Category Archives: North America

USA: A Department of Actual Defense in a Time of Coronavirus

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article by David Swanson in Pressenza (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license)

When a few thousand people were murdered on September 11, 2001, I was actually stupid enough – I kid you not – to imagine that the general public would conclude that because massive military forces, nuclear arsenals, and foreign bases had done nothing to prevent and much to provoke those crimes, the U.S. government would need to start scaling back its single biggest expense. By September 12th it was clear that the opposite course would be followed.


Louisiana National Guard Soldiers and Airmen test first responders for COVID-19 infections at Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 20, 2020. The testing site is one of three across New Orleans and Jefferson Parishes and will soon open to the general public. (Image by Staff Sgt. Josiah Pugh)

Since 2001, we have seen the U.S. government dump over a trillion dollars a year into militarism, and push the rest of the world to expend another trillion dollars a year, much of it on U.S.-made weapons. We’ve seen the creation of permawars, and the normalization of long-distance, push-button murder with drone wars. All of this has generated more terrorism in the name of fighting it. And it has come at the expense of actual defense.

A government agency aimed at actually defending people from actual dangers would cease activities that are counter-productive, that cause major environmental and climate destruction, and that consume resources that could be put to good use. Militarism meets all of those criteria.

Coronavirus will kill many more than a few thousand people, even just in the United States. The death toll there may fall between 200,000 and 2,200,000. That high figure would be 0.6% of the U.S. population, which compares with 0.3% of the U.S. population killed by World War II, or 5.0% of the Iraqi population killed in the war begun in 2003. The low figure of 200,000 would be 67 times the death count from 9-11. Should we expect to see the U.S. government expending $67 trillion a year on health and wellness? Even one sixty-seventh of that, even a mere trillion a year spent where it’s actually useful could work wonders.

The microscopic little virus, just like the men with boxcutters on airplanes, is simply not addressed by military spending. On the contrary, the environmental destruction of militarism and of the dominant global culture as a whole very likely contributes to the mutation and spread of such viruses. Factory farming and carnivorism likely contribute as well. And at least some diseases, such as Lyme and Anthrax, have been spread by military labs doing openly offensive or supposedly defensive work on bioweapons.

A Department of Actual Defense, as opposed to a Department of War renamed Defense, would be looking very hard at the twin dangers of nuclear and climate apocalypse, and the accompanying spin-offs like coronavirus. I don’t mean looking at them with an eye to militarizing borders, getting more oil out of the arctic as the ice melts, demonizing immigrants to sell more weapons, or developing “smaller” and “more usable” nukes. We have all of that sociopathy already. I mean looking at these threats in order to actually defend against them.

The biggest dangers include:

* poor health, and poor diets and lifestyles that contribute to poor health,

* particular diseases and ecosystem destruction that contributes to them,

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Question for this article:

Does military spending lead to economic decline and collapse?

How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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* poverty and financial insecurity that lead to poor health and to the inability to take necessary steps against a disease like coronavirus,

* suicide, and the unhappy lives and mental illness and access to guns that contribute,

* accidents, and the transportation and workplace policies that contribute,

* War is a top cause of death where there are wars. Foreign terrorism is nowhere remotely near a top cause of death in nations that wage distant wars.

The disastrous response that we are seeing from the U.S. and other governments to the current disaster should put to rest once and for all the notion that people will automatically become better and wiser once things get bad enough.

Those proclaiming empire over and capitalism dead should get a grip on themselves. Capitalism is thriving, as is empire. A culture that has spent decades preparing to act badly when the COVID-19 hits the fan cannot be made to be acting wisely simply by declaring it so.

But acting disastrously is not inevitable. It’s a choice, albeit a difficult one to change quickly. It’s popular to predict that climate collapse will cause war, but climate collapse can’t cause a war in a culture that doesn’t use war. What causes war, or insider trading and pandemic profiteering, or negligent mass homicide is the preparation of systems designed for those things and for nothing else.

We could prepare a society and a government for positive steps instead. A Department of Actual Defense would need to be global, not national, but a national government could do a cheap imitation of parts of it that would be wild improvements over what we’re seeing now. Such a department might encompass what’s been conceived of as a Department of Peace, an agency aimed at moving from violence to nonviolence. But a Department of Actual Defense would also be dedicated to preventing all major harm.

Imagine if everyone on earth right now had financial security and top medical care. We would all be better off in many ways. That task may sound dreamy or visionary, but it is actually radically smaller than the task of building the militaries that have been built in recent years.

Imagine if climate collapse were being treated like the urgent emergency that coronavirus is now understood to be. Climate collapse should have been treated that way many years ago. The sooner it is, the easier things will be. The later, the harder. Why choose the harder road?

Imagine if the nuclear doomsday clock being closer to midnight than ever before were addressed appropriately, with some hint of interest from human governments in human survival. That’s a project that costs nothing and saves billions — so, feel free to mock it, but not to scream howyagonnapayforit. Nobody screams that for military-sized corporate bailouts anyway.

A Department of Actual Defense would not be a military attacking a different enemy. The problem of disease or illness is one to be addressed as much by improved environment, lifestyle, and diet as by medicine, and by an approach to medicine that attempts all solutions whether or not they resemble “attacking” the “enemy” virus.

