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Hooray for Hollywood
Imagine a Country Life in â€¦
Resistance, Humanitarian Aid, & the â€¦
Corporations, Law, & Democracy
Bush's Multiplex Wars Iraq, “terrorism,” â€¦
Preventing Iraqi Self-Determination
World Challenges GMOs
Syria: The Next Domino? Will â€¦
Iraq is a Trial Run â€¦
Supporting the Troops A code â€¦
Press the Press
Direct Action at Boeing
Boycott Azteca Tortillas
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Direct Action at Boeing
O n Sunday, March 23, I joined 250 peace demonstrators, comprised of a cross-section of American society, in a nonviolent protest and direct action at the Boeing plant in St. Charles, Missouri. The St. Charles factory produces Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits.
According to Boeing, the JDAM kit “converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurately guided ‘smart’ weapons. The JDAM kit consists of a new tail section that contains an Internal Navigation System [INS]/Global Positioning System [GPS].” Boeing and the Air Force are using JDAMs to fit, or retrofit, newer or older ordnance, some of which is 30 years old, to make the bomb in question more accurate. Boeing describes the JDAM as “originally designed for 2,000-pound MK-84 and BLU-109 warheads.” The JDAM kits “have also been developed for 1,000-pound MK-83 and BLU-110 warheads.” Boeing has tested JDAMs for 500-pound bombs and will make them available next year.
Boeing and the Pentagon report that the INS/GPS systems make JDAM-equipped bombs 98 percent accurate: impervious to bad weather, smoke, or sandstorms. The JDAM kits cost $20,000 each, far less than laser-guided missiles. This low cost makes JDAMs an attractive way for the Air Force to unload their stockpile of older bombs on other countries.
JDAMs have become one of the most popular and profitable items in the military industrial complex. USA Today covered JDAMs as their lead story in the “Money” section on Monday, March 24. “From September 2001 to October 2002, the JDAM program generated more than $1 billion worth of contracts,” USA Today learned from Boeing spokesperson Robert Algarotti. Arms specialists describe JDAMs in the USA Today piece as “definitely the signature weapon of modern warfare” and perhaps “the most successful munitions program of this generation.” Boeing is the world’s second-largest weapons manufacturer, with $54 billion in 2002 revenue.
JDAM-equipped bombs debuted in the war on Serbia in 1999. One of them hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade: a human error, not JDAM’s, the Pentagon assures us. During the Afghanistan campaign of 2001-2002, 4,600 of the 12,000 bombs the U.S. dropped were fitted with JDAMs. The “success” of JDAM bombs depleted the Air Force’s stockpile, leading to a big contract with Boeing in December 2001. USA Today reported that “the Air Force originally ordered about 87,000 kits, but has since expanded its contract to more than 230,000.” At the St. Charles plant, it appears they can’t make them fast enough. According to demonstration organizers, the factory has been manufacturing JDAMs round-the-clock for three years.
It was against this backdrop that we gathered on Saturday at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis. Midwest Regional Resistance and the Chicago-based group Voices in the Wilderness were the main organizers of the event. Several Voices representatives joined representatives of the Anathoth Farm in Luck, Wisconsin to drive down in the “Omran Bus.” (Activists named the vehicle after the Iraqi boy Omran Harbi Jawair, who was killed on May 17, 2000 by a U.S. or UK bomb dropped near his village of Najaf in southern Iraq.) The Omran bus has logged thousands of miles on American roads since 2000, carrying activists devoted to telling the tragic stories of the victims of sanctions and bombing in Iraq. A sign in the window reads: “Start seeing Iraqi children.”
We formulated a plan for Sunday: a dozen people wearing white suits with “CWIT” in large letters on the back, standing for Citizens Weapons Inspection Team, would head the procession; they would request to enter the Boeing plant to inspect the weapons of mass destruction inside. There would be a half-dozen coffins, complete with mock victims. We decided to wear black and emulate a funeral procession. Some activists volunteered to refuse to move from the Boeing plant’s gates in the event they did not allow the CWIT members inside. We were warned that this act of civil disobedience would likely result in arrest.
