Refugees From the Military-Industrial Empire

brandon_toyBrandon Toy worked for General Dynamics, one of the leading U.S. war corporations. He was an engineering project manager who built Stryker armored fighting vehicles. Before working for GenDyn, Brandon was in the Michigan Army National Guard as a rocket specialist, team leader, and vehicle commander. He deployed as a military policeman in Baghdad in 2004-2005.

Today he resigned – in protest – from the whole shebang. (Read his letter below.)

There are thousands of people who joined the military or war corporations after the attacks on Sept. 11 because they thought it was a way to being meaning to that senseless carnage. Additionally, in the midst of the Great Recession, there was only one industry that was always hiring: military-industrial-information corporations.

I applaud Brandon for “throwing down his gun.” It’s up to the rest of us to find him gainful employment in something that contributes to the “culture of life,” rather than the war machine.

He told Common Dreams on Wednesday: “I felt a lot of cognitive dissonance for the last two or three years. I knew what the truth was and what the consequences of our actions were. But I needed to make a living. … When [Edward Snowden] talked about how he had believed in the mission, joined after the Iraq war, and found out it was false, it was like my words coming out. It gave me hope that he took the chance and risked his life to do what he was doing.”

Here’s Brandon’s letter of resignation:

I hereby resign in protest effective immediately.

I have served the post-911 Military Industrial complex for 10 years, first as a soldier in Baghdad, and now as a defense contractor.

I have always believed that if every foot soldier threw down his rifle war would end. I hereby throw mine down.At the time of my enlistment, I believed in the cause. I was ignorant, naïve, and misled. The narrative, professed by the state, and echoed by the mainstream press, has proven false and criminal. We have become what I thought we were fighting against.

Recent revelations by fearless journalists of war crimes including counterinsurgency “dirty” wars, drone terrorism, the suspension of due process, torture, mass surveillance, and widespread regulatory capture have shed light on the true nature of the current US Government. I encourage you to read more about these topics at the links I have provided below.

Some will say that I am being irresponsible, impractical, and irrational. Others will insist that I am crazy. I have come to believe that the true insanity is doing nothing. As long as we sit in comfort, turning a blind eye to the injustices of the world, nothing will change. It is even worse to play an active part, protesting all along that I am not the true criminal.

I was only a foot soldier, and am now a low level clerk. However, I have always believed that if every foot soldier threw down his rifle war would end. I hereby throw mine down.

A Nonprofit Executive’s Surprising Farewell

SchruteIn an exit letter that is as rare as it is remarkable, a resigning nonprofit executive’s final act of leadership is an apology.

Yes, that’s right, an apology.

And it’s a real apology at that – not a Dwight Schrute version. This one that includes an acknowledgment of harm, ownership of full responsibility for the transgression, a statement of empathy for those who were hurt and a promise to do better in the future.

This rare artifact of modern-day management via email came today and I immediately reached out to the author to express my appreciation – and ask for his permission to share it. Continue reading “A Nonprofit Executive’s Surprising Farewell”

Can A Pope Resign? Well, It’s Been Awhile …

St. Peter's Square begins to fill as news of BXVI's resignation filters out.

After nearly eight years since being named to the chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI announced this morning that he is resigning at the end of February.

If you live in the post-Modern, post-Christendom uber-hip world, you might not understand the full weight of this morning’s announcement.

A pope hasn’t “resigned” in 600 years.

“…in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

As a cradle Catholic who loves the church enough to fight with her when she fails to live up to her gospel call, the words “the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant” are words that strike a dark loneliness in my stomach and soul.

Continue reading “Can A Pope Resign? Well, It’s Been Awhile …”

Elizabeth Wilmshurst’s Testimony at the UK’s Iraq War Investigation Reads Like an Old Testament Prophet Battle

Elizabeth-Wilmshurst-001The UK is currently holding public hearings on the legality of their invasion of Iraq with the U.S. coalition. Was it legal to invade a sovereign nation without a resolution from the United Nations Security Council? Since I doubt we will ever have such an opportunity in the United States, I find it important to see what the Brits learn and what’s revealed as documents about the decision-making process are declassified.

Recently, Elizabeth Wilmshurst testified before the Chilcot Inquiry. She was the deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office in the run up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. She was the only U.K. public official to publicly resign in protest after both she and Sir Michael Wood, the senior legal advisor at the Foreign Office, told the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, that invading Iraq without UN support would be a breach of international law and Goldsmith advised Defense Minister Jack Straw and Prime Minister Tony Blair that it would not.

Her resignation letter was simple, but clear: “I cannot in conscience go along with advice – within the Office or to the public or Parliament – which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution, particularly since an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law.