A Department of Actual Defense would train pro-environment workers, disaster-relief workers, and suicide-prevention workers in the tasks of protecting the environment, relieving disasters, and preventing suicide, as opposed to training and arming them all to kill large number of people with weapons but then assigning them to other tasks. We don’t need a military redirected but disbanded.

What humanity needs is not a better militarism, but a better humanity.

Discuss this on this webinar on April 7.

Time to Change America: 7 suggestions

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article by W. J. Astore in Bracing Views

In my latest article for  TomDispatch.com, I argue that the coronavirus crisis provides an opportunity to reimagine America.  Please read the entire article  at TomDispatch; what follows is an extended excerpt.  Thanks!


There’s only one Spaceship Earth

This should be a time for a genuinely new approach, one fit for a world of rising disruption and disaster, one that would define a new, more democratic, less bellicose America. To that end, here are seven suggestions, focusing — since I’m a retired military officer — mainly on the U.S. military, a subject that continues to preoccupy me, especially since, at present, that military and the rest of the national security state swallow up roughly 60% of federal discretionary spending:

1. If ever there was a time to reduce our massive and wasteful military spending, this is it. There was never, for example, any sense in investing up to $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal. (Why are new weapons needed to exterminate humanity when the “old” ones still work just fine?) Hundreds of stealth fighters and bombers — it’s estimated that Lockheed Martin’s disappointing F-35 jet fighter alone will cost $1.5 trillion over its life span — do nothing to secure us from pandemics, the devastating effects of climate change, or other all-too-pressing threats. Such weaponry only emboldens a militaristic and chauvinistic foreign policy that will facilitate yet more wars and blowback problems of every sort. And speaking of wars, isn’t it finally time to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan? More than $6 trillion has already been wasted on those wars and, in this time of global peril, even more is being wasted on this country’s forever conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa. (Roughly $4 billion a month continues to be spent on Afghanistan alone, despite all the talk about “peace” there.)

2. Along with ending profligate weapons programs and quagmire wars, isn’t it time for the U.S. to begin dramatically reducing its military “footprint” on this planet? Roughly 800 U.S. military bases circle the globe in a historically unprecedented fashion at a yearly cost somewhere north of $100 billion. Cutting such numbers in half over the next decade would be a more than achievable goal. Permanently cutting provocative “war games” in South Korea, Europe, and elsewhere would be no less sensible. Are North Korea and Russia truly deterred by such dramatic displays of destructive military might?

3. Come to think of it, why does the U.S. need the immediate military capacity to fight two major foreign wars simultaneously, as the Pentagon continues to insist we do and plan for, in the name of “defending” our country? Here’s a radical proposal: if you add 70,000 Special Operations forces to 186,000 Marine Corps personnel, the U.S. already possesses a potent quick-strike force of roughly 250,000 troops. Now, add in the Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions and the 10th Mountain Division. What you have is more than enough military power to provide for America’s actual national security. All other Army divisions could be reduced to cadres, expandable only if our borders are directly threatened by war.

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Question for this article:

Does military spending lead to economic decline and collapse?

How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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Similarly, restructure the Air Force and Navy to de-emphasize the present “global strike” vision of those services, while getting rid of Donald Trump’s newest service, the Space Force, and the absurdist idea of taking war into low earth orbit. Doesn’t America already have enough war here on this small planet of ours?

4. Bring back the draft, just not for military purposes. Make it part of a national service program for improving America. It’s time for a new Civilian Conservation Corps focused on fostering a Green New Deal. It’s time for a new Works Progress Administration to rebuild America’s infrastructure and reinvigorate our culture, as that organization did in the Great Depression years. It’s time to engage young people in service to this country. Tackling COVID-19 or future pandemics would be far easier if there were quickly trained medical aides who could help free doctors and nurses to focus on the more difficult cases. Tackling climate change will likely require more young men and women fighting forest fires on the west coast, as my dad did while in the CCC — and in a climate-changing world there will be no shortage of other necessary projects to save our planet. Isn’t it time America’s youth answered a call to service? Better yet, isn’t it time we offered them the opportunity to truly put America, rather than themselves, first?

5. And speaking of “America First,” that eternal Trumpian catch-phrase, isn’t it time for all Americans to recognize that global pandemics and climate change make a mockery of walls and go-it-alone nationalism, not to speak of politics that divide, distract, and keep so many down? President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that only Americans can truly hurt America, but there’s a corollary to that: only Americans can truly save America — by uniting, focusing on our common problems, and uplifting one another. To do so, it’s vitally necessary to put an end to fear-mongering (and warmongering). As President Roosevelt famously said in his first inaugural address in the depths of the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear inhibits our ability to think clearly, to cooperate fully, to change things radically as a community.

6. To cite Yoda, the Jedi master, we must unlearn what we have learned. For example, America’s real heroes shouldn’t be “warriors” who kill or sports stars who throw footballs and dunk basketballs. We’re witnessing our true heroes in action right now: our doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, together with our first responders, and those workers who stay in grocery stores, pharmacies, and the like and continue to serve us all despite the danger of contracting the coronavirus from customers. They are all selflessly resisting a threat too many of us either didn’t foresee or refused to treat seriously, most notably, of course, President Donald Trump: a pandemic that transcends borders and boundaries. But can Americans transcend the increasingly harsh and divisive borders and boundaries of our own minds? Can we come to work selflessly to save and improve the lives of others? Can we become, in a sense, lovers of humanity?

