americas Watch).  And a man who had come because as a Korean American he felt especially moved to speak out against John Yoo.  Overall we got a good response from many students and others.  A lot of people got our flyers and signed up, during many good conversations.  This openness -- the fact that people weren't avoiding political leaflets and activists like so many often do at Sproul -- was partly because it was the first week, but also partly due to other factors.  A lot of students were gravitating to the people wearing jumpsuits on the ground, coming up to us, taking pics, asking what this was all about.  Many of them didn't know who John Yoo is; when they found out, they were upset that a lawyer who helped set up the whole torture state is actually on campus teaching at the law school, but they were literally learning about this for the first time from us, just now.  Others came up to talk, who knew more - many of them said they can't believe Yoo is still teaching, they had thought that he would've been fired by now.

Our hooded "detainees" posed standing or kneeling as others talked to students and gave out leaflets around them.   The "detainees" were mostly silent, but a couple of them shouted to the crowd: "I have been here five years without a lawyer...why are you torturing my son?"  and "John Yoo is a murderer, as guilty of torture as if he had performed the act himself."  In spite of the campus cops' prohibition of a bullhorn, we managed to keep people aroused and interested.

We passed out flyers,  had many opportunities for conversation and many signed out contact sheets to receive more information.  A few of us from World Can't Wait worked with other volunteers and activists to hand out flyers and talk with students and others.  A Brazilian student wants to be involved and stated that he's very against torture and is very familiar with what the U.S. did in supporting torturers in Latin America.  A Pilipino student also talked about what the U.S. did in supporting torture and disappearances in his country.  One woman representing an Asian-American student magazine was interested in interviewing Stephanie about John Yoo.  And a young woman who'd been in the recent "tree sit" came to join us.

Later, a man joined our crew with his own home made "FIRE JOHN YOO" signs.  He works at the labs on campus.  He told us he was upset about Attorney General Eric Holder only aiming to prosecute the low level people, not the people that gave the orders or the lawyers like John Yoo.  A woman from Wisconsin who was helping her daughter move into a dorm stated she was outraged about Yoo being on campus and Obama's attitude that people should only "look forward not back."

The next Thursday, September 3, was another great success! With 5 orange jump suited detainees, draped in chains, we returned to Sproul Plaza again.  We handed out hundreds of flyers, and signed up more new supporters, including a couple who are ready to get involved.  As with the week before, the predominant response was curiosity, and often too amazement that someone like John Yoo would be teaching law at UCB. 

One of our greatest challenges is to educate a population of students, many of whom seem largely ignorant of world affairs and how the United States promotes its "Dr. Evil"-like policies throughout the world.  One of us said later: "Only one person I talked to argued that it is good to have people like John Yoo at the university because it shows that we value diversity of opinions. He quickly backtracked when I told him it isn't a question of John Yoo's opinions, but his actions as a member of the Bush administration -actions that directly facilitated the torture of thousands of people.  Another person argued that 'interrogations' can be necessary to extract information that will protect Americans.  This person really thought that American lives were more valuable than the lives of other people around the world."

The highlight of the day was when a big group of Latino high school kids from San Jose walked up.  They were touring the campus with their teachers.   Right at that moment, one of our people was being harassed by the campus police because the cops claimed that her sign was larger than UCPD regulations.   Our friend wasn't about to lay down her sign, and said she did not mind being charged with a ticket, but then the cops threatened to confiscate the sign to be used as evidence against her.  She still said she would not give up her sign. An attorney with the National Lawyers Guild stood by to protect the rights of the protestor should she get arrested. Eventually she decided to go to the public area in front of the plaza with her oversized "super picket" and one of the "detainees."

A teacher with the Latino students asked for an explanation of what was going on. They gathered around Rafael from World Can't Wait for a quick orientation about what our protest was about. They listened and learned who John Yoo is, what he had done and why the police were trying to stop our message from getting out.  One young woman student called out, "Let's start a chant, what should we say?"  "No torture," was suggested which they all started chanting, with another student also yelling out "Fire John Yoo! Fire John Yoo!"  Finally as the police started to leave, we all started chanting "Police go home!"  Not surprisingly the high school students all got really into that one.

Serious protests and a climate and culture of resistance are what's required now, bold and frequent and growing.   Whether protest takes the form of marching or holding speakouts and press conferences, going among students with challenging information and calls to action, or organizing debates and programs, more and more people have to take part in challenging the entire university community over the presence of this war criminal.  John Yoo must be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes. The world can't wait.


