Saturday, November 22, 2008

First time at the SOA Watch – Part One

Yesterday, I arrived in Columbus, GA for my first time ever. I am here to protest at Fort Benning, and to protest the US policies of kidnapping, torture, murder, and war. It was looking a bit dicey early Friday morning when Rachel arrived at my home – it was snowing and there were dozens of car wrecks locally. However, it didn’t look too bad and I figured the further south we got, the better our chances. So we took off for Georgia.

The first event we attended was “Respect Democracy: How your tax dollars buy Latin American elections.” I don’t think this was part of the program, but a women named Maria Guardado got up and spoke about her time being tortured, raped and kidnapped. I didn’t take notes, so I cannot fill you in on the details, but I can tell you that it was difficult to hear her story….. and I have no doubt she was speaking the truth.

The session was about the Respect for Democracy Campaign. They spoke about the taxpayer funded ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ and how this organization is NOT promoting democracy, but instead promoting corporate interests in other countries. They manipulate elections around the world in ways that would be quite illegal here in the USA, and when that does not work, they (and US AID) they support efforts to overthrow governments that do not subordinate themselves to US and corporate interests. Some recent examples of this is Venezuela and Haiti. This ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ has support from Republicans and Democrats. And even though it is mainly funded by US taxpayers, it is officially a “private” organization, thereby allowing it to operate without oversight by the public or by Congress.

One example of what they have done is the election in Nicaragua in 1990. They spent over $20 per voter in Nicaragua to get a right wing candidate elected president. Here is a clip from their handout, describing the basic problem with the ‘National Endowment for Democracy:

Whenever and wherever people say NO to corporate privatization of natural resources and public services, whenever and wherever people demand fair wages and economic opportunities versus mega-profits for the few, the US government steps in to try and manipulate the electoral process. Whether by funding campaigns, buying votes, making threats, or even sponsoring coup d’etats, the goal is the same: where there’s a conflict, make sure corporate greed trumps human needs.
They are asking for the National Endowment for Democracy to be shut down. And, really, even if it was a good thing (which it is not), why are we spending our tax dollars on elections in other countries? That is just stupid. The Respect for Democracy Campaign is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice. More information can be found at their website.

This was followed by a movie on Don White. Now, I had not heard of Don White, and I clearly missed something by not knowing him personally. He died earlier this year, and he was clearly quite the activist and funny as can be. The movie was called “Don White in His Own Words”. I recommend watching that if you have chance.

Saturday morning started with a large Plenary Session, with speakers, singers, musicians. They had everyone who had crossed the line and gone to prison stand up, and they had all the first-timers to the SOA Watch raise their hands. It was a good sized crowd, and this was held in the Columbus Convention Center. One of the speakers was Rabbi Lerner, and he said he was holding a session on “Helping Obama Be Obama” afterwards. People were generally happy that Obama has been elected and “Yes, We Can” was heard often during this session – in English and in Spanish. Rabbi Lerner wants to get an active group working on Obama’s positions so that he will overcome the inside-the-beltway culture and become a manifestation of God’s will. There are, by the way, LOTS of people here who are working for various faith organizations. The Catholics are very well represented.

This was followed by the Rally at the Gates of Fort Benning. More good music, more speeches and motivational talks, more stories of horror that came directly from the US Government’s policies. I left the rally early to share my day with you, so thank you for reading! I am leaving shortly to go to a workshop on depleted uranium, and later tonight will see a film called “Soldiers of Conscience”.

I want to dedicate this blog post to Ruth, an Asheville activist, who could not make this SOA Watch, but has been to many in the past – and to Clare, an Asheville activist, who crossed the line and went to prison in years past. These are pictures of the events today. I will write a “Part Two” but probably not until Monday.

1 comment:

Rhotel1 said...

I will bet that the "workshop on depleted uranium" was full of lies and I will bet that Rabbi Lerner would not be pleased with this connection to the anti-depleted uranium crusade.

American Free Press/The Barnes Review convention

Read the whole post, all the way down to the part with the two Rabbis -- then note the link to depleted uranium, Doug Rokke and David Von Kleist, the MC of this event. Rokke is practically sainted by the sincere, but easily duped Wes Rehberg, who might have even given the "workshop" and Von Kleist is behind Rokke and Moret appearing in Beyond Treason, the first DVD that plastered the world with the lies about DU. On the rare thought that anyone reading this would like to learn about DU, go to, you will find it quite an eye opener.