7. Finally, we must extend our love to encompass nature, our planet. For if we keep treating our lands, our waters, and our skies like a set of trash cans and garbage bins, our children and their children will inherit far harder times than the present moment, hard as it may be.

What these seven suggestions really amount to is rejecting a militarized mindset of aggression and a corporate mindset of exploitation for one that sees humanity and this planet more holistically. Isn’t it time to regain that vision of the earth we shared collectively during the Apollo moon missions: a fragile blue sanctuary floating in the velvety darkness of space, an irreplaceable home to be cared for and respected since there’s no other place for us to go? . . .

(Note: William Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history.)

(Thank you to Peter Veres who called this to our attention.)

China to Expel New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Reporters From Country

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article by Ken Meyer in Mediaite reprinted according to Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License for non-commercial reproduction with credit to the source site.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that they will expel American journalists from three news outlets — the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal — who are stationed to work in the country.

The press release, entitled “China Takes Countermeasures Against US Suppression of Chinese Media Organizations in the United States,” claims that “the US government has placed unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media agencies and personnel in the US, purposely made things difficult for their normal reporting assignments, and subjected them to growing discrimination and politically-motivated oppression.” The announcement goes on to say that the Chinese government will direct a number of retaliatory measures against The New York Times, Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Voice of America and Time Magazine.

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Question related to this article:
 
Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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The first demand was for all five outlets to provide the government “written form information about their staff, finance, operation and real estate in China.” Most notably, the statement goes on by saying American journalists for The New York Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal are all ordered to leave China, along with Hong Kong and Macao, in the next 10 days.

“In response to the US slashing the staff size of Chinese media outlets in the US, which is expulsion in all but name, China demands that journalists of US citizenship working with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post whose press credentials are due to expire before the end of 2020 notify the Department of Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within four calendar days starting from today and hand back their press cards within ten calendar days. They will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People’s Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.”

The statement continues by hinting at further “reciprocal measures against American journalists” in response to “discriminatory restrictions” on Chinese journalists.

Last month, China expelled three WSJ journalists over an opinion that called the country “the real sick man of Asia.” The piece focused on China’s failed attempts to stop the coronavirus before it became a global pandemic, and it was decried as “malicious slander” by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

USA: Patriots for Peace fighting the good fight

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article by Tim Mosier from the Estes Park Trail

Members of the Estes Park Patriots for Peace stood tall on the corner of Elkhorn Ave and Virginia Dr Wednesday afternoon promoting peace in the community and around the globe.

Many Estes Park residents are probably familiar with these warriors for peace and have become accustomed to seeing them in their spot just outside of Bond Park each and every Wednesday.. . .


Members of the Estes Park Patriots for Peace stand just outside of Bond Park on the corner of Elkhorn Ave and Virginia Dr. From left to right: Robert Burkhardt, Betsy Bayer, Linda Bensey, and Robert Johnson.

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Question for this article:

How can we be sure to get news about peace demonstrations?

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President of the organization, Linda Bensey, said the group has been occupying that corner in downtown Estes Park every Wednesday from noon to 12:30.  The dedication of the group members is strong and community members will see at least Patriot each and every week, no matter the weather.

They have not missed a Wednesday since the group was founded in 2003.
The Patriots for Peace describe themselves as a transpartisan, inclusive organization whose mission includes promoting a culture of peace at all levels of society.  They meet once a month and encourage the community to stop by.

Keep an eye on the Trail-Gazette for more information on meetings and events planned by the organization

New York City, April 24-26: World Conference & Mobilization – Abolish Nuclear Weapons; Resist and Reverse the Climate Crisis

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

Conference call from World Conference 2020

(note: Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the conference has been canceled.)

Boston/Berlin/Tokyo: Leading nuclear disarmament, peace, climate and justice organizations announced plans today for The World Conference and international mobilization in New York City, April 24-26, 2020. The Conference and related events urging nuclear disarmament and action for climate sustainability and justice will be held on the eve of the critically important Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and the 75th anniversary of the United States atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Image from Conference flyer: aftermath of Hiroshima

The Conference (April 24 & 25,) will bring together leaders, activists and A-bomb survivors (Hibakusha), from across the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Global South. It will be held at the prestigious Riverside Church, the site of Martin Luther King Jr’s seminal 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech. Plenary speakers will include leading international disarmament, peace, climate and justice movement leaders, and activists, scholars and diplomats from around the world.

On April 26, thousands will rally in Manhattan and march to the United Nations, where more than 10 million petition signatures urging the fulfilment of the NPT’s promise of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons will be presented to UN and NPT Review officials. The march will be led by Japanese and Korean Hibakusha, as well as by leaders of the assembled movements who understand the interconnected nature of their concerns and the imperative of building multi-issue movements.

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Question(s) related to this article:

Global meetings, conferences, assemblies, What is the best way for delegates to interact afterwards?

