Case dropped against Yankee activists

Case dropped against Yankee activists

December 20, 2005

By DANIEL BARLOW Southern Vermont Bureau

BRATTLEBORO — Trespassing charges against seven women arrested last month during a protest outside of Vermont Yankee’s corporate offices have been dropped by Windham County State’s Attorney Dan Davis.

The women had pleaded innocent to the charges in Brattleboro District Court last week and were expecting to go to trial in March 2006. Davis, the prosecutor in the case, said the burden on the court system to try the women outweighed the alleged crimes.

“Based on my review of the actions of the protesters, I deemed that it would be unwise to use the resources of my office and the court to prosecute,” Davis said Monday.

The women — many of whom are in their 50s and live in northern Massachusetts just outside of the 10-mile emergency zone around the nuclear power plant — were arrested Nov. 7 after allegedly trespassing on the front lawn of Entergy Nuclear in Brattleboro, the parent company of Vermont Yankee.

On Friday, Davis issued the order dropping the charges against Maureen Briggs-Carrington, 54, of 57 Market St. in Northampton, Mass.; Terry Carter, 55, of 36 Chapin St. in Brattleboro; Elizabeth Wood, 27, of 111 Dutton Farm Road in Dummerston; Sally Shaw, 49, of 100 River Road in Gill, Mass.; Nina Keller, 59, of 28 Cold Brook Road in Wendell, Mass.; Sunny Miller, 56, of 103 Keets Road in Deerfield, Mass.; and Lynn Crough, 44, of 29 Beach St. in Greenfield, Mass.

“I applaud what he has done,” said Bennington attorney Stephen Saltonstall, who was representing the protesters and planned to ask that the charges be dropped on First Amendment grounds. “I want to personally thank him for this.”

Saltonstall said Davis invoked Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure 48(a), which allows a prosecutor to dismiss charges “in the interest of justice.”

Davis used the same rule when he dropped charges against more than 20 people accused of blocking the main gate at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon in the late 1990s, said Saltonstall, who was representing the protesters in that case also.

The State’s Attorney’s Office has prosecuted several protestors charged with crimes during his tenure, Davis said, but it is not uncommon to dismiss charges in certain cases. Davis said the protestors in this instance were using the media and the court system to get their anti-nuclear message out to the public.

Wood, one of the women arrested last month, said she was pleased the charges were dropped and didn’t believe it would affect the plan to stage at least one protest outside the corporate offices every month.

She added that it was the goal of the protesters to “bring visibility” of nuclear issues to the public, not to get arrested.

“I hope this encourages more people to come out and have their voices heard,” Wood said.

Five more women were arrested in a similar act of disobedience on Dec. 5, although it was not clear Monday if those charges will be dropped as well. Davis said he has not seen the court paperwork for those cases yet.

A protest outside the offices on Saturday was peaceful and resulted in no arrests, according to several people who attended.

Contact Daniel Barlow at

VY protesters dismissed from court

VY protesters dismissed from court

Reformer Staff

BRATTLEBORO — Charges were dropped against the seven people who were arrested last month for protesting at Vermont Yankee’s corporate offices.

The state’s attorney on Monday dismissed charges of unlawful trespass against.

Terry Carter of Brattleboro, one of those arrested on Nov. 7, said she was happy the charges were dismissed, but a little disappointed that she wouldn’t get her day in court.

“A trial would have been a good way to draw attention to the issues,” said Carter. “But I’m happy I won’t have a criminal record.”

Windham County State’s Attorney Dan Davis said his office reviewed the case and decided it not in the best interest of the court, or his staff, to pursue the incident as a criminal prosecution.

Davis said extra judges will be coming into the county court system over the next few months to handle criminal cases. He said protesters often “do this type of thing to get media attention…just to make a political statement. Court is not the proper place to do that.”

Those seven charged after the protest had received an offer from the state’s attorney last week of a $250 fine and entrance into the diversion program. All refused.

“These people were trying to do the right thing and follow their conscience,” said Stephen Saltonstall, counsel for the protesters. “I don’t see any point in prosecuting these people. Mr. Davis did the right thing.”

