Sunday, January 31, 2010

Constructive aid, not militarization wanted in Haiti

Thanks to David Morris for sending his translation of the following news article from TeleSUR in Haiti:

Haitian NGOs criticize militarization of Haiti and ask for more constructive humanitarian aid
TeleSUR 01/30/10

Several Haitian organizations are seeking the formation of new international solidarity brigades to help in the struggle for literacy and repopulation, among other needs.
A group of around 18 Haitian non-governmental organizations and social groups on Saturday criticized the United States government for sending military troops to the Caribbean nation and argued for constructive humanitarian aid after the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and other parts of the country.
"Humanitarian aid is now indispensable because of the magnitude of the catastrophe, but it needs to be constructive, undertaken with a diferent vision of the process of reconstruction," the groups write in an open letter directed to their counterparts elsewhere.
Several NGOs in Haiti that work to support rural and urban areas, campesino associations and feminists, expressed their desire to "see the birth of international solidarity brigades" involved in supporting causes like "the struggle for agrarian reform and integrated ownership of urban property."
These brigades could help in "the struggle against illiteracy and for repopulation, the building of new universal, decentralized and modern systems of education and pulic health," the organizations declared.
Among the NGOs and organizations are the Haitian Platform for Alternative Development and the Alternative Justice Program, which expressed their displeasure and indignation over a new invasion by 20,000 American marines and claimed that the Haitian crisis has been used as a pretext to justify an operation "that runs the risk of turning into a new military occupation," like the US interventions of 1915 and 1994.
They denounced a "strategy of remilitarization of the Caribbean basin as American imperialism’s response to the growing rebellion by the people of the continent against neoliberalism."
Haitian President René Préval has on several occasions rejected the notion that Haiti is under the guardianship of the United States, which was invited only to see to the security of the airport and the port, which were damaged by the earthquake.
United States ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten delcared to the local press that there are only 5,000 soldiers deployed in the country to aid in the distribution of humanitarian aid, while another US military contingent remains at sea in the Caribbean nation’s waters.
The NGOs and associations regretted the enormous material and human losses and the loss of "30 years of collective experiences"; nevertheless, at the same time, they offered congratulations for "the extraordinary impulses of solidarity shown by the population of the metropolitan area," which, they said, constructed 450 refugee camps "which contributed to saving thousands of persons imprisoned in the ruins."
The open letter was signed by the Karl Leveque Cultural Institute, the Haitian Conference of the Religious, Haitian Women’s Solidarity and the Small Campesinos of the Artibonite Movement.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Georgetown students stand up to General Petraeus

A friend forwarded this link for a youtube video of Georgetown students rising to read names of civilians killed by US weapons as General David Petraeus was speaking at a college assembly. These bold students reminded their fellow students and professors what a Jesuit University should stand for. I commend their action.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Youth poets awe the room

Yesterday afternoon, I had the honor of hearing some fine youth slam poets speak their art and truth. Young men and women took their turns on stage at The Independent, their intelligent poetic explorations of life resonating deeply with me. Being unrelated to any of the poets, I was tapped to be a judge, which is always a challenge, because I want to give every poem a ten. Does judgehood make me listen in a different way? Maybe I'm even more aware of the rhyming, timing and metaphor -- all of which were brilliantly used throughout the slam. What can I say? These kids are using the power of their own voices, the power of their own pens, to connect, reflect and dissect this crazy world. They show what being human is all about.

The next Under-21 They Speak Youth Slam is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 4 pm at The Independent, on Brushy St. near 5th St., just east of I-35. The slam series is put on by the Texas Youth Word Collective. See their site for more info about this great program.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CodePink Austin agrees with MLK: "War is Not the Answer"

Above, photos from our CodePink presence at the MLK Day March and Celebration in Austin, which drew thousands -- one of the largest turnouts ever.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sick of War

Yesterday, I participated in a "Sick of War" demonstration outside the East Gates of Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas. The vigil, which was planned for morning and afternoon, rain or shine, by staff, supporters and soldiers at the Under The Hood coffee house, was joined by about 25 others throughout the day. The demonstration was called to emphasize the shortcomings of mental health care given to soldiers returning from deployments, and the tendency of military medical staff to prescribe pills rather than comprehensive treatment.

We carried on with the event despite rain and cool, windy conditions, and a number of journalists came by to document the proceedings. Here is a report published today in the Killeen Daily Herald.

With IVAW member from Austin, Bobby, leading us with his megaphone, we chanted: "Money for Haiti, Not for War!", "Money for families, Not for War!", "Money for soldiers, Not for War!," "Money for schools, Not for War!" ...

