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Grandma Drone Protester’s Second Jail Letter: Ithaca Catholic Worker Mary Anne Grady Flores, Feb.29, 2016

In Activism, Anti-War, Letter on March 2, 2016 at 5:31 pm

Jamesville County Jail
(Onondaga County Correctional Facility)
Monday, February 29, 2016
Second week of Lent
67 days until May 6 – my release date

Grandma Drone Protester’s Second Jail Letter:

On January 19, 2016 I was remanded after a county court decision upheld a lower court verdict that I was guilty of violating the terms of an order of protection while photographing 8 Catholic drone protestors at Hancock Air force Base.Orders of protection were originally created to protect domestic violence victims and witnesses who might be subject to intimidation.

A month later while in jail I realized that Friday, Feb. 19 was important to me for four reasons. First, it was the seventh anniversary of my brother-in-law Peter DeMott’s sudden passing, leaving my widowed sister Ellen with four daughters to raise. Peter was a rock in our family and is sorely missed. We miss his energy, his wit, his deep bass radio voice, his random acts of kindness, his recitation of poetry, his mixing hot sauce with all his food. We miss his tireless efforts of putting his body at many gates, or climbing over fences or driving into military bases or witnessing at corporate military contractors’ facilities like Lockheed Martin, to end the madness of the never ending racist colonial wars of the U.S. empire. I hold Ellen, the tireless organizer of anti-killer-drone actions at Hancock Airbase, and each of their gifted daughters in prayer and in love.

Second, on that Friday, our 88-year-old mom, Teresa Grady, was officially accepted into Hospice. This past December, mom broke her hip and has declined since then. My siblings and I have been blessed caring for her 24/7 in her home for almost two years. It’s been a struggle since January 19, when I entered jail, especially as she nears her final days. My mother, along with my dad taught us that our faith meant we were supposed to stand up for human rights and justice. I learned that the jail might provide a death bed visit. First, they told me I had to prove that mom is my mother by getting my birth certificate. My counselor, Ms. Kash, has to handle a caseload of about 140 cases. Nevertheless, doing the best she could, she responded to my request to speak about mom’s decline, coming to the busy hub of the Pod – the guard desk – instead of the counselor’s office two feet away respecting confidentiality or sensitivity to the situation. The counselor asked me

“What’s your mom’s name and her doctor’s name? “What’s your mom’s date of birth where is she? Who’s caring for her? When I explained that Mon is being cared for at home by the family she responded. “Oh, that’s going to be a problem! It’s a security risk. You can’t have any family members with you while you’re there.” I said, “Mom can’t be left alone. I’ll be in shackles!”

Some other sergeants said it’s highly unlikely they would let me go to the house. Whether I stole a band aid, murdered someone, or photographed non-violent drone protesters, my transport guards would treat me the same.

Within the jail, there are different security levels designated to us inmates, but it doesn’t apply as we leave the prison walls.

This past Friday, Feb. 25, I was surprised by the jail authorities announcing they were taking me to see mom at home! I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t tell anyone ahead of time. When the unmarked car pulled up by mom’s house Clare, who was on duty for mom, noticed us and ran in to tell mom, who was in the living room in her hospital bed. When we entered the house Clare was jumping up and down with tears streaming down her cheeks. The two officers informed her that she couldn’t call anyone or the half-hour visit would be over. I walked, shackled, wrists to waist and ankles, to be at mom’s side, leaning over her to kiss her big smiling face. I told her over and over that I loved her, my tears wetting her soft cheeks. I asked if she was in any pain. “No, I’m not in pain. I’m o.k.” She kept smiling and fell asleep. What a precious, blessed moment. Mom slept through the rest of the visit. We left Clare with mom and drove back to Jamesville in brilliant sunshine passing Lake Cayuga in gratitude, marveling at all of creation and in thanksgiving for mom’s life.

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Veterans Lead Civil Disobedience Action at Crestwood

In Anti-War, Energy, Renewables on January 26, 2016 at 12:53 pm

U.S. Vets Lead Civil Disobedience Action at Crestwood to Protest Seneca Lake Gas Storage

Green leader, former NY gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins among 13 arrested in human blockade

Watkins Glen, NY – Eleven veterans representing all branches of the U.S. armed forces, were among 13 arrested on Tuesday morning in a human blockade at Crestwood Midstream on Route 14 as part of We Are Seneca Lake’s ongoing civil disobedience campaign against gas storage in underground lakeside salt caverns. The protesters blocked all traffic entering and leaving the facility.