Last year Davis’ office did pursue a criminal case against protesters who were charged with trespassing at a National Guard recruiting office that was located on Elliot Street on Brattleboro. Protesters entered the office on March 17, 2003, hung up anti-war signs and staged a non-violent, daylong protest. Six of the protesters went to trial and were convicted in October 2003.

“We’ve gone both ways in the past [with these kinds of cases],” Davis said. “It depends on the circumstances and it depends on the backlog of other cases in court. We have some very serious cases pending trial now.”

On Dec. 5, five women from Massachusetts were arrested while protesting at Vermont Yankee’s corporate office and cited with unlawful trespassing.

Davis said his office has not yet received any paperwork on that case and couldn’t say yet whether he will choose to dismiss those charges as well.

Sunny Miller, of the Traprock Peace Center in Deerfield, Mass., said she was excited that the charges had been dropped against her and the others on Monday. Miller said one of the reasons she has been protesting is that she would like to see radiation monitors installed in all schools and health-care facilities in a 50-mile radius around the plant.

“But we were turned away and arrested rather than being met for conversation on what we hoped would be common ground,” said Miller. Miller said, even though she was arrested during a demonstration, she doesn’t want to be considered a protester.

“We aren’t protesters,” said Miller. “It’s wrong to call us that. That’s not who we are. We are parents, nurses, retired social workers and we love these hills and valleys and we don’t want to see the horror of an evacuation.”

Larry Smith, director of communications for Vermont Yankee, said it was inappropriate for him to comment on the state attorney’s decision.

“The only interest we have with these demonstrations is to ensure the safety of our employees and the protesters,” said Smith. “They have a right to express their opinion, even though we don’t share it.”

When asked if he thought the dismissal of the trespassing charges would encourage more protests at Vermont Yankee, Smith said he had no comment, but he did he say “We will deal with things as they evolve.”


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that really matter.” ~MLK

Dec. 16, Boston Tea Party – Dec. 17 Entergy Tea Party!

Today is the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party,
Dec. 16, 1773.

Did you know that before Massachusetts settlers dumped tea in the harbor to resist government from afar, women spun and resisted publicly in Boston. Join us in resistance.

Please consider joining a HUMAN chain reaction begun on this anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, to reveal the power of “two.” Your connections are like no others. Do you believe in your ability to find 2 people you can count on?

If 2 people commit to finding 2 people, who will find 2 people … To ASK questions of media and a public officials, we could arouse 64,000 callers in a chain of 15 linked calls. We can ask our questions of the media, (who would tell us if there were a melt-down) and ask the public officials who would struggle with any evacuation! Consider who you will call, whether you will withhold electrical payment, replace high-efficiency light bulbs, which radio, TV or newspaper to call, and finally which neighbors near or far you would like to arouse.

Note – Here’s the math for the human chain reaction, that could prevent a melt-down. All that’s needed is intense public scrutiny that arouses media interest in what the experts know.

(2) 4, 8, 16, 32, 64,
~125, 250, 500, 1000, 2000,
4000, 8000, 1600, 32,000, 64,000

Please ask your questions, or thank a news service for what they’re doing. Our Congressional delegation comes home this week-end from Washington. I have a feeling they’ll be greeted by neighbors wanting more than bad news this advent season.

This week two men at the Vermont Public Service Board will meet. They have an opportunity to resist the pressures of big money and speak up for a thorough safety inspection of all systems, not just cursory glances at systems, and inspection of the paperwork provided by Entergy. Will they hear from 2 or 2000?

David Coen and John D. Burke
Vermont Public Service Board
112 State Street, Drawer 20
Montpelier, VT. 05620-2701
802 828-2358

Remembering Rosa Parks and all the Montgomery bus boycott supporters,
we echo the choices of those before us, who made a choice for justice.


3. It’s late breaking news, but with more time than we would get for a warning to evacuate — and a heck of a lot more fun! Sally Shaw recommends we support this initiative. … Call 2 friends in the morning, who will call 2 friends? Bring some tea?

Legal Demonstration, Dec. 17, 2005
1PM Saturday in Brattleboro, VT.

Take Exit 3, 3/4 turn around the rotary to Rt.5 North. Turn right on Old Ferry Road.

