Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘soldiers’

Memorial Day “Holiday”

Memorial Day – “a legal holiday in the U.S. in memory of the dead servicemen of all wars.”

That’s how Webster’s defines Memorial Day, but is that what takes place? Has this day of remembrance become just another holiday; another three-day weekend; a day of forgetting?

Memorial Day can be a powerful reminder and opportunity for honoring and remembering our dead; for paying homage to those who died believing that their lives made a difference; that their lives were sacrificed for the benefit of others.

In many respects, those who have died for this experiment in democracy are still living. They’re living in the water we drink, the food we grow, the ballot we cast, the policies we protest, the pains, sorrows and struggles of everyday life.

images

I respect the men and women who fought to end slavery in the Civil War and those, like my grandfather William, who fought in World War I, believing it would be “the war to end all wars”. I remember and give thanks to my father-in-law, who fought during World War II against the Nazis and lost his parents, grandparents, family and friends in the concentration camps. I thank my father, who went away for years to an unknown fate to stop the dictatorships of German and Japanese governments during the second world war. And I remember and honor all those who died in Lebanon, Panama, Viet Nam, on 9-11, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those who returned from those conflicts and died from resulting disease, addiction or suicide.

Though Memorial Day honors those who have died during wartime, let us not forget the military women and men who have died outside of conflict; those who have died while training; while in transport; during missions of peace and rescue; and at home from illness, accident, governmental disregard or neglect.

Before we can ever proclaim, “Never again!” we must exclaim, “Never forget!” Never forget the soldiers and civilians who have perished. Let us honor they’re memory, by keeping them in our hearts and doing everything possible to prevent and end the wars that have caused such great sorrow and suffering. Take some time to bring out pictures, tell stories, make a toast, thank those still living and recommit our selves to the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Memorial Day reminds us that blood and tears are the same in any language. Every life is precious and every loss must be remembered, mourned and honored.

These thoughts and reflections are an excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

Also see: Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism and Protest.

Raped In Somalia – Go To Jail.

Dear Friends,

My name is Laila and I’m a journalist. I recently wrote a story about a young woman brutally gang-raped by government soldiers in Somalia, hoping that her bravery in telling such a painful story would bring attention to the awful rape problem there. Instead, the government used my article to jail a rape victim and another journalist covering the story for ‘insulting the state’!

somalirefugees

Rape is horrific, but to be raped when the only authorities you can turn to for justice are your rapists — it’s the most crushing powerlessness. But together I think we can bring her hope. That’s why I started a global petition on the Avaaz site, because Somalia’s government depends heavily on financing from other governments, so the international community can press them to stop the cover up and bring real reforms to end the epidemic of rape by security forces.

Our call for change could really work, but it needs to be big. UN envoy Zainab Bangura has told us that she will directly deliver our petition to donor countries and Somalia’s President. Help by signing and forwarding this email — let’s show these women that they’re not alone, and that no one has the authority to rape them:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Somalia_No_Authority_to_Rape/?bMPbqab&v=22221

The brave young woman was accused of fabricating her own rape by government officials before she even got a trial. Then, the judge refused to hear witnesses or accept medical evidence proving that she was raped. And she’s not alone: I’ve interviewed too many women who live in constant fear of getting shot or raped, often by the very people charged with protecting them.

But there is hope for Somalia like never before. In just 18 months, it has approved a new constitution, selected a new president, and is finally winning its war against extremists. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud is in a position to act to protect women from his own armed forces, if we together give him a big reason to crack down on this state violence.

This innocent rape survivor and Abdiaziz Abdinur, the journalist who spoke to her, are facing a year in jail! Funders hold the key to changing the way Somalia’s own soldiers and security forces treat women. Sign now and forward this email to help grow a call big enough to change Somalia forever:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Somalia_No_Authority_to_Rape/?bMPbqab&v=22221

The Avaaz community has fought courageously to stop the war on women across the world. Last month, more than 1 million of us signed a petition calling for justice and real change in India after the tragic death of a rape victim in Delhi, and received encouraging signs from top government ministers that they were heeding our call. Now, we can bring that people power to Somalia and set the country on a new course.