(continued from left column)

Conference organizers stressed the urgent need to counter the increasing existential dangers of nuclear weapons/nuclear war, with many urging grassroots action to press the nuclear weapons states, as well as their own governments to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The conference will also provide a venue for movement building to reverse the climate crisis, and to challenge the deadly and debilitating consequences of rising income inequality, racism, nationalism and xenophobia.

Their Conference Call (see attached) states: “The World Conference will provide a unique opportunity for the world’s nuclear disarmament campaigns, allied movements and organizations, and diplomats committed to banning and eliminating nuclear weapons to amplify our abolition demands to the Review Conference. Making links to climate and social and economic justice movements offers a new opportunity to develop the alliances and intersectional movements we need to prevail.”


Initiating organization include: American Friends Service Committee, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK), Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security, Gensuikin (Japan Congress against A- & H- Bombs,) Gensuikyo (Japan Council against A- & H- Bombs), International Peace Bureau, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Nihon Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- & H- Bomb Sufferers’ Organizations), Peace Action, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – New York Office, and Western States Legal Foundation.

Speaking for the coalition, Joseph Gerson said: “It is a privilege to be working with such a diverse and international coalition to hammer home the need for disarmament, peace, and climate, economic, and racial justice,” says Joseph Gerson, conference organizer and disarmament coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee. “With increasing threats of war, rising tension between world powers, new arms races, rising seas of the climate crisis, and continued violence against people of color, we are organizing to create the foundation for real security for future generations.”

Read our call to action here.

Download our event flyer here.

Nobel Women’s Initiative: A strategic approach to climate action

. WOMEN’S EQUALITY .

A strategic paper by the Nobel Women’s Initiative

Canada can be the global leader in promoting environmental and climate change action and gender equality. By taking a more integrated, feminist approach, the results of these related efforts can be amplified. This strategic approach has the potential to become a key pillar in addressing gender, climate and environmental priorities:

• There is a clear link between women’s rights and how women experience climate change. When women lack full and equal rights, they suffer disproportionately from negative climate change impacts. In turn, climate change negatively impacts women and their rights.

• Often, climate change policies and programs treat women as either victims or environmental saviours, rather than potent agents of change. This approach reinforces gender inequality by disregarding women’s agency or adding to their already heavy workloads.

• Local-level, women-led initiatives are having significant positive impacts on climate change action, and gender equality. Yet, global climate finance flows are being directed elsewhere. Even when donors fund local-level climate change projects, they rarely take gender equality issues into account. Funding that targets women’s rights and gender equality, meanwhile, tends to overlook women’s climate change adaptation efforts.

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Questions for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

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• Canada can bolster its leadership in environmental and climate action and gender equality, by strengthening its feminist approach. Canada should:

Fund:

Increase the proportion of climate change funding directed to projects led by women’s organizations. Prioritize partnerships with local women’s rights actors in calls for proposals for climate change projects. Provide core funding for women’s rights organizations and movements that address climate change impacts. Establish a dedicated Women’s Fund for Climate Adaptation.

Listen:

Facilitate, fund and support the participation of grassroots women’s organizations in climate policy and finance discussions. Advocate at international climate fora for the meaningful inclusion of women who are directly affected by climate change.

Build:

Strengthen the capacity of grassroots women leaders and their organizations to participate substantively in climate change fora and negotiations. Invest in movement-building of women’s rights actors on climate change. Fund consortiums that build the collective power of women’s rights and environmental justice movements.

Influence:

Advocate for a deeper understanding of climate change as a critical human rights issue at international fora. Socialize the importance of taking a feminist approach to tackling climate change with other governments and stakeholders. Use Canada’s influence to advocate for a more inclusive Green Climate Fund1.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

The Wet’suwet’en Fight Against New Pipeline Spreads Across Canada with Blockades & Occupations

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

A report from Democracy Now (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. )

A major anti-pipeline struggle continues in Canada, where protests have broken out across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders whose sovereign land in northern British Columbia was raided last week and over the weekend by Canadian police. Dozens were arrested in the days-long raid of unceded indigenous territories, where hereditary chiefs have been in a protracted battle to protect their land from the construction of TransCanada’s 400-mile, $4.7 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline. The raids took place about 700 miles north of Vancouver and sparked outrage across the country. In Ontario, a Mohawk solidarity protest has shut down the Canadian National Railway for days, halting travel for tens of thousands of passengers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a quick resolution to the protests on Wednesday. In New York, protesters on Wednesday gathered for a sit-in outside the United Nations headquarters in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders.


video of Democracy Now broadcast

For more, we go to Wet’suwet’en territory, where we’re joined by land defender and matriarch Molly Wickham. Her clan, the Gidimt’en Clan, was raided last week by 60 heavily militarized officers with assault rifles and dogs. And in Toronto, we’re joined by Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She is the chair in indigenous governance at Ryerson University.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we go to a major anti-pipeline struggle in Canada, where protests have broken out across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders, whose sovereign land in northern British Columbia was brutally raided last week and over the weekend by Canadian police. Dozens were arrested in the days-long raid of unceded indigenous territories, where hereditary chiefs have been in a protracted battle to protect their land from the construction of TransCanada’s 400-mile, $4.7 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline. The raids took place about 700 miles north of Vancouver. This is a land defender confronting armed police officers last week.