Paul Bousquet, local builder, invites your presence on the side of Old Ferry Road at 1pm. Whether or not Entergy Nuclear invites us to use their lawn and parking lot, the road is a public way.

All of New England is endangered by Entergy Nuclear’s 120% uprate proposal at the Vernon reactor. Senators and representatives in federal and state government, town officials, school board members, nurses, physicians, parents, students and teachers are speaking up to insist on a thorough and independent safety assessment before any increases in risks at the oldest operating reactor in New England. In 1773 New Englanders dumped tea. We reclaim our dollars and dump some of our nuclear energy today.

DIRECTIONS: Take US 91 to exit 3 in Brattleboro, north on Rt. 5 past Inns. Turn right onto Old Ferry Road. Pass UPS. Allard’s Lumber invites you to park in their OFFICE parking lot 1/2 block away. (Not the lumber yard. Paul says perhaps 75 cars would fit.)

Paul asks for a demonstration without arrests. If you like, bring a blankets and a thermos of tea. Say your 2 cents worth on the megaphone. Please tell Paul if this is your first demonstration. He invites your Reps and public officials, nurses and teachers, “All invited!” He says parking is available at Allard’s Lumber, by the office please (not the lumber yard.)

Mistake at Vernon Reactor — VT State Nuclear Engineer Challenges Entergy

Mistake at Vernon Reactor — VT State Nuclear Engineer Challenges Entergy

On Wednesday, December 7, 2005 at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, Bill Sherman, Nuclear Engineer for the State of Vermontchallenged Entergy Nuclear engineers calculations that project safety during uprate conditions proposed at the New England’s 33-year old reactor in
Vernon, Vermont. Sherman’s opening remarks included the comment that, “There is not a full positive indication of containment integrity.”

As one example, Sherman pointed out that within the past week, his office discovered that a 3/4-inch valve had been left mis-positioned at the Vernon reactor for the last nine to ten years. The proper positioning of the valve was presumed in calculations made by Entergy Nuclear engineers. “It shows that in the real world, things happen …” said Sherman.

The 2-hour+ meeting was recorded by Traprock Peace Center, by conference call. Thanks to Ed Russell, Vermont’s objections, expressed by Bill Sherman
can be heard on line at

One Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards member asked repeatedly whether the NRC staff’s calculations were realistic.

Raymond Shadis of the New England Coalition traveled from Maine to challenge assumptions made at the meeting, and to emphasize the difference
between inspections of paper provided by the reactor operators, and real inspection of reactor systems. The Committee continued deliberations that week. By telephone at 11pm, December 7th (Wednesday night) Ray Shadis reported, “The committee deliberated further this evening. They’ve caved in on every point.” Shadis says the Committee would confer with the NRC at 1 pm Thursday, Dec. 8. The meeting was expected to be viewable by video streaming at the NRC website, < >. Press releases about NRC meetings are sent out by Neil Sheehan, < >.

Town, state and federal representatives in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have expressed their support for physical and thorough inspection of the entire facility before proposed power increases are allowed. Two members of the Vermont Public Service Board are accepting comment, David Coen, and John Burke, Vermont Public Service Board, 112 State St. Drawer 20, Montpelier, VT. 05620-2701.

Residents in the tri-state area confered on Saturday at Greenfield Community College on Saturday, Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. This conference brought together scientists, educators, students, cancer survivors, healthcare practitioners and musicians, from 12:30 to 6:30 Saturday for “Surviving the Vernon Reactor.” The conference was organized by Traprock Peace Center, which played a crucial role more than a decade ago in alerting the public to hazards at the embrittled Rowe Reactor, now closed. (Please see the traprock home page for links to audio –

Co-sponsors promoting public discourse to regarding community response to the risks of the nuclear age include the G.C.C. Response Initiative, All Souls Church Religious Education Committee, and the New England Coalition based in Brattleboro, VT.