Terrorizing Civilians in Afghanistan

By Kenneth J. Theisen
Thursday September 10, 2009
In May of this year, the Obama administration fired General David McKiernan as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. In announcing the decision, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated he was seeking "fresh thinking" and "fresh eyes" on Afghanistan. McKiernan was replaced by General Stanley McChrystal. His selection marked the continued ascendancy of officers who have advocated the use of counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan. General David Petraeus, the head of Central Command, was another such officer. He implemented COIN strategy in Iraq. Petraeus is McChrystal's commander. Gates praised McChrystal for his "unique skill set in counterinsurgency. 

When McChrystal took command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, he claimed his implementation of counter-insurgency (COIN) warfare there would protect the Afghan population. His version of war would help win the "hearts and minds of the people" just as it did in Vietnam. This new emphasis on COIN strategy was supposed to turn around the downward spiral of the Afghan war. In theory, it was also suppose to limit Afghan civilian casualties. 

But we have recently seen the newest U.S. strategy in practice in that war ravaged country. On Monday, September 7th the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan claimed that troops of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division invaded the charity's hospital in Wardak province on the night of September 2nd. 

Anders Fange, the charity's country director, asserted that American troops stormed through the hospital, broke down doors, and tied up four security guards and two hospital visitors. He also said the U.S. military forcibly removed patients from their beds during their search and barged into the women's wards. Fange claimed that such actions as entering rooms where women are in bed is a serious insult under Muslim culture. 

Fange further stated that the raid was a violation of an agreement between NATO forces and aid organizations that worked in Wardak province. He said, "This is a clear violation of internationally recognized rules and principles. If the international military forces are not respecting the sanctity of health facilities, then there is no reason for the Taliban to do it either. Then these clinics and hospitals would become military targets." 

Lt. Commander Christine Sidenstricker, a U.S. military spokeswoman, confirmed that the hospital was searched. She also said, "We are investigating, and we take allegations like this seriously. Complaints like this are rare." But abuses and even deaths of the Afghan population at the hands of the U.S. and its allies are far from rare. On Friday September 4th, a NATO air strike by U.S. jets killed many Afghan civilians. 

The independent human rights group, Afghan Rights Monitor reported that its visit of the attack site indicated the strike killed as many as 70 local villagers along the Kunduz River. In the past, other such U.S. air attacks have killed large numbers of civilians at wedding parties and a funeral. Almost any large gathering in Afghanistan can suddenly be attacked. This is how the U.S. really implements its COIN strategy. 

The "heart and minds strategy" will continue to kill innocent Afghans as the U.S., under Commander-in-Chief Obama, continues to escalate the war. In a short time we can expect thousands of so-called U.S. support troops in Afghanistan to be replaced by more combat troops, or "trigger pullers" as one U.S. officer referred to them in his support of the move. McChyrstal is also very likely to request additional troops from his commander-in-chief within a few weeks as well. He laid the political groundwork for this further escalation with his recent review of Afghan operations. That review was given to Obama last week. When Obama receives the request for additional troops, it is very likely he will grant it. He has already sent thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. 

One reason that Obama is likely to approve an additional troop request is that the "successful" implementation of COIN strategy requires the introduction of many more U.S. troops into Afghanistan. COIN strategy is troop intensive as is indicated by the Army's new COIN manual, written in large part by General David Petraeus. To quote the manual: "No predetermined, fixed ratio of friendly troops to enemy combatants ensures success in COIN. The conditions of the operational environment and the approaches insurgents use vary too widely. A better force requirement gauge is troop density, the ratio of security forces (including the host nation's military and police forces as well as foreign counterinsurgents) to inhabitants. Most density recommendations fall within a range of 20 to 25 counterinsurgents for every 1000 residents in an AO. Twenty counterinsurgents per 1000 residents is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective COIN operations; however as with any fixed ratio, such calculations remain very dependent upon the situation." 

In 2003 the U.N estimated the Afghan population at nearly 24 million. At 20 troops per 1000 Afghan residents that would require 480,000 allied troops to meet the minimum density recommendation of the COIN manual. At 25 troops it would take 600,000 troops. Obviously to reach these numbers would require a massive troop escalation. 

Just like in Vietnam the rhetoric may claim the U.S. is "winning hearts and minds, but the reality is that the U.S. war of terror is killing and terrorizing people from Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Pakistan. In Vietnam 2-3 million Vietnamese died. Already there have been a million Iraqi deaths as a result of the 2003 U.S. invasion. Thousands more have died in Afghanistan since the October 2001 invasion. When do we say enough? What will you do to stop the U.S. wars? To see what you can do, go to http://tinyurl.com/lackss

Kenneth J. Theisen is an Oakland resident and a steering committee member of World Can't Wait, which is mobilizing people to end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The legacy of Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice has been one of the most consistently duplicitous and dishonest members of the Bush administration, and it has been revealed that Rice not only sanctioned the United States' illegal use of torture in the poorly conceived "War on Terror," but actually chaired the meetings in her capacity as National Security Advisor. Then she proceeded to lie about it repeatedly:


