Why Americans Gotta Read the “War Crimes Times!”
by Kim Carlyle
Inundated as we are with information, it is important for Americans to discern what is important and what is not. This task is confounded in a society where the primary source of information, the mainstream corporate-controlled media, limits the discourse by ignoring or downplaying certain topics as it amplifies the importance of others.
To explain what is essential to Americans, we must define America. Contrary to what some “patriots” seem to believe, our country is not defined by a star-spangled rectangle of cloth; nor is it defined by a song we sing just before the umpire hollers, “Play ball!”; it is not a pledge we say in school; it is not a chief executive elected by the people or selected by judges for a four year term; it is not an summer evening’s pyrotechnics display; and it is not our military might. America is defined by two documents.
The first was written by Thomas Jefferson and it notified the world that the former colonies of England were now an autonomous, free-standing, self-governing nation. This Declaration of Independence established certain ideals including equality and rights to life and liberty. Its final words are a pledge of “sacred Honor.”
The other document is more technical; it describes how “We the People” will allocate the powers of governance “in Order to form a more perfect Union.” The Constitution of the United States is the law of the land. America is defined by ideals and by law. America could get by quite nicely without a flag, without an anthem, without fireworks. It has managed to even get by with presidents of poor quality and it did well enough before it became the only superpower. But without ideals and without laws, we have no America—at least not an America worthy of respect.
Therefore it is essential for Americans to guard our “sacred Honor” and to ensure that our laws are upheld. When enemies, foreign or domestic, threaten our honor or our Constitution, these enemies must be called to account.
Granted there are many important issues. The economy, health care, and the financial crisis demand our attention. There are also issues of fluff and celebrity that the media use to distract us. But the matter of war crimes—actions which have caused untold suffering and death, increased enmity toward our country and our soldiers, diminished our moral standing in the world, increased global insecurity, and threatened the very fiber of America—have been underreported, ignored, and swept aside as our chief executive chooses to look forward, not back.
But we must look back. And we must hold accountable the men and women who have broken our laws, tarnished our honor, and spit on our ideals. Since the mainstream, corporate-controlled media have refused to provide adequate coverage on war crimes and war criminals, several members of Veterans For Peace (a national non-profit organization—VeteransForPeace.org) have begun publishing a quarterly newspaper, the War Crimes Times, and maintaining a blog, http://www.warcrimestimes.org/ which is updated frequently. (See the mission statement below.)
What evolved into a 16-page newspaper began as a one-time handout for an action at the Newseum in Washington, DC. This January 2009 event followed two occupations (September for 24 hours and November 2008 for 2 days) at the National Archives, the home of the U.S. Constitution. On these occasions, veterans displayed huge banners—“Defend the Constitution; Arrest Bush/Cheney; War Criminals”—above the visitors’ entrance as they occupied the ledge, fasted, and broadcast speeches of Kennedy, King, and Kucinich; played music of Baez, Dylan, and Seeger; and read the names of fallen soldiers. Of course, no major media reported on these demonstrations.
The Newseum, “an interactive museum of news and journalism,” was selected for the January demonstration because the mainstream media has not only ignored peace and justice activists, it had been complicit in advancing the Bush administration’s agenda by repeating the lies or limiting inconvenient facts (for example, the Newseum’s 9/11 exhibit fails to mention that none of the alleged hijackers were Iraqi). The action, with a 40-foot banner display and “newsies” handing out the War Crimes Times, was a great success. More than 3,000 copies were distributed in our nation’s capital that day.
A second edition was prepared for the March anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and it was so well-received that the editors decided to continue the War Crimes Times as a quarterly publication. The WCT has just published its fourth edition ( http://www.veteransforpeace.org/files/pdf/WarCrimesTimesFall09.pdf ) which centers on Afghanistan—the illegality of the war and the ongoing civilian casualties. It also has articles on the Army Experience Center, Vietnam war crimes, citizen group actions, and the U.S.S. Liberty. The summer issue ( http://veteransforpeace.org/files/pdf/WarCrimesTimes_june.pdf ) with the headline, “Obama Drones On,” included articles on torture, Obama’s empty promises, and the unmanned aerial vehicles that are bombing civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The WCT print version is distributed for free across the country mainly by local chapters of Veterans For Peace, who pay for printing and postage. The War Crimes Times contains articles, opinion pieces, cartoons, and poetry that you are unlikely to find in many other publications and certainly you won’t find concentrated in any other single publication. WCT contributors have included academics Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Velvel, and Deborah Nelson; human rights and constitutional lawyers Marjorie Cohn, Michael Ratner, and Francis Boyle; journalists Peter Dyer, Dave Lindorff, and Robert Sheer; activists Laurie Arbeiter, David Swanson, and Pat Elder; as well as many veterans who speak from experience.
While the WCT is frequently distributed at events—forums, vigils, demonstrations—that attract like-minded folks, it can also be used very effectively as a teaching tool. Engage in a conversation with someone who needs to be better informed, give them a copy of the War Crimes Times, point to an article and say, “This woman is president of the National Lawyers Guild and she says that Obama is obligated to prosecute war criminals!” or “Here’s an army general who says there is no doubt that the Bush administration committed war crimes.” Become an activist for America.
The veterans who produce the WCT took an oath upon their military induction to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” They have a sense of duty to maintain the honor and uphold the laws of America. But such a commitment is not limited to those who have served; such patriotism should be the special interest of all Americans. Check out the War Crimes Times, order a bundle, make a donation, spread the word.
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The War Crimes Times Mission Statement
The War Crimes Times provides information to the general public, to law-makers, and to our justice-seeking allies on war crimes, war criminals, and on the necessity and means of prosecuting war criminals. When national leaders initiate hostilities they create the conditions—the extreme use of force coupled with limited accountability—for the war crimes which invariably follow. War crimes are therefore an inherent part of war. The suffering caused and the enmity aroused by war crimes must be regarded as costs of war. Since these and other costs far exceed any benefits of war, we seek to end war as a tool of international policy. Towards this goal, we believe that holding war criminals accountable will send a strong message to those currently in power to very carefully weigh all the consequences of the decision to go to war. While we recognize that United States has long relied on military force to further its foreign policy goals, we feel that the Bush Administration’s blatant and egregious violations of international law demand special attention. The WCT has resolved to see that Bush, Cheney, & Co. are prosecuted for war crimes no matter how long it takes. There is no statute of limitations on war crimes.
Kim Carlyle is a homesteader, an army veteran (1966-69), president of Veterans For Peace ( http://www.veteransforpeace.org/ ) Chapter 099, and an editor of the War Crimes Times.