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Fifty years ago, freedom riders traveled by bus into the U.S. South. Now American freedom riders are joining their allies from around the world on a flotilla bound for Gaza. The U.S. ship is called The Audacity of Hope.
The heroes on this ship have pledged to sail unarmed and to refuse to use violence. The Israeli military, which continues to illegally blockade Gaza, causing endless suffering to the Gazan people, has pledged to use violent force to prevent the ships getting through.
Last May, the Israeli military, in international waters, illegally boarded another ship on a similar mission, the Mavi Marmara, killing nine people, including one American, and wounding dozens. Israel claimed, in its defense, that the Mavi Marmara carried no humanitarian aid, that all such supplies were on other ships in the flotilla.
The 36 American passengers (plus 4 crew and 10 members of the press) on board The Audacity of Hope have publicly stated that they will carry only letters: "thousands of letters of support and friendship from people throughout the U.S. to the women, children and men of Gaza."
This selfless courage will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with these freedom riders. Some of the ones I know best and am deeply concerned for the safety of are Ann Wright, Ray McGovern, Kathy Kelly, Medea Benjamin, Paki Wieland. These are people who habitually take risks for others. One comes to expect it of them, but also to expect them to always be there doing it. Robert Naiman will be on this ship, and Alice Walker, and Hedy Epstein. Below are videos of 17 of these heroes explaining why they are going.
The Freedom Riders of 1961 asked the U.S. government to protect them. Its efforts to do so were too little too late. The Freedom Riders of 2011 have also asked the U.S. government to protect them, and thus far received no such commitment. We can ask the U.S. State Department to ask Israel (recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. weaponry every year) not to assault this flotilla, and to allow those transporting aid and letters of good will to reach the suffering people of Gaza unharmed.
CONTACT THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
You have urged our fellow citizens not to participate in an unarmed nonviolent humanitarian mission to Gaza by sea.
But have you urged Israel not to interfere with ships in international waters?
Have you urged Israel not to harm unarmed activists engaged in an actual humanitarian mission, the very thing your government pretends its wars are?
Have you urged Israel to lift the illegal and murderous blockade of Gaza?
We encourage you to take these steps to ensure the safety of Americans on board The Audacity of Hope sailing for Gaza in the Freedom Flotilla. And we encourage you to pressure Israel in the way that only a nation providing Israel with billions of dollars worth of weapons every year can, by threatening to cut them off.
We look forward to your response.
Videos and other resources at the same link.
I ran into some of your employees, John, at Boston Logan airport, believe it or not. In fact, I had no choice but to run into them or I couldn't get home.
Now, I had just flown from London to Boston without blowing up the airplane, and in fact the Heathrow coppers have their own Insecurity Theater similar to yours. But that didn't matter. I couldn't continue on to our nation's corporate headquarters on the Potomac without being further treated as a mass-murderer, as all my compatriots so happily submit to. One has to wonder if some people actually take it as a sick compliment in some sort of dark fantasy.
When other nations' governments go off track, their people do something about it. In Tunisia and Egypt people have nonviolently claimed power in a way that has inspired Americans in Wisconsin and other states, as well as the people of Spain and the rest of the world.
Washington, D.C., is the weakest point in our democracy, without which state-level reform cannot succeed. Most Americans want our wars ended, our corporations and billionaires taxed, and our rights expanded rather than curtailed. We want our money invested in jobs and green energy, not a global military that can't stop itself. Our government in Washington goes in the opposite direction, opposing popular will on these major issues, regardless of personality or party.
Eight years ago, Donald Rumsfeld asked Jim Haynes whether they should seek new legislation on detainee treatment "so we get off the hook legally." Rumsfeld's request and Haynes' response are here: PDF.
Haynes admitted that legislation could "reduce arbitrariness" but warned that by asking for legislation a precedent would be set for future presidents. In addition, Haynes cautioned, legislation might "limit the President's ability . . . to gather intelligence from those detained at GTMO."
U.S. newspapers sometimes print what they call the total death count from one or more of our wars, and all the dead who are listed are Americans. They aren't all the Americans. They don't include contractors or suicides or various other categories of dead Americans. They certainly don't include those who died for lack of basic needs while we dumped half of our public treasury into wars.
From David Swanson:
I'm looking forward to speaking at the Athens Human Rights Festival in Athens, Ga., on May 14 and 15, 2011.
I'm also looking forward to hearing the great line-up of speakers, poets, singers, and musicians.
Here's the schedule.
This festival began in 1979 to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the Kent State murders. That first year, Gene Guerrero (Director - Georgia American Civil Liberties Union) urged students to oppose the reinstatement of the draft. Attorney Hue Henry criticized UGA President Fred Davison's "pattern of arrogance" and supported the Free Speech Task Force's lawsuit against the Board of Regents' policy of preventing students from addressing Board meetings. Gary Appelson (Athenians for Clean Energy) appealed for unity to fight nuclear power. Promoting solar energy, Appelson said, "We think we are free to go to war and to interfere in the Middle East. Americans are oil junkies." Tommy Jordan played acoustic guitar and has performed at every festival since.
At the 1981 festival, Dave Dellinger warned, "If the world is going to survive, the resurgence of the peace movement must continue," and Elton Manzione (Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Grass Roots Organizing Workshop - GROW) spoke from his experience as a Navy SEAL.
The history of the Athens Human Rights Festival is one of relentless support for human rights, including the rights of humans targeted by the United States military.
This is an example to most U.S. human rights groups.
And the music makes this event an example for most activist productions. This is the revolution with the music.
I hope to see you there:
SATURDAY May 14th 10 a.m. to midnight
SUNDAY 2 pm to 10 pm
College Square, Athens, Ga.
Rain or Shine.
Upcoming public events:
Saturday, April 30, 2011
3:15 - 5:15 pm Book signing at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books ( http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks ), at the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace ( http://www.icujp.org ) booth, Booth 921.
University of Southern California
7:30 - 9:30 pm "The Costs of War" with David Swanson, Chris Hedges, Paul Chappell, and Lewis Logan, moderated by Ameena Mirza Qazi.
United University Church at the University of Southern California
817 W 34th St, Los Angeles, CA
1. More Americans learned much more of the information that Ellsberg made public.
2. It was always assumed that Ellsberg would have a trial (as of course he did), whereas I see no reason to assume Manning ever will. (I'm almost alone in this, but - hey - it's my list.)
3. They tried to kill Ellsberg but did not torture him.
4. Ellsberg was out on personal recognizance, while Manning has been held in an isolated 6x12 cell for the better part of a year.
5. We had a relatively good commmunications system back then.
6. We had a Congress.
7. We had relatively good courts, and courts outside the military were in play.
8. The info Ellsberg leaked was more top secret than Manning's and known to a handful of people, not the crowds of loyal drones with access to Manning's who did nothing.
9. Nixon didn't have Democratic Party Immunity.
10. Ellsberg, now in his 80s, is known to be saner and sharper than most living humans, while Bradley Manning's mental health is now, as a result of his torture at the hands of Obama's Marine Corps, very much in doubt.
Spain is pursuing a case against former top U.S. officials who authorized the use of torture, including David Addington, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, William Haynes, John Yoo, and Alberto Gonzales. U.S. activist groups have been encouraging Spain in this endeavor.