> Warped Tour is the only summer concert
> tour of its kind
> around, not only in terms of punk rock music, but in terms
> of being a
> concentration point of a certain rural/suburban demographic
> that the military
> has its eyes on and in the many cases already has its hands
> on.  Warped tour is also a
> concentration of a lot
> of what is good about the culture today - the
> rebelliousness, including against
> religion, as expressed by bands like Bad Religion, NOFX,
> and Anti-flag - and also a lot of
> what is bad, and even downright dangerous. 
> There is the huge following that conservative
> Christian bands like Under
> Oath have.  There is the
> omnipresent
> macho bullshit and the total lack of standards when it
> comes to the treatment
> of women.  There is a growing
> contingent
> of youth who spew Fox News talking points as if they were
> facts.  And there is an overall
> ignorance, including
> among those who dislike military recruiters, about the
> causes and effects of U.S. wars in Iraq 
> and Afghanistan .  
> With all that in mind, we hit two
> stops on the Warped tour, San Francisco and Mountain
>   View .  Here are
> some of the highlights from each.
> San Francisco 
> Even though our booth was right next
> to the communists from
> Revolution Books, we attracted more controversy by
> far.  In fact we spent a good
> portion of the day in
> debates with pro-military people. 
> There
> was one older white guy, who claimed he was there with his
> kids, who spent the
> entire day next to our booth trying to egg people on
> against us.  This was both good
> and bad.  On the one hand, we
> were able to draw forward
> a lot of the spectators to sign up with us by exposing how
> full of shit the
> reactionaries were, including the fact that some of them
> were also Christian
> fascists who thought these were holy wars against
> Islam.  And we were sometimes
> able to sow divisions
> among them, like when two military guys approached us and
> by the time they left
> the one who was about to deploy to Iraq was thinking about
> being a
> conscientious objector and the other one was trying to grab
> the GI rights
> hotline card out of his hand. 
> On the
> other hand, we often weren't able to pay the kind of
> attention we needed to the
> people who agreed with us.  
> The pro-military people, some of whom
> were vets/active-duty
> and some of whom were just right wing youth, would come at
> us with all the
> typical arguments: Iraq is harboring terrorists... we're
> there to keep you safe...
> we're there so you can have the freedom to have this
> booth... we're building
> schools and hospitals... I didn't support the war, but
> you have to support the
> troops... yeah, murder, rape, and torture are happening,
> but that's war... yeah
> there's rape in the military, and that's why women
> shouldn't be in the
> military... you don't know the situation, you don't
> know what happened before
> that picture, that person's probably a terrorist
> (pointing at the pictures from
> Abu-Ghraib that we had displayed)... you must be an Obama
> supporter and watch
> CNN... what about all the Americans they've
> beheaded...what if your buddy was
> beheaded...
> That's some of the flavor of
> it.  A lot of their arguments
> about the horrors of
> what the "terrorists" have done to Americans I would
> just answer with the
> simple, "who invaded who?" 
> I also kept
> returning to the basic points about both of these wars
> being based on lies and
> being wars of aggression waged for imperialist
> domination.  Some of the military
> people who came up to
> the table were more curious than hostile, but because of
> the reactionaries
> hanging out by the table egging them on (you know they hate
> the troops), things
> got heated right away.  I found
> myself
> repeating over and over again, "just because you join the
> military doesn't mean
> you lose your ability to think critically." 
> A couple of different active duty Coast Guard folks
> came up to the table
> at different times and talked about how they were against
> the war and just
> wanted to do search and rescue missions. 
> We talked about how the Coast Guard also specializes
> in anti-immigrant
> operations and, as a part of the U.S. 
> military, can be called on to do anything they want,
> including wage war (which
> is what happened during Vietnam ). 
> A number of veterans signed up with us,
> including one Native American veteran who attends Stanford
> now, considers
> himself a socialist, and wants to be part of the We are not
> your soldiers
> tour.  
> One other really positive factor was
> the fact that we had
> two students from Hayward 
>  High School in our
> crew.  When they called on other
> high
> school students in the crowd to join the youth movement to
> get recruiters out
> of our schools, it had a powerful effect. 
> There were also a number of other friends of theirs
> who were at the
> concert who hung around the booth most of the day, creating
> a lively scene and
> the feeling of a movement.  
> Mountain View 
> We didn't stir up as much
> controversy on this stop as the
> last one.  For one thing, it was
> on a
> weekday (instead of a Saturday) and so the crowd was
> younger, with far fewer
> people with articulated right wing arguments. 
> Also, a lot of the bands that attract more
> radical-minded youth, like
> Anti-flag and Bad Religion, were not playing. 
> Another negative factor was the fact that our booth
> was right across
> from a very loud (they had a DJ and an amplified setup) and
> obnoxious "Truth"
> booth - the anti-smoking people. 
> Nonetheless, we managed to get out hundreds of
> flyers and sign up dozens
> of people.  
> The most common response of those
> coming up to sign up at
> the table was, "Is this against military recruiters?  I fucking hate the
> recruiters!"  The challenge was
> trying to turn that into
> organization for October 6, the national day of resistance
> to military
> recruiters (also the 8th anniversary of war in
> Afghanistan ).  One high school
> student from Fremont said that he and his friend were
> already planning an antiwar protest sometime soon.  As it turns out, his friend's
> brother just
> came back from Iraq 
> and committed suicide.  Two
> young women
> who came up to the booth told us that military guys are
> always coming into the
> store where they work and arguing with them about the war,
> bragging about how
> they get to blow things up. 
> Another
> young woman came up to the booth and thanked us for being
> here and wants to
> hook up with the We are not your soldiers tour; her cousin
> died last year in Iraq .  A young
> guy who is doing Warped tour with
> PETA, got a We are not your soldiers bandana and told us
> about how he helped
> get the recruiters off his college campus in Illinois last
> year.  One woman from a small
> town near Sacramento came up to us
> and took a picture of our sign that says "Shut down the
> military recruiters!" and
> sent it by text to her brother in the Army. 
> Her brother texted back, "Then they can leave this
> country."  She took some flyers
> so she could have more
> ideological ammo to use against her "brainwashed"
> brother.  Her other friends that
> came with her are into
> straight edge vegan hardcore. 
> When they
> want to have fun they play "anarchist capture the
> flag," - in other words,
> going around and ripping off as many flags as they can find
> and burning
> them.  At the end, the young
> woman with
> the hardcore friends told me she's a Jehova's Witness,
> and encouraged me to
> read the Bible.  This was all
> part of the
> (very contradictory) scene at Warped tour. 
> Overall, I think we did some
> good.  We found the youth who
> hate the recruiters, gave
> them some more (and better) reasons to hate them, and gave
> them a vehicle to
> act (hopefully) on October 6.  We were
> able to draw out the better sentiments of the average
> concertgoer who didn't
> know much about the war and didn't really have an opinion
> about the recruiters,
> but after talking with us was pretty sure that they
> weren't going to join.  Only a
> couple people tried to argue that Afghanistan is
> the "good war," but didn't have any substance to back
> it up.  There was very little
> pro-Obama sentiment.
GEO World
Updated at: 1846 PST,  Friday, July 10, 2009
Protest demo holds Petraeus 'war criminal' SAN FRANCISCO: General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command in charge of the wars in the Middle East, and architect of the troop "surge" was target of a protest here for his part in torture and killing civilians, Geo News reported Friday.

