Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NC Stop Torture Now Vigil Challenges Torture Flights

Jan. 23, 2011: Johnston County Courthouse, Smithfield, N.C.

Eleven members of the human rights group,  NC Stop Torture Now  vigiled against North Carolina's role in torture with banners reading, "Torture Accountability Starts at the Top," at the Johnston County Courthouse in Smithfield, NC.  Smithfield is home to the Johnston County Airport, where
Aero Contractors is headquartered.  Aero has provided pilots and planes to fly kidnapped suspects to be tortured at various sites, including Guantanamo. 

Participants in Sunday’s vigil came from Durham, Orange, Wake, and Johnston counties.  They braved the cold for 90 minutes, catching dozens of motorists on their way to or from church and drawing several honks and thumbs-up signals.

NC STN's statewide effort seeks to gather a broad coalition including communities of faith, human and civil rights organizations, peace and justice groups, and community opinion leaders to endorse a Citizens' Commission of Inquiry into state and local governments' role in extraordinary rendition.

Report from  Christina Cowger  NC Stop Torture Now! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ike Was Right! Conference Explores Military Industrial Complex

Scholars and activists from throughout the Southeast and as far away as Boston gathered at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. Jan. 14-16 at the call of Chuck Fager of Quaker House in Fayetteville.  We came to mark the 50th anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower's prophetic farewell speech  that warned of the corrupting influence of the Military Industrial Complex. About 140 persons shared information on the current and devastating circumstances of our militarized state and nation, and offered our perspectives on ways out of decades of corporate-military-academic and media collusion in creating a permanent war economy.

Clare Hanrahan, Emma Pluta and Mia Austin-Scoggins
Chuck Fager,(at podium) facilitates a closing panel.
Speaker Stephen Soldz addressed  the grievous complicity of the American Psychological Association in U.S. interrogations and torture. Christian Stalberg, of Blackwater/Xe Watch gave a chilling account of the for-profit corporate war lords deployed globally at U.S. taxpayer expense.

Mia Austin-Scoggins, of the Eisenhower chapter of Veterans for Peace spoke of the tragic extra causalities of US wars borne by veterans, families and society, a seldom acknowledged toll that persists for generations. Emma Pluta, A counselor working with PTSD survivors led a workshop on the issue with John Heuer of N.C Peace Action.

The idea of "War Christianity" was discussed, as well as what apocalyptic Biblical images can teach us about our current war economy.  David LaMotte of North Carolina Council of Churches led a workshop on active peacemaking, and Judith LeBlanc of New Priorities Network and the national director of Peace Action spoke about the economics of war and moving money from the Pentagon back into critical community needs.

Longtime activist and multi-issue organizer Mandy Carter, of the National Black Justice Coalition, spoke of the work of Bayard Rustin, and her efforts to bring more awareness to Rustin's legacy.

There was a brief visit from the legendary General Smedley Darlington Butler, reciting from his book, War is a Racket. The Quaker general was introduced by a living relative, and elder peace activist Mariah Darlington. 
Conversations continued over meals at Guilford cafeteria
 New South Network of War Resisters' table of literature

Coleman Smith and Clare Hanrahan of the New South Network of War Resisters presented a workshop on the Civil Resistance at Southeast Nuclear Weapons and Power Facilities and shared a variety of literature from the War Resisters League and  the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. We also distributed copies of the hot-off-the press Winter issue of the  War Crimes Times.

Photos & Reporting by Clare Hanrahan

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Speaking our Mind to Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.

Thirty four activists working for a nuclear-free world boarded the bus in the pre-dawn hours January 7th in Asheville, North Carolina,  for the journey through the mountains to Augusta, Georgia. We were encouraged to attend by Mary Olsen, director of the S.E. office of the Nuclear Information Resource Services.  We arrived prepared to speak our minds at the only public hearing in the Southeast of President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.  

At issue is the disposition of tons of  U.S. generated highly radioactive waste. The Commission is charged with making recommendations to the President.  The day-long event was held in the plush ballroom of the Marriott Hotel on the banks of the Savannah River. Much of the day was taken up by prepared comments from stakeholders in the dangerous, dirty and expensive nuclear industry. The advocates for the so-called Savannah River Energy Park included academics seeking to educate the next generation of nuclear workers;  politicians and members of the Chambers of Commerce talking about the economic benefits to distressed communities; industry workers and businesses seeking to build an energy park at the complex that could include four experimental nuclear power plants capable of burning radioactive waste for fuel,  and even a retired Naval officer who commanded the fleet of nuclear submarines.

The theme of this "Energy park" is the money to be made in the reprocessing of 67,000 metric tons of highly radioactive waste, now in storage at nuclear power plants throughout the United States. The Savannah River Site has been wasted for decades, and is now one of the most contaminated areas in the country. And they want to bring in more, for reprocessing.  But only, they cautioned the Commission, if there is somewhere else to send it back to, now that Yucca Mountain is off the table as a permanent repository.

Folks in Western North Carolina know the dangers of travel in these mountains. We will not allow our homeplace to become a Nuclear Crossroads for highly radioactive waste shipments along I-26 and I-40 enroute to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. It is an insane proposal.  And we certainly do not want to have our beautiful mountains re-considered for any long term storage of nuclear waste that would be processed in South Carolina.

So we came to speak our minds.  The video clip below is one of many  filmed by  Ellen Thomas, a thirty-year veteran in the work for a nuclear-free future.  Two Minute Commentaries.

So many stood to speak  that the Commission had to extend the allotted one hour public comment time so everyone who wished to speak had a two-minute opportunity.  And we spoke with clarity, wisdom, and informed passion.  And we encouraged one another and strengthened the bonds of respect and affection that is the fruit of our collaborative efforts. Bonds of solidarity that we will need as we work together to turn back this nuclear madness.