WIth hope and determination,

Laila Ali, with the Avaaz team

*Laila is a British-Somali journalist based in Nairobi

Gun Violence & Child Soldiers

Dear Gabriel,

The United States is not the only country where children are facing an epidemic of gun violence. While in the U.S., we continue to grapple with the tragic reality of children who routinely face gun violence in their communities and children who increasingly are the targets of mass shootings, in other places around the world, we see the heartbreaking consequences of children who also face the daily horrors of armed conflict, many forced to become soldiers.

During Monday’s inaugural address, President Obama said:

“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

However, the President could have — and should have — broadened his statement to include children from the war-torn neighborhoods of Aleppo, Syria to valleys of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo, because if protecting all children is our shared destination, then we can’t afford to let our concern be confined by U.S. borders.

W1301EAATT3_2

We must call on the President to lead efforts to establish a strong Arms Trade Treaty, one that will help stop irresponsible and illegal arms transfers around the world that directly contribute to the recruitment of child soldiers.

You have probably heard about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda — the group responsible for widespread murder, rape, maiming and amassing throngs of child soldiers. Fewer people know about the recruitment of child soldiers by Bosco Ntaganda, a commander of the FPLC armed group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fewer still realize that the armed groups who have taken control of the northern part of Mali, as well as the Malian army, are also using child soldiers.

Why do children in Uganda, the DRC and Mali continue to have a target on their back?

Because a global free-for-all lets weapons flow into the hands of armed groups and governments who, in turn, recruit children and commit other grave abuses. By failing to make the establishment of a global Arms Trade Treaty a priority, President Obama is letting them get away with it.

Protect all children from violence — please call for a strong Arms Trade Treaty.

It’s simple; no child should be forced to stand on either side of a weapon.

But the gun lobby in the U.S. is still trying to make you believe that this is about taking guns away from law-abiding Americans. It’s not.

The Arms Trade Treaty would put in place common-sense measures, like background checks on international arms sales, to stop or at least slow the sale of weapons between countries that fuel conflict, atrocities and instability as well as lead to the displacement and deaths of millions of civilians and the continued use of child soldiers.

More than 43,000 of you have helped set the record straight for the NRA’s leadership. Thanks for supporting children everywhere who are trapped by armed conflict. Your voice is so important as we prepare for the UN to hold its conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in March.

Every child deserves that same right no matter where they live. With your help, we can make this Arms Trade Treaty “bullet-proof”.

Michelle Ringuette
Chief of Campaigns & Programs
Amnesty International USA

Perished and Present

Memorial Day – “a legal holiday in the U.S. in memory of the dead servicemen of all wars.”

That’s how Webster’s defines Memorial Day, but is that what takes place? Has this day of remembrance become just another holiday; another three-day weekend; a day of forgetting?

Memorial Day can be a powerful reminder and opportunity for honoring and remembering our dead; for paying homage to those who died believing that their lives made a difference; that their lives were sacrificed for the benefit of others.

In many respects, those who have died for this experiment in democracy are still living. They’re living in the water we drink, the food we grow, the ballot we cast, the policies we protest, the pains, sorrows and struggles of everyday life.

I respect the men and women who fought to end slavery in the Civil War and those, like my grandfather William, who fought in World War I, believing it would be “the war to end all wars”. I remember and give thanks to my father-in-law, who fought during World War II against the Nazis and lost his parents, grandparents, family and friends in the concentration camps. I thank my father, who went away for years to an unknown fate to stop the dictatorships of German and Japanese governments during the second world war. And I remember and honor all those who died in Lebanon, Panama, Viet Nam, on 9-11, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those who returned from those conflicts and died from resulting disease, addiction or suicide.