Among them was former NY gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins (Green Party), a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Hawkins said, “The massive gas leak in Porter Ranch, California shows the inherent dangers of underground gas storage. The shores of Seneca Lake—New York’s own Napa Valley—are the wrong place for a massive gas storage hub. The salt caverns are too geologically unstable. One accident would turn visitors away and ruin the economy.”

Also joining the protest were Schuyler County resident and U.S. Army veteran Nathan Lewis, who served in Iraq, and Colleen Boland, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant (retired), who served in the White House during the George W. Bush Administration. Boland served an 8-day jail sentence in November 2014 for a previous act of civil disobedience at the Crestwood entrance.

At 8:45 a.m. this morning, the 13 ceremoniously unfurled banners that read, “Veterans Against Crestwood / Defending the Climate and Seneca Lake,” and formed a human chain across the north entrance of Crestwood Midstream, blocking chemical tanker trucks from leaving and entering the facility.

The group was arrested shortly after 9:00 a.m. by Schuyler County deputies, transported to the Schuyler County Sheriff’s department, charged with disorderly conduct, and released.

The total number of arrests in the sixteen-month-old civil disobedience campaign now stands at 480.

While blockading, the veterans from all branches of the military made public statements about the duty they feel to protect water and the climate.

“I continue to be mindful of my past oath to protect against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” said Colleen Boland, who traveled to more than 20 countries while on active duty.

In her remarks at the gate, Boland addressed recent, accusations that Seneca Lake protesters are “outsiders”:

“When the science on climate change is ignored, when our political leaders do the bidding of the gas industry rather than protect us, people rise up. Veterans rise up. And when we do, we should never—in any instance—be called outsiders here in our own country, in our own state, in the regions where we grew up. Veterans should never be dismissed when we speak out on issues that threaten our well-being and the security of our loved ones.”

Jenifer Paquette, 63, Corning, Steuben County said, “From 1970 to 1973, I served in the U.S. Navy as a Personnelman 3rd Class Petty Officer. Except for that military time, I have lived all of my 63 years in Corning, New York and feel a right and a duty to protect the air, land, and water that is my birthright. The Crestwood gas storage expansion is a threat to those basic rights for me, my son, and my granddaughter.”

Nathan Lewis, 33, Hector, Schuyler County said, “I served 2.5 years in the U.S. Army as a field artilleryman. What I saw in Iraq was that the war on terror is a catastrophe. What I see here at home, in Schuyler County, is that the fossil fuel industry is pushing our ecosystem to the point of collapse.”

The We Are Seneca Lake movement opposes Crestwood’s plans for methane and LPG storage in lakeside salt caverns and has been ongoing since October 2014.

Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2014 in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of Seneca Lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.

The 13 arrested today were:

Elliott Adams, 69, Sharon Springs, Schoharie County (veteran, U.S. Army)

Colleen Boland, 59, Elmira, Chemung County (veteran, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army)

Colleen Condon Coss, 60, West Henrietta, Monroe County

Doug Couchon, 65, Elmira, Chemung County (veteran, U.S. Army National Guard)

Martin C. Dodge, 73, Canandaigua, Ontario County (veteran, U.S. Coast Guard)

Hervie Harris, 70, Elmira, Chemung County (veteran, U.S. Navy)

Howie Hawkins, 63, Syracuse, Onondaga County (veteran, U.S. Marine Corps)

Nathan Lewis, 33, Hector, Schuyler County (veteran, U.S. Army)

Peter Looker, 65, Glenville, Schenectady County

Jenifer Paquette, 63, Corning, Steuben County (veteran, U.S. Navy)

Wendell F. Perks, Jr., 67, Mecklenburg, Schuyler County (veteran, U.S. Army)

Richard Rogers, 67, Spencer, Tioga County (veteran, U.S. Army)

Dwain Wilder, 76, Brighton, Monroe County (veteran, U.S. Navy)

Read more about the protesters at: http://www.wearesenecalake.com/seneca-lake-defendes/.

Read more about widespread objections to Crestwood’s gas storage plans: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/nyregion/new-york-winemakers-fight-gas-storage-plan-near-seneca-lake.html?_r=0.

Read Gannett’s investigative report about the risks and dangers of LPG gas storage: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/watchdog/2015/06/26/seneca-gas-storage-debated/29272421/.