We stood on the lot of an abandoned gas station right at the corner of "Tank Destroyer Blvd." and the entrance to Ft. Hood. We could see directly across the fence the building where soldiers we know have been court-martialed for refusing orders to deploy to war. I witnessed the court-martial of GI resister, Mark Wilkerson, in that building in 2007. I felt sad having to be there still, in 2010, protesting the wars that continue.

As drivers passed by our corner, many looked on curiously. Some opened their windows to hear the chants. A few gave us the thumbs up. Some gave us the single finger. Bobby called out, "Thanks for half a peace sign!"

Above are some photos I took of folks who took part. People came to the event from as far away as Denton, San Marcos, Ft. Worth, San Antonio and Austin.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I was very relieved to learn yesterday that Austin journalist, Ansel Herz, who has been living in Port-au-Prince and writing about Haiti for the last four months, survived the earthquake and hopes to stay and continue reporting from the country. He was interviewed yesterday by several media sources, including PBS and CNN. Here is a video of his interview with Wolf Blitzer.

Ansel is a fine young journalist with whom I was pleased to be able to collaborate several years ago while he was a student at UT. We interviewed historian, Howard Zinn, together, when Zinn was in Austin to keynote a Historians Against the War conference.

The AAS lists a number of agencies that are collecting funds for Haitian relief efforts. I would add the organization, Partners in Health which operates a highly regarded free clinic system in Haiti that was co-founded by Dr. Paul Farmer in 1987. Farmer was featured in a book some of you may have read, "Mountains Beyond Mountains: the Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World," by journalist, Tracy Kidder, published in 2003. Because Partners in Health, like Doctors Without Borders, already have staff and an established presence in Haiti, they can make use of relief funds effectively in crisis situations like this.

Kidder wrote an excellent opinion editorial about Haiti, published in today's New York Times.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Peacemaking highlights of the decade

Over the New Year holiday, writers have published lists of highlights -- in genres such as politics, movies, music, etc. -- from the past year and the last decade.

Here is my list of just some of the many positive movements and trends toward peacebuilding over the last ten years -- examples of bold, creative, nonviolent People Power standing up to political, military and corporate power.

1) the worldwide antiwar demonstrations in February 2003, the largest coordinated protests in human history, in opposition to the Bush Administration's planned invasion of Iraq

2) the "Saffron Revolution" in Burma in 2007 -- Buddhist monks and students leading the movement against the tyrranical military junta in Myanmar

3) the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation process in Rwanda, maintaining stability and preventing a resurgence of retaliatory killing after the genocide of 1994

4) the Iranian people's democratization campaign of last year, which continues in spite of the government crackdown against it

5) the largely nonviolent, grassroots resistance against the illegal coup this past summer and fall in Honduras -- despite serious poverty among the Honduran population, the lukewarm response of the US government and outright support of illegitimate coup "Golpistas" by some US Congresspersons

6) growth of resistance to the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan among US military veterans, active duty personnel and military family members. Iraq Veterans Against the War was formed in 2004, Military Families Speak Out began in 2002 and Veterans for Peace will mark its 25th anniversary in 2010. These organizations have grown significantly since their beginnings and have organized numerous events around the country and abroad. Cindy Sheehan's "Camp Casey" in Crawford, TX in 2005 drew widespread support. IVAW's Winter Soldier hearings in 2008 have brought to light military realities in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been under-reported in the mainstream press. Veterans have organized Winter Soldier panels in a number of other cities since the initial hearings, including two in Austin last Spring. The GI coffee house in Killeen, Under The Hood, opened last year.

7) a resurgence of activism among young adults on issues of war and peace, the environment, education and immigrant rights, AND a resurgence of activism among us middle-aged women -- who defy ageism with our energy and life experience!

8) exponential growth of the alternative press and social networking. More news is more available to more people. Regular folks like me have been able to publish our writing online and organize quickly through the internet. The traditional media has incorporated more interactivity into their sites. Kudos to the AAS for their early embrace of this trend -- such as hosting reader blogs.

9) a resurgence of interest in creative arts and crafts -- making things ourselves or buying from local artists and craftspersons

10) growth in all things green -- green building, urban farming, native planting, bicycling, alternative energy production. Every step toward sustainability lessens the underlying motivation for war.

Clearly, our world faces dire threats -- most of them man-made. But, I find much inspiration for reversing destructive cycles through courageous, innovative ways such as these that so many people are working to preserve, understand and revere all life.