LAND DEFENDER: We are here for humanity, for life! We are unarmed! We are peaceful! You are killers! You are genocidal maniacs! You have your guns pointed at us!

AMY GOODMAN: The raids have sparked outrage across Canada and the world. In Ontario, a Mohawk solidarity protest has shut down the Canadian National Railway for days, halting travel for tens of thousands of passengers. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a quick resolution to the protests on Wednesday. In fact, his offices were occupied.
Well, for more, we go to Wet’suwet’en territory, where we’re joined by land defender, matriarch Molly Wickham. Her clan, the Gidimt’en Clan, was raided last week by 60 heavily militarized officers with assault rifles and dogs. And in Toronto, we’re joined by Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, chair of the indigenous governance at Ryerson University.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Molly Wickham, let’s begin with you. You’re right there at the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Can you talk about what is happening? Explain what the conflict is around this pipeline.

MOLLY WICKHAM: The conflict that has been going on around this pipeline has been going on for years. This isn’t something new. Last year, on January 7th, we were also raided by heavily militarized RCMP with lethal overwatch and —

AMY GOODMAN: And let me explain: RCMP is Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for the non-Canadian audience.

MOLLY WICKHAM: Oh, right, yes. And so, this is the second year in a row. And actually, the raid happened on the exact same location a year and a month after the raid that happened last year. And so this has been an ongoing battle. But it’s also a bigger issue around indigenous rights and title and sovereignty of our nation. We have a hereditary system that’s in place, that has never been extinguished. Our traditional governance system is in place, and this is a conflict between that governance system and colonization and the imposition of Indian Act ban systems, which were — came in through the Indian Act from the federal government and are being used against our own people to try and undermine our decision-making and our inherent right to make decisions and protect our territory.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what happened during the most recent arrests of the matriarchs performing a ceremony for missing and murdered indigenous women? If you can talk about the wearing of the red dresses and exactly what happened? And were you arrested, as well?

MOLLY WICKHAM: So, what happened up at Unist’ot’en — they’re our neighboring clan. We have five clans within the nation, and each clan is responsible for their territory. And so, they were doing a ceremony because they have a man camp that is built on their territory, which is supposed to house 400 men, 400 foreign workers that are coming from all different parts of so-called Canada and externally, and they’re not from our community. And we have a huge rate of murdered and missing indigenous women, especially in the north here, where our territory lies. The highway that runs through our territory is called the “Highway of Tears” because of the number of murdered and missing indigenous women. And so, they have been bringing attention to that fact, that these man camps bring increased rates of violence, increased rates of murder against our women, increased rates of domestic abuse and violence and drug abuse and alcohol abuse in our communities. And that’s what they were performing there. I was not at the Unist’ot’en Camp. I wasn’t arrested. I was one of the ones that was arrested last year. And currently I’m seven months pregnant and wasn’t permitted to be out on our territory during the raids.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about who owns Coastal GasLink? What is this project?

MOLLY WICKHAM: This is a project owned by TC Energy. They changed their name after last year. And they —

AMY GOODMAN: TC being TransCanada?

MOLLY WICKHAM: TransCanada, yeah. And so, they legally changed it to TC Energy. But this project has been ongoing for quite a while. They’ve had different investors, mostly Shell, Shell Canada. And they just received investment, new investment, by AIMCo, just recently, and that’s not quite finalized yet. But it’s very — they’re walking a tight line in terms of companies that want to invest in this project. LNG Canada is one of the biggest investments. And that’s the terminal that is looking to transport and liquefy the natural gas, or the fracked gas. And that project hasn’t gotten off the ground. And so, everybody talks about it as if it’s a done deal, but the actual terminal itself has not been built in Kitimat.

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Question for this article

Indigenous peoples, Are they the true guardians of nature?

(Report continued from left column)

AMY GOODMAN: In Ontario, a Mohawk solidarity protest has shut down the Canadian National Railway for days, halting travel for tens of thousands of passengers. I want to turn to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responding to the solidarity protests.

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We recognize the important democratic right, and we will always defend it, of peaceful protest. This is an important part of our democracy in Canada. But we are also a country of the rule of law, and we need to make sure those laws are respected. That is why I will be — I am encouraging all parties to dialogue to resolve this as quickly as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose own offices were occupied. Pamela Palmater is also with us, the Mi’kmaq lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, chair of indigenous governance at Ryerson University. Can you talk about the solidarity protests that are taking place across Canada, including directly in the prime minister’s office?

PAMELA PALMATER: Yeah. Well, there’s lots —

AMY GOODMAN: And respond to what he said.

PAMELA PALMATER: Yeah, there’s lots of solidarity protests. I mean, it’s the Mohawk, the Haudenosaunee peoples shutting down rails. And there’s lots of people. There was youth and others standing in solidarity at various legislatures, preventing access, occupying minister’s offices, also shutting down ports. There are people shutting down bridges, shutting down highways. Because this is a repeat offense. And you can’t attack indigenous peoples in a worse way than sending in the Royal Canadian military — Royal Canadian —

AMY GOODMAN: Mounted Police.