Background on the Protests:

Protesters have been blocking the Crestwood gas storage facility gates since Thursday, October 23, 2014, including a rally with more than 200 people on Friday, October 24th. On Wednesday, October 29th, Crestwood called the police and the first 10 protesters were arrested. More information and pictures of the actions are available at www.WeAreSenecaLake.com.

The unified We Are Seneca Lake protests started on October 23rd because Friday, October 24thmarked the day that major new construction on the gas storage facility was authorized to begin. The ongoing acts of civil disobedience come after the community pursued every possible avenue to stop the project and after being thwarted by an unacceptable process and denial of science. The protests are taking place at the gates of the Crestwood compressor station site on the shore of Seneca Lake, the largest of New York’s Finger Lakes.

The methane gas storage expansion project is advancing in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of the lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Crestwood has indicated that it intends to make Seneca Lake the gas storage and transportation hub for the northeast, as part of the gas industry’s planned expansion of infrastructure across the region.Note that the WE ARE SENECA LAKE protest is to stop the expansion of methane gas storage, a separate project from Crestwood’s proposed Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage project, which is on hold pending a Department of Environmental Conservation Issues Conference on February 12th, 2015.

As they have for a long time, the protesters are continuing to call on President Obama, U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo, and Congressman Reed to intervene on behalf of the community and halt the dangerous project. In spite of overwhelming opposition, grave geological and public health concerns, Crestwood has federal approval to move forward with plans to store highly pressurized, explosive gas in abandoned salt caverns on the west side of Seneca Lake. While the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) in nearby caverns—out of ongoing concerns for safety, health, and the environment—Crestwood is actively constructing infrastructure for the storage of two billion cubic feet of methane (natural gas), with the blessing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

More background, including about the broad extent of the opposition from hundreds of wineries and more than a dozen local municipalities, is available on the We Are Seneca Lake website at http://www.wearesenecalake.com/press-kit/.

#  #  #

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 26, 2016

media contact: Sandra Steingraber  607.351.0719

photos:   http://www.wearesenecalake.com/veterans-pic/

video:   http://www.wearesenecalake.com/veterans-vid

FIVE ARRESTED HOLDING HUGE “DRONES KILL CHILDREN” BANNERS ACROSS HANCOCK REAPER DRONE BASE MAIN ENTRANCE

In Activism, Anti-War on September 21, 2015 at 7:11 pm

This morning, September 21, the U.N.-designated World Day of Peace, five members of the grassroots human rights coalition, Upstate (NY) Drone Action [upstatedroneaction.org], were arrested as they held aloft three large banners together spanning the Hancock’s main entrance and exit driveways.

Hancock is on East Molloy Road in the town of DeWitt just north of Syracuse, NY. It hosts the 174th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard, home of the “hunter/killer” [the Pentagon’s phrase] MQ9 Reaper drone.

Reapers are unmanned robotic assassins flying missions 24/7 over Afghanistan and other Islamic nations.

One of those arrested noted, “The Reaper not only kills and maims humans, it destroys homes, and displaces and terrorizes whole communities. U.S. taxpayers pay for such terrorism which perpetuates violence and generates enormous ill will against the United States.”

Today’s event at Hancock’s main gate is only one incident there in Upstate Drone Action’s persistent nonviolent campaign to expose the Hancock war crime. Since 2010 there have been over 165 anti-war-crime arrests at the base, resulting in extreme bails, maximum fines, incarcerations, and Orders of Protection…as well as some acquittals.

Those arrested: Bonny Mahoney, Ed Kinane & Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse and Dan Burgevin and James Ricks of Ithaca. All were detained but released by Onondaga County Sheriffs around noon with appearance tickets charging them with trespass and disorderly conduct. Their court date is 6 p.m., October 14, in the DeWitt (NY) Town Court.

###

Note: The following statement was read by James Ricks aloud to military personnel behind the main gate.  It was composed by James, Ellen Grady & Ed Kinane:

DRONES KILL CHILDREN — DRONES FLY, CHILDREN DIE

The United Nations General Assembly has declared today, September 21, 2015, an International World Day of Peace. As we stand here at the main gate of Hancock Air Base, its “hunter/killer” MQ9 Reaper drone arrogantly patrols Afghan skies 24/7 — killing innocent children there and likely elsewhere.

We U.S. citizens and taxpayers look on with horror at the millions of refugees fleeing airborne terror and are shamed by our unconsented complicity. Too many drone victims are precious and beloved children. We bring their images and their silenced voices to Hancock today.