Mike Miles, Jeff Guntzel, and Stephanie Schaudel from Voices related the human cost of what American policy in Iraq has wrought.
Miles also told the story of Voices’ trip to Omran Harbi Jawair’s village in early 2001. They met Falah, Omran’s 30-year-old brother, and his mother, who was so grief-stricken that she could not speak. After the Voices people explained to them what the Omran bus was doing, Omran’s mother was moved to tears and eventually gave them her only picture of her dead son. Falah said, “your visit today changes everything,” because up until that point they did not know that Americans had feelings.
Guntzel had recently returned from three weeks in Baghdad. He talked of the kind shoeshine boy, his helpful cab driver, and other people he met. Guntzel talked of the surrealism he was experiencing of not knowing whether the Iraqi people he met were alive now or would survive the coming days.
Schaudel gave powerful analysis of the current situation in Iraq by placing it in a global context. Schaudel talked about the Iraq Peace Team, which currently has 25 people in Iraq in order “to witness, understand, and expose the situation of both the civilian population of Iraq and highlight the importance of facilities such as water purification plants that are critical to daily life.”
One of the Voices people in Iraq is Kathy Kelly. She wrote from Baghdad on March 25: “Most of us are angry, very angry and yet I believe that we can channel our anger, our disappointment, our frustration and our rage into the kind of energy that will champion nonviolent resistance to the works of war and an ever deepening desire for the works of mercy.”
After lunch, 250 of us set out for the plant. We were met by 50 police, many in riot gear, and about 60 pro-war demonstrators. It was difficult not to respond to the insults they were throwing at us. As organizer Bill Ramsey was quoted in Monday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch , “We’re not going to argue with people. We’re going to find people who agree with us and build, so Bush doesn’t take the American public for granted.” This approach made it easier to concentrate on the task at hand, namely focusing our attention on opening the gates.
We conducted two “die-ins,” in which an air raid siren prompted us to hit the ground and die for five minutes.
A stated objective of the protest was to shut down the shift change at the plant. Organizers said that the plant has been operating continuously for three years. One organizer said that he believed Boeing called off their shifts for that day to avert a showdown. Other protesters who were familiar with the St. Charles plant told me that there were other exits at the factory, which were used to move workers in and out in past protests and perhaps on Sunday too.
I found it interesting how the media covered the event. I think many reporters are interested in what we are doing. Mainstream reporters do not have much space to present our views, thanks to the framework in which they operate, but they were taking pictures and talking to us. It is a mistake for those against this war to disqualify from our efforts the participation of mainstream media people. It is worth remembering that the institutions that employ them are not friendly to us, but the reporters might well be.
After most of the protesters had left safely, the gates were opened. Fourteen activists, most in CWIT suits, sat down and refused to move. They were arrested. The Post-Dispatch reported that four women and nine men were booked for trespassing and released. One 16-year-old boy was “turned over to juvenile authorities.”
As the American and British aggression in Iraq unfolds with greater horror each day, it is important to consider both the material sources and the consequences of what is happening. We saw in St. Charles a branch of the military machine that is humming along at peak efficiency, and will continue to do so unless people demand otherwise. The St. Charles plant is an integral part of the machinery that kills and maims other people, mostly innocent civilians. It is a well-documented fact that most casualties in this modern age of warfare are civilians.
Another striking part of the weekend was the first mention on television reports of a “terrorist” suicide bombing within Iraq. Apparently a couple of these attacks have occurred in the past week, one of which tragically claimed the life of a journalist. I wonder whether such suicide attacks to repel an invading force in New York or Washington would be described as “terrorist.” Is America headed, and prepared, for treating Iraqis as the Israelis have treated the Palestinians for years?
Altogether, I found the weekend thoroughly empowering and enlightening. Despite the Boeing gates, police, and abusive counter-protesters, we stayed firm and made our point. There is no more powerful solidarity and no more instant and moving friendships than those forged in the quest for peace and justice.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.