Goldsmith had flip-flopped on the issue. At first he agreed with Wilmshurst and Wood, but then changed his mind. In Wilmhurst’s testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry this week she explains his decision-making process. Here’s an excerpt:

SIR RODERIC LYNE: But then, on 7 March, [former UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith] came out with a different view [on whether the UK could invade Iraq without the permission of the UN Security Council], in which he stated that — he accepted that there was a reasonable case that could be made in favour of the revival argument. How did you see that position that he had adopted?

MS ELIZABETH WILMSHURST: Well, of course, I was sorry because I then had to consider my own position. But there were — there were two things that struck me about it. First, that he had relied, and he said he had relied, on the views of the negotiators of the resolution to change the provisional view that he had previously had, and the issue really is: how do you interpret a resolution or a treaty in international law and is it sufficient to go to individual negotiators, but not all negotiators, and ask them for their perceptions of private conversations, or does an international resolution or treaty have to be accessible to everyone so that you can take an objective view from the wording itself and from published records of the preparatory work? I mean, it must be the second. The means of interpretation has to be accessible to all. But the Attorney had relied on private conversations of what the UK negotiators or the US had said that the French had said. Of course, he hadn’t asked the French of their perception of those conversations. That was one point that I thought actually was unfortunate in the way that he had reached his decision, and the other point that struck me was that he did say that the safest route was to ask for a second resolution. We were talking about the massive invasion of another country, changing the government and the occupation of that country, and, in those circumstances, it did seem to me that we ought to follow the safest route. But it was clear that the Attorney General was not going to stand in the way of the government going into conflict.

In Wilmhurst’s written statement before the Chilcot Inquiry, she wrote:

I regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal, and I therefore did not feel able to continue in my post. I would have been required to support and maintain the Government’s position in international fora. The rules of international law on the use of force by States are at the heart of international law. Collective security, as opposed to unilateral military action, is a central purpose of the Charter of the United Nations. Acting contrary to the Charter, as I perceived the Government to be doing, would have the consequence of damaging the United Kingdom’s reputation as a State committed to the rule of law in international relations and to the United Nations.

These testimonies read like the best of the battles between the biblical prophets. I’d liken Elizabeth Wilmshurst to Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:

Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king. And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him? And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. … So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king. And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD? And Macaiah said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?

But read the whole story for yourself, it’s breathtakingly current.




























Green “Super Hero” Van Jones VS the Kryptonite of the Far Right

van-jones-hog-lgI’ve been tracking former Obama green czar Van Jones since his days as founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland. He’s a good guy with a good vision who is very grounded in the working-class neighborhoods of California.

Jones has got the deep West Coast understanding about environmental issues plus the analysis of race and class. It’s a very needed combination.

He and Far-Right propagandist Glenn Beck have been fighting each other since the presidential campaign. With Jones’ forced resignation from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Beck struck a blow against Obama.

I’m afraid this shows that the virulent Far-Right spasm that’s rippling across the country has got the Obama crew scared and off their game. They should have backed Van Jones up and kept moving forward.

Maybe the West Wingers need to re-read The Politics of Unreason by Lipset and Raab and Richard Hofstadter’s essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” It’s time for them to get caught up on the history of Far-Right backlash and how to handle it.

Van Jones is the kind of real “super hero” we need to organize us for the fight to save the planet. But Beck and others have the kryptonite to weaken even the best of leaders, unless we surround them with a shield of truth.

Here’s an excerpt from a commentary by Francesca Rheannon on Jones’ resignation:

Green jobs champion Van Jones was dropped from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) last week after being targeted by a conservative smear campaign. Exceeded in its shamelessness only by its dementia, the right wing attack was spearheaded by Glenn Beck, a radical racist schlock jock host on Fox News.

Beck had a personal bone to pick with Van Jones, who was a senior advisor on the CEQ. After he called President Obama a “racist” who was “trying to enact a socialist agenda“, Beck’s show became the target of an effort to get advertisers to drop sponsorship. The campaign was mounted by Color of Change, an organization Jones co-founded but is no longer associated with. Fifty seven companies have already responded by pulling their ads. The roster includes some of Amerca’s best known corporations, including AT&T, Bank of America, Best Buy, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Lowe’s, Procter & Gamble, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and Wal-Mart.

The White House didn’t show the same courage against Beck’s mendacious spew the companies did. It failed to back up Van Jones in the days leading up to his technical resignation, nor, tellingly, did the Administration urge him to stay on after he tendered it. Jones had been one of its most visionary appointments in the effort to promote green jobs and wrest the economy out of recession.

Read  Rheannon’s whole commentary here.