'Forty years later, a new call to protest'
On Oct. 6, "Stop the Machine" begins in Washington, D.C. The last time I participated in a powerful American protest was in the spring of 1971: the peace march against the war in Vietnam. I was a young soldier in the 82d Airborne and my wife Nancy had just given birth to Molly at Fort Bragg. I was deployed to D.C. and did what I was ordered to do - nothing that amounted to much. But I promised myself that if I ever got into a position where I could make a difference, I would not lie about war, as our military and civilian leaders were doing then and are doing now. I would do my best to tell the truth.
In the summer of 2007, I retired as a full-time New Hampshire superior court judge and went to Iraq to direct a State Department anti-corruption agency at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad called the Office of Accountability and Transparency. The character of that agency turned out to be just as ironic and Orwellian as its name. It was intended as window dressing for the State Department.
After less than a month in Iraq, I returned to the United States and was asked to testify to Congress about my experience with OAT and the government of Iraq. I testified about the murderous corruption and deceit of the government of Iraq and of the U.S. State Department. When I say "corruption," I'm talking about $18 billion missing. When I say "deceit," I'm talking about the State Department intentionally lying to the American people. I gave examples of what I had witnessed. I hoped that my testimony would help get the truth out and move Congress to act. Those of us who testified knew there could be consequences; the last thing the State Department wanted was accountability and transparency for itself and for the al Maliki government it was propping up.
But the "professionals" of the State Department need not have worried. Our testimony was ignored by Presidents Bush and Obama and, to a great extent, by the House and the Senate. Even the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which audited and reported to Congress on the billions of dollars lost from negligence, theft and waste, failed to move Congress and the White House. In fact, the same ambassadors, foreign service officers, senior military officers and contractors who wasted thousands of American lives and billions of American dollars under Bush are now wasting thousands of American lives and billions of American dollars under Obama. The only material consequence of our testimony was our blacklisting by the U.S. Embassy.
Now I am a member of "Veterans for Peace. A few weeks ago I volunteered to be on the legal team for the "October 2011 Coalition." Nancy and I decided to join many other Americans who plan to protest against the endless wars, the environmental destruction and the financial devastation being inflicted on Americans and people all over the world by our increasingly phony and dangerously militaristic "leadership."
On Oct. 6, this coalition of American citizens for peace, justice, health and security will begin an extended nonviolent community exercise at Freedom Plaza in Washington. The protest will consist of thousands of us who plan to use our presence, our bodies, to send an unmistakable message to the U.S. government. The message is (with apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson) that we are fed up with the "little statesmen, corporations and divines" who are running the people of this country into the ground. We are disgusted with the lack of integrity in Congress, the Senate, the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court. We will stop these pretenders from stealing our freedom and our universal human rights. We demand that Congress repeal the weirdly named "Homeland" laws that invade our privacy and ensure secrecy for a government that wants to keep us ignorant and afraid. We hold Presidents Obama and Bush accountable for applying twisted interpretations of our laws to secretly counsel the "Department of Justice" to turn a blind eye to major crimes by the highest-ranking U.S. officials while it brutally prosecutes federal employees, contractors, and American soldiers who have had the conscience and the courage to speak the truth.
We will make education, health and security for all the people, including people who live hopelessly in poverty, the top priority for domestic policy in this country. We will stop the slide toward fascism and prevent the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court from sacrificing our human dignity, health and security for the corporate masters of greed and war.
We will teach our leaders to influence the world by example, not with U.S. corporate greed and military power, but with the understanding, intelligence and success of a nation of courageous, dynamic and responsible people.
"Stop the Machine" comes from the words and meaning of Henry David Thoreau's 1849 essay "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience." The nonviolent protest will begin on Oct. 6. It will end when we decide we have done all that we can.
(Art Brennan lives in Weare. For detailed information about the Oct. 6 protest, go to october2011.org.)