As members of the Upstate Drone Action Coalition, we come to this War Base – home of the Reaper and the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard – seeking to prevent the murder of these innocents, both on this day and for all days.

We are here to uphold law, both domestic and international.

We are here to bring the images of their victims both to the Hancock chain of command and to the U.S. public.

Specifically, we are here to say NO to the maiming, murder and terrorizing of children.

Since 2010 this grassroots Coalition has sought to expose state-sponsored drone war crime. The crime is multi-layered. It includes extrajudicial execution/assassination, contempt for due process, the undermining of international law and national sovereignty, the murder of the undeniably innocent –- both within and beyond any recognized zone of war.

Unjustified on any level, save “might makes right,” such terrorism prepares fertile ground for perpetual conflict. This criminality benefits few besides war-profiteering corporations.

To the extent that WE, THE PEOPLE ignore our laws and our Constitution — allowing our government to kill whoever it wants, wherever it wants, however it wants — we make the world less safe for children here and everywhere. We demand that the Hancock chain of command and the United States to STOP THE KILLING!

— Upstate Drone Action Coalition, Town of DeWitt, New York, 21 September 2015

HANCOCK ANTI-DRONE RESISTERS JAILED TONIGHT

In Anti-War, Military on July 29, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Four anti-drone resisters were sentenced tonight in Judge Joseph J. Zavaglia’s DeWitt (NY) Town Court for alleged trespass at a “die-in” on April 28, 2013 at Hancock Air Base, home to the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard, just north of Syracuse, NY. At their four-day trial this past June trial the six-person jury acquitted the four of disorderly conduct and obstruction of government administration.

The four are members of Upstate Drone Action Coalition – a scrupulously nonviolent, loosely-knit grassroots network which, since 2009 has actively opposed the Hancock Reaper drones flying missions over Afghanistan. The Reaper, an unmanned robot, is notorious for violating international law by killing, maiming and terrorizing civilians in several U.S. undeclared wars.

There have been over 160 anti-drone arrests at Hancock resulting in bails as high as $10,000, numerous trials, many incarcerations, and Orders of Protection (a legal device usually meant to protect spouses and other vulnerable persons against violence).

The four defendants are: Joan Pleune of Brooklyn, Beverly Rice of Manhattan, Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, and Jules Orkin of Bergenfield, New Jersey. Pleune is a former Freedom Rider; Barfield, Rice and Orkin are active with Veterans for Peace.

All four were identically sentenced to one year’s conditional discharge, $250 fine, $125 court costs and a two-year order of protection. Both Pleune and Rice told Judge Zavaglia, through their attorney Lewis Oliver, that they would not agree to the conditional discharge – which led him to sentence the two to 15 days in Jamesville Penitentiary. Pleune and Rice were taken from court in handcuffs.

contact:  www.upstatedroneaction.org

Ellen Barfield (410) 908-7323

Jules Orkin, (201) 566-8403

Ed Kinane, (315) 478-4571

 

FOUR HANCOCK ANTI-DRONE ACTIVISTS GUILTY OF TRESPASS, BUT ACQUITTED OF DISORDERLY CONDUCT AND OF OBSTRUCTING GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION (OGA), A MISDEMEANOR.

In Anti-War, Court, Military on June 28, 2015 at 10:28 am

During the afternoon of June 27th, after deliberating a couple of hours, a six-person jury found the four not guilty of obstructing government administration (OGA) at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, New York, but guilty of trespass, a violation carrying a maximum 15-day imprisonment.

Today was the last day of the four-day trial presided over by Judge Joseph Zavaglia, a corporate attorney. The four were represented by Atty. Lew Oliver of Albany. They were among 31 arrested in the driveway to Hancock’s main gate on East Molloy Rd on April 28, 2013 for “dieing-in” with bloody shrouds or for attempting to  read aloud to the military personnel behind Hancock’s barbed wire fence a list of children killed by U.S. drones. The activists said they sought to “prick the conscience” of base personnel and the chain of command responsible for the war crime originating there.

A lowpoint in the trial came when Judge Zavaglia did not permit Pardiss Kebraiaei, a national security and international law expert, to testify. Kebraiaei, who has testified before Congress, had come that morning from NYC where she’s an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Since 2010 Hancock has been the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard – an MQ9 Reaper drone hub piloting weaponized drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and likely elsewhere. Also since 2010 Hancock has been the scene of twice-monthly anti-drone demonstrations outside its main gate as well as occasional larger demonstrations and scrupulously nonviolent civil resistance organized by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots coalition. These have led to over 160 arrests, and numerous trials in DeWitt as well as $375 fines, Orders of Protection, and numerous incarcerations.