PAMELA PALMATER: RCMP, yeah, Mounted Police. I can’t get away from the militarized version of them. And how they’re always so heavily armed, how we found out that they were authorized for, quote-unquote, “lethal overwatch,” to use as much violence as possible against the Wet’suwet’en people to literally remove them from their homes, outside of Canada’s Constitution, in breach of Canada’s so-called rule of law, in breach of Wet’suwet’en law, in breach of international law. And so, indigenous peoples all across the country feel this, because this has happened in Oka, this has happened in Miꞌkmaq territory with Elsipogtog. You know, it’s happened in Standing Rock. It’s happened all over Turtle Island. And so, when the RCMP attack the Wet’suwet’en, they also attack us. So we raised in solidarity. And it’s often categorized as an anti-pipeline protest, but I don’t think that’s accurate. It is for some, but for most of us it’s about protecting our indigenous sovereignty and our land rights, which are the two issues that have never been resolved, and they’re always trumped, they’re always breached, despite how many court cases or how many international protections we have.

And for me, I find it really upsetting that the prime minister, who is not even in Canada, who is actually traveling the world trying to campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, you know, in order to maintain peace and security worldwide, can’t do that or follow the rule of law here in Canada. And as you know, the RCMP denied media access to record what was happening, to be able to report on what was happening, removed media people, arrested some of the media. So, they’re reaching their own Constitution, their own Charter of Rights, yet they espouse the rule of law. And to my mind, what he’s really talking about is the law of rulers. They pick and choose which laws suit their economic and political purposes, while at the same time continuing to commit genocide against indigenous peoples, because we know from the national inquiry one of the ways to commit genocide against indigenous peoples is to forcibly remove them from their lands, which is something that is completely prohibited under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is now supposed to be law in B.C.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how the Wet’suwet’en system of governance, how it has affected how hereditary chiefs have tried to engage with the governments of Canada and British Columbia on this pipeline issue? Pamela Palmater?

PAMELA PALMATER: Is that a question for Molly? Oh, sorry. Well, I don’t speak for the Wet’suwet’en, but what I know from talking to Wet’suwet’en peoples, like Molly and other hereditary leaders, is that, you know, this isn’t new. This is something that —

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me put that question to Molly Wickham. Molly, if you can explain how the hereditary chiefs work and how that has affected their communication with both Canada and British Columbia and the company?

MOLLY WICKHAM: So, we have 13 house chiefs. We have five clans. And our house chiefs are the speakers on behalf of the clans collectively. We’ve maintained this system. Our laws are solidified and ratified in our feast hall, in our potlatch, which was banned by the federal government. And so, this is the way that we have always governed ourselves. This is the way that we are moving forward with this movement, is that it’s our traditional leadership and our hereditary system that are making the — speaking on behalf of our decision-makers, which are our clans and our chiefs.

And so, the company has actively undermined — the federal government and the provincial government have actively undermined our system of governance by going to elected band councils, which were imposed by the Indian Act and the federal government. And so, we are asserting ourselves, as we always have. We’ve never been — you know, we’ve always been on our territories. We’ve always occupied our territories. We’ve always used this system of governance and collective decision-making to say and discuss what is and what is not allowed on our territory. And we have very strong trespass laws. And Coastal GasLink, TC Energy, the province and the federal government are providing false authority and false permission, unauthorized permission, on lands that we hold full jurisdiction to, to make decisions on.

AMY GOODMAN: To settle this, can you pronounce, Molly Wickham, “Wet’suwet’en”? Can you pronounce your nation?

MOLLY WICKHAM: Yes. We are the Wet’suwet’en Nation, and I belong to the Gidimt’en Clan. It’s one of the five clans of the nation.

AMY GOODMAN: And are the raids over? And what is happening with the actual pipeline being built? And what are you demanding of the Canadian government?

MOLLY WICKHAM: We had three raids on Gidimt’en territory alone over the course of five days, and it resulted in 21 arrests of our camps, of our territory, 15 of which are moving forward with charges against our land defenders, heavily militarized police force coming in and removing everybody from the territory. And so, they were not successful in removing our entire camp at Gidimt’en at 44 kilometer, where the raid happened last year, so we still have people that are there. We have people that are moving back in. The tactical teams have left the area, but there’s still a huge RCMP presence and police presence on our territory. The chiefs have — they served an eviction notice on February 4th — or, January 4th to all Coastal GasLink employees on 22,000 square kilometers of our territory. And that eviction notice still stands. And that eviction notice will continue to be enforced by the Wet’suwet’en according to Wet’suwet’en law.

AMY GOODMAN: Molly Wickham, I want to thank you so much for being with us, land defender, chief, matriarch of the Gidimt’en Clan of Wet’suwet’en Nation. And Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer, member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, thank you so much for joining us, as we continue to cover that struggle.

Building peace through Rotary

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article by David Wick in the Ashland Tidings

Being invited to speak at the Rotary World Peace Conference in Ontario, California, Jan. 17–18, was an energizing and thought-provoking way to begin the new year.

I am aware of the many challenges we all face in 2020, and I found participating in a room with 1,000 other people who are focused on peace and peace-building to be a real boost and reassurance that we are on the right track.