Sami Ramadani on the latest “milestone” election in Iraq

Courtesy of Socialist Worker

By Eric Ruder, reporting from London
December 11, 2005

Sami Ramadani on the latest “milestone” election in Iraq
“The elections won’t change things”

SAMI RAMADANI was for many years an exile from his native Iraq as a political refugee from Saddam Hussein’s regime. Today, he is an outspoken opponent of the U.S. invasion and occupation. At an international antiwar conference in London in December, Ramadani spoke with Socialist Worker’s ERIC RUDER about whether the upcoming elections in Iraq would be a “turning point,” as the Bush administration claimed.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WE HAVE had so many turning points that we’re getting dizzy. I think actually that the December elections are not going to change things in Iraq. The occupation will go on, and we’ll have yet another government that is devised under U.S. control and influence in Iraq.
But at another level, it will have an important impact in terms of the legality of the occupation of Iraq. I think one of the plans behind holding this election so speedily is to legitimize the occupation, so the new government will be deemed to be a sovereign government with a permanent constitution, and this so-called new government will invite the occupation forces to stay in Iraq.

At one level, they would like to get the United Nations off their backs and legitimize the occupation. At another, if this does happen, then all contracts signed by the new government will have the force of international law behind them–and this has very significant consequences for control of Iraqi oil, because they are preparing so-called production sharing agreements that will pass control over Iraq’s oil reserves to the transnational oil corporations.

These “production sharing agreements” are privatization under another name. Effective control will pass to the oil companies. They hope that once these agreements are speedily signed come January or February of next year, then even if they can’t exploit Iraqi oil now, these agreements can be brought into effect at a later stage, once Iraq is stabilized and when they have a government in Baghdad pliant enough, and have enough American bases in the country to back such a government.

Much of this is already in the public domain and has been exposed in the past few months.

In terms of who will participate and who will not, I think overwhelmingly this election is going to prove to be–like the previous one in January–a non-event in terms of the daily lives of Iraqis. The situation in Iraq is deteriorating day by day, and this election is not going to change things, unfortunately.

The forces that are standing in the election are not even mentioning the word “oil,” which is quite significant in many ways. And the constitution they adopted actually opens the door for the control of Iraq’s oil by the oil companies.

The new constitution contains an article which is preceded by saying Iraq’s oil belongs to the Iraqi people. Then there is a more detailed article that follows, which says that Iraq’s current oilfields will continue to be administered by the Iraqi government. The word “current” is the crucial one, because only 10 percent of Iraq’s oil is in currently exploited oilfields. About 90 percent of Iraq’s oil is still underground and hasn’t been tapped yet.

So the constitution has surreptitiously opened the door for the privatization of most of Iraq’s oil, and put it at the mercy of so-called production sharing agreements.

Most of the forces running in the election are saying they want to end the occupation–some very strongly, some mildly. But I don’t think that most of them are serious about this, because if you remember, the bloc that got most of the votes last time around had at the top of its agenda the withdrawal of the occupation forces, but they didn’t do anything about it. This was Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s Coalition List.

As far as kicking out the occupation forces, I don’t think they are strong enough or serious enough to do so. But even if they are genuine about the slogan, they end up sitting in the Green Zone, where the occupation tanks are protecting them. So immediately, they are in a compromised situation where their daily safety and existence depend on the tanks and helicopters of the occupation forces.

Even if they last a week, two weeks, a month, two months, opposing the presence of the occupation, their daily life and existence grows ever more dependent on the presence of the occupation, and this is a fix that they cannot escape from.

You cannot join in this political process and become completely anti-occupation because of the facts on the ground–because the occupation forces are the only effective forces that can provide any state-type protection for elected representatives, even if these elected representatives are anti-occupation themselves. It’s a very big contradiction they fall into the moment they get elected.


For a full list of articles from the current issue of Socialist Worker, see

Rounding up Women in the UK – In any name, this equals harassment of the vulnerable.

Traprock Homepage

Published December 6, 2005

Police steal and threaten in sex worker raids

On 6 October 2005, over 40 police and immigration officers raided 55 flats in the Baker Street area of central London. 70 sex workers were held and questioned, some for up to five hours. Women working as “maids” for the working girls were forced to sign cautions under threat that otherwise the flat would be raided again and they would be charged with living off immoral earnings.