The four defendants are:

~ Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, 410) 243-5876

~ Jules Orkin of Bergenfield, NJ, 201) 566-8403

~ Joan Pleune of Brooklyn, 718) 855-2581

~ Beverly Rice of Manhattan, 646) 335-2404

Activists Oppose Authorization for Military Force (AUMF), Say Rise of ISIS Rooted in Crimes of Iraq War

In Anti-War, Drones, Exclusive on March 19, 2015 at 7:32 pm

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO and COVERAGE BY INDY MEDIA CNY

http://bambuser.com/v/5363616

Iraq12Capture

SYRACUSE, NY – To mark the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, peace activists in Syracuse joined a rally hosted by the Syracuse Peace Council. The rally called on Congressional representatives to stand up for peace and diplomacy rather than a continued policy of military force.

On February 11, President Obama sent Congress a proposed joint resolution for Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which would authorize and extend military action against ISIS for the next three years in Iraq, Syria and beyond. The Syracuse Peace Council calls on citizens to urge to Congress to reject this new AUMF, to repeal the 2001 AUMF which has been the justification for military intervention thus far and to stop the endless war on the people of the Middle East.

“The last 12 years have shown unquestionably that military force does not solve problems. US involvement in Iraq and Syria is one factor supporting the existence and strength of ISIS as we know it today, said Amelia Lefevre, Organizer with the Syracuse Peace Council. Lefevre continued, “Our involvement in Iraq did not achieve any of the stated goals of the invasion. It is undeniable that the formation of ISIS is a direct result of U.S. policies that destroyed Iraq – every civilian casualty and tortured detainee in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo fuels the recruitment efforts of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The crisis today teaches us that military intervention is harmful, not helpful.”

“I am here today because I have seen the mistakes of U.S. foreign policy for too many years. Most heart wrenching is to hear about the staggering number of veteran suicides – 22 everyday, almost one per hour,” said Dave Kashmer, a retired Navy veteran who served off the coast of Yemen and Iran. Kashmer is actively forming a Central New York Chapter of Veterans for Peace. “I am out here today because of my sons. I do not want them or anyone’s children put in harms way.”

“Students need to be part of anti-war efforts. We need to be aware of U.S. military intervention and its consequences. We must question the motivations and the reasons for military intervention and seek out the truth. It’s critical that students participate in the anti-war movement so we can expose the violent policies U.S. government implements in our name,” said Henry Nelson, a Syracuse University student activist.

Syracuse peace activist Ed Kinane also spoke at the rally. Kinane was present in Bagdad during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

From Kinane’s statement: “On February 15, 2003, millions of people around the world took to the streets to protest the U.S.’ threatened invasion of Iraq. In Bagdad, thousands of us hit the streets, too. I was there with a group of peace activists, Voices in the Wilderness, a group that for years had been practicing protracted civil disobedience by bringing medical supplies to Bagdad, supplies which were banned by the genocidal sanctions on Iraq. I say “genocidal” because the U.N. estimated that several hundred thousand Iraqi children died prematurely for lack of such supplies. It was illegal for U.S. citizens to visit Iraq. Apparently the U.S. government didn’t want U.S. citizens to see and report on the murderous havoc the sanctions were inflicting no the Iraqi people.”

Contact:
Ursula Rozum, ursula.rozum@gmail.com (315) 414-7720
Amelia Lefevre, amelia@peacecouncil.net, (315) 472-5478

Anti-War Rally Marks 12th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

In Anti-War on March 18, 2015 at 3:55 pm

“No new authorization for military force”

What: Anti-war Rally Downtown Syracuse Will Mark 12th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion
When: Thursday, March 19, 5:00 pm
Where: Downtown Syracuse, Clinton Square, Corner James and Salina
Who: Syracuse Peace Council, CNY Veterans for Peace, Syracuse University student activists and Syracuse community members.

Syracuse peace activists will rally on Thursday, March 19th at 5:00 pm in Clinton Square (corner of James and Salina Streets) on the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The rally will call on Congressional representatives to stand up for peace and diplomacy.

On February 11, President Obama sent Congress a proposed joint resolution to Authorize the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which would authorize and extend military action against ISIS for the next three years in Iraq, Syria and beyond. The Syracuse Peace Council calls on Congress to reject this new AUMF, to repeal the 2001 AUMF which has been the justification for military intervention thus far and to stop the endless war on the people of the Middle East.