The mission of the Rotary World Peace Conference 2020, with 19 general session speakers, 153 breakout sessions, and 67 information and product booths, is to bring together experts with solutions to major issues that are occurring in our personal lives, homes, schools, businesses and communities around the world. The focus on peace in Rotary is growing significantly. This is contributing to the culture of peace evolution.

My presentation about the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission’s community engagement and our assistance with sheltering unhoused people in our community was well received. Throughout the conference I found a great deal of interest from participants in how ACPC is educating our community about the ideals and actions of the culture of peace. I was also asked how we work with Rotary and whether we have similar goals. The short answer is yes.

My return flight home to Ashland had a layover in Portland. Before I left, Al Jubitz, a Rotarian for 43 years and founder of the international Rotarian Action Group For Peace, asked me to stay on for several days in Portland to meet Fergal McCarthy, Rotary International Peace Programs manager from Evanston, Illinois, and to attend several Rotary Club meetings, including a special dinner celebration of the Portland area Rotary peace-builder clubs. I learned a great deal about the many ways and many levels Rotary can use its significant infrastructure and local-global reach for peace-building and developing the culture of peace.

Jubitz believes that Rotary is uniquely capable of turning the world toward nonviolent conflict resolution, ultimately leading to a world beyond war.

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Question(s) related to this article:

What is Rotary doing for a culture of peace?

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I have learned that one of the guiding principles of Rotary is the Four-Way Test, which is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for the things we think, say or do:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Al had heard about the closing ceremony of our Ashland Global Peace Conference (Sept. 21, 2019), where Irene Kai (ACPC co-founder) led a votive peace candle-lighting ceremony while reading the Peace Flame Invocation with John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing in the background. He requested the same be done for the conclusion of the Rotary peace-builder clubs dinner. I conducted this closing ceremony, and the experience was beautiful and inspiring. This will move on to other clubs and cities.

Inspired by Al, Barbara Gaughen-Muller, Rudy Westervelt and other Rotarians, Irene and I have become members of the Rotary E-Club of World Peace, and we meet weekly online via Zoom with other members far and wide. We are thus official Rotarians with the privilege of visiting any other Rotary Club in the world.

After bringing ACPC and Rotary peace-building missions and practices together, I wanted to learn more about our two Ashland Rotary clubs and their peace-focused activities. I also wanted to bring to them the opportunity be become peace-builder clubs, with the possible accompanying benefits.

I met with Alan Harper, president of Rotary Club of Ashland, and Chris Chambers, president of Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs, and member Dan Fowler to learn more. Both clubs participate in many activities to create greater well-being, such as international student exchange, Ashland literacy for youth, programs for the growth of Ashland High School students (Interact Clubs) and SOU students (Rotaract Clubs), shelter boxes for disaster relief, vocational scholarships, summer camps, grants to community nonprofit organizations, and a student of the month ceremony. From the perspective of ACPC, these clubs are contributing to the culture of peace.

As Alan Harper said, “Rotary has been around for a long time and is still making positive change in the world. We are proud to work on both the local and global levels, especially as we engage with young people.”

This is peace-building through Rotary.

Youth representatives speak out for Nuclear Disarmament at the NY City Hall

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from Peace Boat

On January 28, 2020, Peace Boat US attended the NY City Council hearing at the City Hall to support two legislations about nuclear disarmament. Held by the Committee on Governmental Operations, the hearing focused on two legislations that were sponsored by City Council member Daniel Dromm. RES0976-2019 will encourage council members to divest the New York City pension funds from industries that support nuclear weapons technologies and development and INT 1621-2019 which will make New York City a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Passing these legislations would not only be a city-wide decision but will also serve as a role model for a nuclear-free world.


Peace Boat US interns holding the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 won by ICAN, along with SDGs and signs for a nuclear free world on the steps of New York City Hall.

Many organizations and activists gathered on the stairs in front of the New York City Hall for a press conference to raise awareness for nuclear disarmament. ICAN representative Ray Acheson displayed the Nobel Peace Prize, a sign of hope and motivation for the activists, while calling for the city to step against nuclear weapons. She voiced support for a City Council resolution urging Comptroller Scott Stringer to divest pension funds from companies involved in nukes. Acheson is a member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

Acheson and other community leaders decried investments detailed in a 2019 report from the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University, which found the city’s retirement funds have put $475 million in 19 “nuclear weapon producers.” The sum includes more than $180 million invested in Boeing and about $67 million in Honeywell International.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

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More than 60 people testified at the public hearing, including Peace Boat US Director Emilie McGlone and our youth delegation from Hollins University, sharing the testimonies of the survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, encouraging Council Member Fernando Cabrera to announce his support for divestment from nuclear weapons producing companies. 

Participants at the hearing expressed their love of the city and strong unwillingness to see New York, or any other place on the Earth, to be exposed to the threat of irreversible destruction that nuclear weapons poses. Nuclear weapons not only eliminate the capacity of human self-defense and mutual aid, but they also create a genocidal level of injury. But so far, an outrageous amount of money is being invested in nuclear weapons instead of more immediate and pressing issues like poverty, health care, and climate change. Nuclear disarmament is a local, national and international issue and thus, in order to rid the world of nuclear weapons, we need actions from all levels, not just words. “It is the will of conscience of humanity,” to educate of truth and create real security that nuclear weapons are incapable of. 

