Sunday, November 13, 2005

Choosing Peace

Saturday, November 12th, 2005, peace activists from Central PA and Maryland gathered at the 1st Church of the Brethren for the 3rd annual conference of the Carlisle Peace College under the theme of From Understanding To empowering.

The first speaker of the day was Bill Dyson. This representative from Connecticut and civil rights activist spoke on the prison system. He began with recounting some incidents in which people found their past felonies were impeding their efforts to find or keep a job or get housing.

A look at the prison populations of Connecticut and the US as a whole followed; including concentration of inmates. The problems faced by inmates once they leave the system was examined as well.

Finally, some of the forces that have created this system were examined. How the US has criminalized poverty and marginalized the poor.

Doug Rokke was the next speaker, this forensic scientist was responsible for developing the training programs for dealing with Depleted Uranium ammunition. He told of the illness he saw his own men suffer as a result of the exposure to these true "Weapons of Mass Destruction". As well as misconceptions that our own Government had about these weapons.

Doug then joined forces with Alana Hartzok, board member of United For a Fair Economy, and co-director of the Earth Rights Institute on the issues of "Economics of War and Peace".

What she presented was a look at how an economic system that she sees as controlled by a privledged few creates a climate that leaves those who are exploited with but one option, and the "War System" is in full swing. Now while this sounds a lot like Marx, it's roots are in the ideas of an economist named Henry George.

But to Alana, there is a solution called the "Resource Rent Fund". This is a tax not on income, but on land value, emissions, the electromagnetic spectrum and non-renewable resources. This is a complex idea and I recommend you visit the Earth Rights web page.

After a break for lunch, the second half of the conference began with David Miller, the pastor of the University Mennonite Church in State College PA, speaking on "Conscientious Objection".

To begin with, he explained that there are different forms of objection, and not all are legal and recognized.

The history of Objection, which dates back to the earliest Christians followed. And the protection of this right extends from the American Revolution through to the Vietnam war and into today.

Concerns about a draft were also addressed, and the point that there is no draft at the moment was brought up. But advice to set up a "paper trail" of objection was given.

The "No Child Left Behind" act and the Delayed Enlistment Program were discussed also.

A personal account of the Vietnam war was next, as John Ketwig, the author of And a Hard Rain Fell spoke on militarism.

Beginning with his service in Vietnam he spoke of how he grew to see this country's growing militarism. Including comparing the hysteria surrounding this current war to a WWE show.

He closed his presentation with President Eisenhower's warning against the growing "Military Industrial Complex".

But is war even legal? According to the next speaker, Rob Wheeler, the answer is "maybe not".

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, and a draft code of "Crimes Against Peace And Security of Mankind" all seem to make war illegal.

Alas, there's no current way to enforce this is while the ICC is in place, it's jurisdiction is limited and the US has refused to sign on.

This could have to do with the fact that the Bush administration could be brought up, according to Mr. Wheeler, on twelve violations of the UN charter. Later he proposed that Bush, Cheney, and other top members of the administration should either be sent to the front lines of Iraq, or serve life in prison.

So why these violations? Oil, and from there, Mr Wheeler looked at energy policy. Looking at the "Peak Oil" theory. Proceeded to look at US foreign policy and proposed solutions; among them a windfall and carbon tax on oil and energy companies to fund renewable energy resources.

The final speaker, Jan Powers, recounted her work with both Palestinian and Israeli women's groups. Of how she networked and worked with a Palestinian Woman's Lawyers organization, a Women's center, and a group that works to try and deal with the extreme militarism of Israeli society.

Another Image

I got an idea for another image to try and sell, a picture I took when I took a run up to Kent State a few years ago:

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