During the raids police removed goods and money. In one flat, police from Marylebone police station took £2,000 of women’s hard-earned cash. No receipt was given, the money has not been returned and the police now deny any knowledge of it. To get their money back women would have to make a formal complaint to the police and would have to be public about their occupation. None of them feel able to do this as their families don’t know about their work.

The police tried to impose conditions on women working in the flats that bore no relation to the law. Women were told by Marylebone police that they couldn’t work with a maid. Other women were told they could stay open with a maid as long as only one girl worked at a time and none were immigrant – labelled by the police as ‘illegals’. Other women were told, under threat of being charged with trafficking, that they couldn’t employ ’illegals.

One woman caught up in the raids spelt out the implications:

“The police have been encouraged to run rampant – taking out money and threatening us. When they treat us like this, how can we go to them for protection when we are attacked? Some women will be terrorised out of their premises. If businesses are taken out of women’s hands, gangsters will take over. We have been visited by men who try and heavy us over but because we know each other we have been able to stand up to them. We have been here for years and we have families to support. Which of those women in high places will speak up for us.”

Other raids

Birmingham: These London raids follow on from a much publicised raid in Birmingham where, under the guise of rescuing victims of traffickers, 50 police raided a massage parlour, taking 19 women into custody. However, as soon as the women were able to speak they denied they were victims of traffickers. They also denied key aspects of what the police told the media, for example that they were locked into the premises. Local shopkeepers confirmed that the women regularly came in to buy sandwiches and showed no signs of being coerced. Women in our network in Birmingham have said that this premises was known to be one of the better places to work.

No charges for trafficking have ever been brought against anyone arrested in the raid. 13 of the women were released almost immediately but six were taken to Yarl’s Wood detention centre and held there pending deportation. Only public protests from a number of people, including ourselves, and the intervention of a lawyer prevented their deportation. Women were then visited by the police, immigration officials and the Poppy Project, a Home Office funded pilot project for trafficking victims. Some women reported that they were told that the only way to get out of Yarl’s Wood was to say they had been trafficked. They would then be released into the custody of the Poppy Project. Even under this pressure only one woman claimed she had been trafficked.

Guildford: On 23 September, police and immigration raided four premises, the only Chinese speaking premises out of more than 20 parlours in town. All the women caught in the raid were working for themselves. Personal computers and papers were taken. One woman whose visa was out of time was deported. Charges of running a brothel and money laundering have been brought against some women.

NW London: On 30 October police raided a flat saying they were looking for trafficked women and underage girls. Two women and their security guard were arrested, taken to police station and held until the early hours. They were cautioned and not charged but £700 was taken from their flat. Again, there is no record of the money being taken, no receipt was given and the police have refused to return it saying it is proceeds of crime.

It is no accident that the Birmingham raids were followed by others. Trafficking has given the police and immigration an excuse to raid any working flat. It is 10 times safer for women to work in premises than on the streets, and especially safer to work in premises with a maid. Why is police time being spent in persecuting women who are working independently and more safely, when so many violent attacks on women, including domestic violence, rape and racist attacks, which are reported to them are barely investigated?

Although all public opinion polls show that people are against the criminalisation of consenting sex, under Labour increasingly punitive measures have been introduced:

· Maximum custodial sentences for brothel keeping have been raised from six months to seven years. Threats of prosecution and actual prosecutions against maids, whose first job is prostitute women’s safety, have forced many out of the business leaving sex workers more vulnerable to violence.

· New anti-trafficking legislation which carries a custodial sentence of 14 years and does not include the need to prove force or coercion can be used against anyone helping someone come into the country. As seen above, anti-trafficking is used to provide a “humane” cover for police and immigration to raid women regardless of circumstances.

· Anti Social Behaviour Orders have had a devastating impact on women working on the streets, imprisoning women for an activity that was no longer considered prisonable. In one area of Birmingham over 30 women have been imprisoned, losing their housing and sometimes even their children. Violence has increased as women are forced further underground to avoid the police.

Many organisations, including Home Office funded sex workers projects, which work directly with sex workers, speak privately of the horrendous consequences of these government laws and policies on some of the most vulnerable women. How long will they keep quiet?