The last 12 years have shown unquestionably that military force does not solve problems. US involvement in Iraq and Syria is one factor supporting the existence and strength of ISIS as we know it today (see SPC’s February op-ed and the SPC Steering Committee’s October 2014 statement).

Contact:
Ursula Rozum, ursula.rozum@gmail.com (315) 414-7720
Amelia Lefevre, amelia@peacecouncil.net, (315) 472-5478

On Extending the Combat Mission in Afghanistan

In Anti-War, International, Interpretive Editorial, Veterans on February 11, 2015 at 11:38 am

Syracuse anti-war activists Barbara Humphrey and Dave Kashmer joined Veterans For Peace (VFP) to express extreme dismay upon learning that President Obama recently extended and expanded the US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the timing of these two actions precluded the opportunity for meaningful public discourse. Shortly after the mid-term election, the President announced that the US would be sending an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq. The following week, the President signed a classified order giving US troops a direct role in combat in Afghanistan despite his promise to the contrary in May, 2014 that “American’s combat mission will be over by the end of the year.” This new Afghan mission, labeled “Resolute Support,” authorizes American troops to carry out missions against the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network and other militants; allows US jets, bombers, and drones to bolster Afghan troops on combat missions; and permits US air strikes in support of Afghan military operations throughout the country. The classified order was signed on a Friday night and leaked to the New York Times, where it appeared on a Saturday shortly before the holidays.

We believe that the US wars in the Middle East, being played out as the “war on terror,” have been an utter failure. After spending billions of dollars to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, databases kept by the US government and University of Maryland document increased numbers of terrorist attacks in these countries and elsewhere in the world. Yet, the US continues to mislead themselves and the US public that we can win these wars if only we allowed one more “surge.” The Department of Defense has requested $58.3 billion for FY15 for the war in Afghanistan alone, and an additional $7.8 million to beef up airports in Kandahar and Kabul to support night raids (now being called night operations) and drone operations. Imagine if these funds could be directed to repairing deficient highway bridges and fully funding public education here at home!

But we know it isn’t just about the money wasted on military operations, corrupt leaders and defense contractors. The suffering caused by the US war on terror is horrific—civilian deaths at the hands of US forces, thousands displaced from their homes living in squalid refugee camps as winter hits, mothers who cannot feed their children. Afghanistan is devastated after four decades of war. In 2014, more than 8,000 Afghans have committed suicide through self immolation and ingestion of poison. In Kabul, Kathy Kelly, Co-Coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, reports that 6,000 children are in the streets as child laborers. The recent release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” further documents the extreme brutality inflicted on others by the US war on terror.

Veterans for Peace issued a statement dated 11/14/14, immediately following the President’s announcement of increased troop deployment to Iraq, comparing current military action to Vietnam 50+ years ago, “The US government claims that its current occupations are necessary and its objectives clear and winnable while lying about its progress.” Thus far, the achievements of the war on terror have been the strengthening of the Taliban in Afghanistan; creation of the fundamentalist army ISIL in Iraq and Syria; the eruption of bloody, sectarian civil wars in the Middle East that will persist for years to come; and increased terror attacks throughout the world.

Anti-war activists and VFP also take issue with the timing of the announcement of increased deployment of troops to Iraq and issue of the classified order expanding the role of the US military in Afghanistan. A 2013 CNN poll reported that 82% of the American public disapproved of the continued war in Afghanistan. Yet, neither the increased troop deployment nor the classified order were made public until after the election, precluding any meaningful discourse about military operations in the Middle East between the public and Congressional candidates.

It is time for a full public debate on the role of the US military in the Middle East and throughout the world followed by the implementation of policies that offer alternatives to military options that respect the sovereignty of other nations in their struggles to make peace. Perhaps a first step could be renaming the Department of Defense to the Department of Peace.

This statement is issued jointly by anti-war activists, Barbara Humphrey and Dave Kashmer, and Veterans for Peace striving to build a culture of peace in the United States. Veterans For Peace, founded in 1985, is a global organization of military veterans and allies dedicated to exposing the true costs of war and militarism and working to end all wars. Its mission is to inform the public of the true causes and enormous costs of war, with an obligation to heal wars’ wounds. More than 140 VFP chapters educate and advocate for a dismantling of the war economy and providing services to veterans and victims of war. More information about VFP can be found at http://www.veteransforpeace.org/.