Director Emilie McGlone spoke on behalf of Peace Boat US and shared information about the nuclear disarmament initiatives that Peace Boat has been organizing onboard and in the ports of call. Since 2008, Peace Boat has invited Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to participate in the “Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project.” This project is held annually onboard Peace Boat’s global voyages. As the average age of the Hibakusha is now more than 76 years old, the time remaining for them to directly share their experience and insights is very limited. 

The interns read testimonies on behalf of Hibakusha Shigeko Sasamori, Satsuko Thurlow, and Yasuaki Yamashita as well as activist Linda Chapman. The atomic bomb survivors’ testimonies described their personal experience and trauma suffered from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and urged the New York city council and committee members to support the total abolition of nuclear weapons and its development. The interns felt honored to deliver this important message to the hearing at the City Hall. It was an insightful experience for them to be part of this powerful and pivotal process. 

This post was created and published by Chin Wai Wong, Irina Conc, Leena Gurung, and Sajila Kanwal.

New York City hearings pave the way for nuclear weapons divestment

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from Move the Nuclear Weapons Money

On Tuesday last week (January 28), New York City Council held public hearings on two measures (draft Resolution 0976 and Initiative 1621) which if adopted would oblige the city to divest its city pension funds from the nuclear weapons industry and establish an advisory committee to develop city action to further implement its status as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.


Video of hearing

The draft measures were introduced to the council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos. Since then, New York peace, climate and disarmament activists have been campaigning to build endorsement from enough council members for the adoption of these two measures.

They have been supported by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global campaign to cut nuclear weapons budgets, end investments in the nuclear weapons and fossil fuel industries and reallocate these budgets and investments to support peace, climate and sustainable development. (Click here for the written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money).

The campaign has included directed research, lobbying of councillors, public events & actions, and open letters in support such as the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Open letter to New York City Council endorsed by representatives of over 20 New York peace, disarmament and climate action organizations.

‘City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ Councillor Helen Rosenthal told a support action organised by the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign in front of City Hall in October 2019.

‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation (whether directly via investments in weapons manufacturers, or indirectly via Citibank and other financial institutions with ties to weapons makers) runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’

Impact of NYC nuclear weapons divestment

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers.

However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

The Hearings

The public hearings on Thursday were run jointly by Council member Daniel Dromm and Council member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the NYC Committee on Governmental Operations. They included testimony from a wide range of New Yorkers and civil society organisations, including from labour, education, academia, finance, health, religious and law sectors and from communities impacted by the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. Witnesses stretched in age from 19-90. Click here for a video of the testimonies.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

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As the public hearings opened on Thursday, the two measures were one-vote short of a veto-proof majority. By the end of the hearings, Council Member Fernando Cabrera had affirmed his support thus ensuring the required votes for adoption. As such, it looks fairly certain that the measures will be adopted.

New York Administration resistance addressed by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money

One unresolved issue from the hearings is which city department would oversee the implementation of the two measures. Another issue is what resources, including budget, would be required for implementation and from where these would come.

The New York City administration was represented by Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, who argued that her department (the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs) had neither the resources nor the mandate to implement the measures if they were adopted. She argued that her department was responsible for building good working relations between NY City and the United Nations, educating youth about the United Nations, and reporting to the UN on NYC’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but not to engage in national security policy or international disarmament which was the mandate for the Federal government – not the city.

Mr Jonathan Granoff, representing Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, responded in his oral testimony that the remit from these resolutions was not that the City engage in advocacy at the United Nations, but rather to implement obligations arising from the UN that are applicable to cities as well as to federal governments. This is exactly what her department is doing with respect to SDGs, and is what they have a mandate to do for nuclear disarmament.

‘The very first resolution of the United Nations, which was adopted by consensus, affirmed a universal commitment to abolish atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and this is further affirmed as an obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty ,’ said Mr Granoff, who is also President of Global Security Institute and an internationally respected lawyer.

Ms Abeywardena, in outlining her department’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, seems to be unaware that SDG 16 includes the obligation to implement such international law at all levels of government, including at city level. As such, the Commission on International Affairs does indeed have the mandate to implement these measures if and when they are adopted.’

With regard to the human resources required to implement the measures, Mr Granoff agreed with Ms Abeywardena that her commission and the City Council did not have much expertise on nuclear weapons. ‘This is exactly why an advisory committee is required – to provide that expertise, and that expertise is here in this room, and you can have our expertise for free. The only resource standing in the way of getting rid of nuclear weapons is emotional, spiritual and political will.’

Click here for the oral testimony of Mr Granoff.

Click here for the written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, which includes experience of nuclear weapons divestment by cities, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other investors from around the world.

New York City and Mayors for Peace

The written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money included a proposal that a key action New York City should take in implementing the resolutions once adopted would be for them to join Mayors for Peace.
Jackie Cabassso, North America Representative for Mayors for Peace, in her oral testimony outlined some of the actions of Mayors for Peace – including introduction of nuclear disarmament resolutions that were adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Ms Cabasso reminded the City Council of the invitation from Mayors for Peace to New York to join, and urged she that they do so.