Though Memorial Day honors those who have died during wartime, let us not forget the military women and men who have died outside of conflict; those who have died while training; while in transport; during missions of peace and rescue; and at home from illness, accident, governmental disregard or neglect.

Before we can ever proclaim, “Never again!” we must exclaim, “Never forget!” Never forget the soldiers and civilians who have perished. Let us honor they’re memory, by keeping them in our hearts and doing everything possible to prevent and end the wars that have caused such great sorrow and suffering. Take some time to bring out pictures, tell stories, make a toast, thank those still living and recommit our selves to the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Memorial Day reminds us that blood and tears are the same in any language. Every life is precious and every loss must be remembered, mourned and honored.

These thoughts and reflections are an excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

Something Smells Foul

Excerpt from Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest.

In late 1969 and early 1970, Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base was the second busiest airport in the world, next to Tan Sim Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon. It wasn’t the second busiest with the number of people passing through, but with the number of flights taking off and landing. They weren’t flying for recreation or sightseeing; they were reconnaissance planes and bombers – lots of bombers. They left the field weighed down like heavyweight fighters and returned like featherweights. It was methodical, like clockwork: day in and day out, hour after hour.

A few weeks after his arrival at Udorn, Dr. Leff began to get a feel for his clientele. There were three groups he attended and with whom he became intimately acquainted. The first was the United States Air Force personnel, which numbered about 5,000. The second group was the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and contract personnel (mercenaries) who were employed by Air America. The third contingent consisted of Royal Laotian Army soldiers who were wounded in the war against the communist Pathet Lao across the border in Laos, protected by the Thai military and treated at Udorn.

The U.S. was supposedly not at war with Laos, but was nonetheless bombing their villages, giving their government military weapons and ammunition and supporting the Royal Laotian Army with money, surveillance, and medical care. The U.S. Air Force was bombing villages that contained nothing but villagers. Intelligence officers ordered changes in the captions on reconnaissance pictures. When questioned, pilots would quote the party line and say they were bombing communist strongholds.

It was common knowledge on the base that their primary mission was to destroy any communist stronghold in Laos. Legality, civilian deaths, and the Geneva Convention were all collateral damage to the mission. The goal was the priority, not the process.

Captain Leff couldn’t help but get a strong whiff of these realities. His patients told him what was going on. He had eyes and ears and could see and hear the stories, the bravado from the pilots; the detached, cold expressions of the Air America personnel. On the rare occasions he visited the officer’s club, his ears were bombarded with the sickening boasts of pilots talking about how many people they had killed that day and how many bombs they had dropped on the bastards. He heard stories from the flight surgeons that did air time over Laos that made his skin crawl. He had arrived in August as a patriotic serviceman; by September, his patriotism had been bruised, bloodied and battered.

“Within three months time, I knew the war was all hocus pocus,” Captain Leff recalled. “People were lying left and right. It was all so obvious. By that time, I had made friends with a number of GIs, both stripers and officers, who had the same hit on this mess as I did. So, I wrote a letter. I wrote a letter to the Chairman of the foreign relations committee of the U.S. Senate, J. W. Fulbright. It wasn’t complicated; it just said, ‘I don’t understand. What is this war in Laos all about? How can we have this secret war?’ I never expected to hear from him. Even though military personnel are allowed to write congressional letters, I had a strong feeling that the Air Force was reading my mail and wasn’t sure if he’d even get it. I didn’t give any details. I sent it on November 11, 1969. On December 10th, I received his reply. I was shocked. It was a personal reply, not a form letter. He said he was doing all he could to stop the war on Laos and appreciated my concern. In the beginning of 1970, I sent him another letter with more detail and said I’d be glad to speak to his commission. Again, he replied and said they would take me up on my offer when I returned to the States.”

Dr. Leff had just opened a Pandora’s Box of deceit, corruption, and legitimate paranoia. MORE

MORE

Tag Cloud