Meanwhile a national umbrella for women’s organisations is promoting, in the name of equality, the criminalisation of clients which was introduced in Sweden some years ago with disastrous consequences. But no attention is being paid to New Zealand where the decriminalisation of prostitution has resulted in women being able to get off the streets and work more safely.

English Collective of Prostitutes
020 7482 2496 30 November 2005

“Our movement won’t back down.”

Campus officials target student antiwar activists’ right to dissent
“Our movement won’t back down”
By Eric Ruder and David Thurston | December 2, 2005 | Page 12

STUDENT ACTIVISTS across the U.S. are challenging the U.S. war in Iraq–and military recruiters on their campuses. Along the way, they’re finding that they also have to fight campus administrators who try to deny them the basic right to dissent.

In recent weeks, student activists at Hampton University in Virginia, Harold Washington College in Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have become targets for administrators after holding peaceful protests.

At the same time, activists targeted at other campuses won victories by exposing their administrations’ violations of their rights. Students at Kent State University, for example, succeeded in forcing the university dropped all charges against Dave Airhart, a Kent State student and combat veteran who was stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The university had planned a hearing for mid-November to consider whether Airhart should be suspended or expelled for climbing a wall set up by military recruiters and hanging a peace banner. But the day before the hearing, Airhart was notified that the university had backed down.

Key to the victory was the highly visible “Hands off Dave!” campaign waged by the Kent State Anti-War Committee (KSAWC). Activists flyered the campus, organized calls and e-mails from activists across the U.S., and enlisted the support of prominent antiwar activists, including Howard Zinn and Cindy Sheehan.

“When we heard the administration had dropped all charges, we were extremely excited,” said Nicole Robinson, a KSAWC member and Midwest representative on the Campus Antiwar Network’s (CAN) national coordinating committee. “Not just because Airhart could remain in school and continue his antiwar activism. And not only because we are part of the struggle, and in the end experienced victory. But we were also excited because we hope that other schools across the U.S. begin to take the student antiwar movement more seriously, and understand that if administrators begin repressing our voices, we will not sit silently and take it–that we will, as a united movement, not back down.”

Robinson said KSAWC members plan to use the momentum they have to build for CAN’s December 6 national day of action to target military recruiting stations.

The action is timed to coincide with the beginning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing of FAIR v. Rumsfeld, which challenges the federal government policy of denying funds to universities that bar military recruiters from campus on the grounds that the military’s discrimination against gays and lesbians violates campus anti-discrimination policies.

December 6 is also the one-year anniversary of Navy Petty Officer Pablo Paredes’ refusal to board his ship and deploy to the Middle East–a decision that brought widespread attention to growing antiwar sentiment among U.S. troops. Paredes has signed on as a supporter of the CAN day of action–along with Cindy Sheehan, Howard Zinn, independent journalist Dahr Jamail, Iraq war resister Camilo Mejía and Progressive Democrats of America Director Tim Carpenter.

The December 6 actions will also highlight the most recent round of repression against students carried out by campus administrators.

Hampton University in Virginia is carrying out the most flagrant attack, threatening to expel at least seven students in the wake of a peaceful November 2 protest.

Administrators have even tried to keep students from telling their story to the media. “We met at a Burger King, which is off-campus, but is university-owned,” John Robinson, a leading organizer, told Socialist Worker. “Somebody got in touch with the local news station, who wanted to interview us.

“There was an official from one of the dorms who happened to be in the Burger King with three Army ROTC officials. He was eyeing us and called the dean of students, who sent the campus police. The police pulled their cruiser in front of the camera and then kicked the reporter and cameraman out of the shopping center.”

But the story still led the local news. With so much negative publicity, Hampton’s dean felt pressured to respond publicly. He wrote a letter saying that the school encourages peaceful protest, and that the issue is “compliance with university policy.”

Yet Hampton has made it impossible for activists to organize openly. “When you’re social-justice oriented, there is no right route,” said Robinson. “They have been staunchly opposed to recognizing our group–even when we were only affiliated to Amnesty International. We weren’t even allowed to go through the process. People refused to acknowledge that we even filled out the paperwork.”