A major demonstration was held when Petraeus spoke here at the Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter St., 2nd floor.

"Afghanistan is not the 'good war,'" said a spokesperson for World Can't Wait, an organizer of the demonstration. "General Petraeus should answer for his criminal role in the 'war on terror' and the huge escalation in Afghanistan."

Peace activists said that under Petraeus' command, pilotless drones have resulted in "mass murder" of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"No amount of slick PR packaging can render Petraeus anything better than a war criminal. There is a huge blanket of lies and ignorance surrounding the killing in Afghanistan. Most Americans have no idea of the crimes being done in their name," said World Can't Wait in a statement.

During his hourlong speech, which included a PowerPoint presentation, Petraeus warned of a tough fight as Marines have recently gone deeper into Taliban areas of southern Afghanistan to "reverse the cycle of violence" there.

He described it as, "the longest campaign."

Petraeus added that it will take a "sustained and substantial commitment" to prevent the Taliban from making the area a hot spot for terrorists. He said it's especially important for troops to have a presence prior to presidential elections there next month.

He said about 68,000 American troops will be in Afghanistan by this fall -- more than double the number from last year. He also mentioned armored Stryker vehicles, which were successful in Iraq, will be in Afghanistan and likely deployed in the troubled Kandahar province.

July 4th 2009

Over the July 4th traffic on Interstate 80, "torture victims and detainees" staged a bold banner display on the University Avenue overpass.
World Can't Wait has been up on this overpass action every July 4th since 2006. This year the focus on the torture state forged under Bush - and now being continued and refined by Obama - was a sharp challenge to the thousands who passed our display.
All afternoon, as drivers slowed to read the banners, endless honks and waves of support greeted the anti-torture message.  At times, a remarkable 30-40% of cars were honking loudly.
This city statue honoring the legacy of radical politics and protest in Berkeley's history stands at the foot of the overpass.  These protesters of today decided to update the statue's message.

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