Though Hampton activists initially felt demoralized by the crackdown on their November 2 protest, they’ve been energized by the outpouring of support from students angry at this infringement of basic rights.

“Although the police prevented us from making the point that we intended to make, the students ultimately were made conscious in a much deeper way that could not have been achieved through our speeches and poetry,” wrote the Hampton activists in a statement on CAN’s Web site. “The students saw what their school’s administration was really for by seeing what it was really against.”

Meanwhile, UW-Madison is copying Kent State’s approach of using exaggerated claims that protesters endangered “campus safety” to threaten members of the student antiwar group with probation, suspension or expulsion.

The allegations stem from a November 2 rally and march of 200 people that ended at the Military Science Department. The university asserts the protesters “jeopardized the safety of several individuals of the Military Science Department” and attempted to “gain entry to the building by pounding on doors and windows and attempts to destroy university property.”

But the charges are absurd, according to a statement by UW Stop the War. “The protesters chanted slogans, held signs and marched around the building,” the statement reads. “A few spoke through a bullhorn. Some people–none of them Stop the War members–knocked on the door. The only contact anyone had with members of the Military Science Department was spotting them through a window. With the exception of the UW police detaining a 14-year-old high school student for throwing a penny at a window, there was no physical confrontation of any kind.”

UW activists aren’t taking this administration attack lying down. “We’ve seen this type of thing before–at Kent State, Holyoke and George Mason University,” said Paul Pryse, a member of UW Stop the War. “The university is trying to use disciplinary measures to silence antiwar activists and organizations.

“In all three of these cases, public solidarity campaigns were key to fighting back and getting the university to back down. So we plan on going public to expose them for the hypocrisy of defending the free speech of military recruiters, while they try to deny the rights of students who also want their opinions heard.”

For more information about all these cases and what you can do to show your support for student protesters, go to

December 2, 2005 Index

“It was never as bad as this.”

Iraq under U.S. occupation:
“It was never as bad as this”
November 18, 2005 | Pages 4 and 5

WHEN U.S. and coalition troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, many Iraqis hoped that at least their conditions of life would improve–after a decade and a half of living under the strictest system of economic sanctions ever known. Now, they know different. “I believed when they said they came to help us,” said Hossein Ibrahim in an interview with a Christian Science Monitor reporter. “But now I hate them, they are worse than Saddam.”

ANTHONY ARNOVE is the editor of the South End Press collection Iraq Under Siege, and co-author, with Howard Zinn, of Voices of a People’s History of the United States. His latest book, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, will be published by the New Press next spring. Here, Anthony looks at the racist logic of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

LIFE IN occupied Iraq today is so grim that many Iraqis say it was better during the deadly years of United Nations sanctions and Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. In much of the country, there is less electricity than before the March 2003 U.S. invasion–with predictable consequences, including “patients who die in emergency rooms when equipment stops running,” the New York Times reports.
Despite the billions handed for reconstruction work to George W. Bush’s friends at Bechtel and Halliburton, “[n]early half of all Iraqi households still don’t have access to clean water, and only 8 percent of the country, excluding the capital, is connected to sewage networks,” USA Today reports.

Hospitals in Iraq are a shambles. “At Baghdad’s Central Teaching Hospital for Children, gallons of raw sewage wash across the floors,” Jeffrey Gettleman reported in the New York Times. “The drinking water is contaminated. According to doctors, 80 percent of patients leave with infections they did not have when they arrived.”

“It’s definitely worse now than before the war,” Eman Asim, who oversees 185 public hospitals, told the Times. “Even at the height of sanctions, when things were miserable, it wasn’t as bad as this.”

Unemployment has skyrocketed, in large part because of decisions made by the occupation authorities.

After the invasion, L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, disbanded Iraq’s 350,000-person army and fired thousands of state workers who were members of the Baath Party–despite the fact that party membership was required for most jobs in Iraq. More than half of Iraqi workers are unemployed, and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari has announced plans to shred more public-sector jobs as the Iraqi government carries out the privatization plans written by U.S. economists.

“Liberated” Iraqis repeatedly have noted the irony that the U.S. occupation authorities and the contractors working on lucrative no-bid and cost-plus contracts don’t trust Iraqis to work for them, and instead are paying millions of dollars to import foreign workers who earn many times the average Iraqi’s annual income. “[W]hen the full history of this bloody circus is written, people will look back slack-jawed at the scale and brazenness of the occupation’s corruption and incompetence,” journalist Christian Parenti writes in The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq.

Of the $18.4 billion Congress appropriated for “reconstruction” in Iraq, less than half has been spent, and some $100 million has disappeared without any accounting, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Instead of rebuilding Iraq, money is flowing to corporate friends of the Bush administration. “[M]ore than 150 U.S. companies were awarded contracts totaling more than $50 billion, more than twice the GDP of Iraq,” writes researcher Antonia Juhasz. “Halliburton has the largest, worth more than $11 billion, while 13 other U.S. companies are earning more than $1.5 billion each. These contractors answer to the U.S. government not the Iraqi people.”

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THIS PRINCIPLE of accountability applies to every aspect of the occupation of Iraq. Real authority rests not with Iraqis, but with occupation forces. As the Pakistani writer Tariq Ali points out in Bush in Babylon, we are seeing in Iraq a clear example of “imperialism in the epoch of neoliberal economics.”
The Coalition Provisional Authority renewed the anti-worker trade union laws of the Hussein regime and lowered taxes on business in Iraq to levels only dreamed about by U.S. corporations.

“The Bush administration has drafted sweeping plans to remake Iraq’s economy in the U.S. image,” the Wall Street Journal reported soon after the invasion began. As New York Times economics columnist Jeff Madrick points out, the economic plans for Iraq are likely to cause “widespread cruelty.”

In addition to economic insecurity, physical insecurity for ordinary Iraqis has greatly increased. Women who formerly worked as educators or doctors now speak of being imprisoned in their homes, afraid to leave. They see hard-won social and political rights being eroded. Children who formerly attended school are now kept at home by parents fearful of sending them out in public.

And at any moment, Iraqis know their doors may be battered down by U.S. or British troops, with family members humiliated, arrested and taken off to be detained, tortured or murdered.

Dexter Filkins of the New York Times opened a window into the reality of occupation in an October 2005 profile of Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, an aggressive Army captain of the Fourth Infantry Division’s 1-8 Battalion. After the death of a soldier in the unit, Sassaman declared that his unit’s “new priority would be killing insurgents and punishing anyone who supported them, even people who didn’t.”

As Filkins wrote, “On a mission in January 2004, a group of Sassaman’s soldiers came to the house of an Iraqi man suspected of hijacking trucks. He wasn’t there, but his wife and two other women answered the door. ‘You have 15 minutes to get your furniture out,’ First Sgt. Ghaleb Mikel said. The women wailed and shouted, but ultimately complied, dragging their bed and couch and television set out the front door. Mikel’s men then fired four antitank missiles into their house, blowing it to pieces and setting it afire.” As Mikel explained, “It’s called the ‘leave no refuge’ policy.”

U.S. soldiers have also taken to quartering troops in Iraqi homes and schools. “Requisitioning homes or other buildings has been widespread in Iraq for U.S. troops on missions who stay far away from bases, sometimes for several days or weeks,” the Associated Press reports.

“They broke into my house before Ramadan and they are still there,” Dhiya Hamid al-Karbuli recounted to a reporter. “We were not able to tolerate seeing them damage our house in front of our very eyes…I was afraid to ask them to leave.” “Marines have been making camp in seized houses,” the New York Times reported from Husayba, the site of a major assault in November 2005, in which “[f]ighter jets streaked overhead, dropping 500-pound bombs” on the town.

Neither the Associated Press nor the Times seemed to have remembered that the quartering of troops was one of the primary complaints of American colonists against King George and the British–as described in the Declaration of Independence: “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States…”

But the feelings of Iraqis don’t really matter in U.S. calculations. As Col. Stephen Davis, of the Second Marine Division, who headed the Husayba assault, explained, “We don’t do a lot of hearts and minds out here, because it’s irrelevant.”

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EVERY DAY, people are being harassed, killed, arrested and tortured only for the crime of being Iraqi.
A Red Cross investigation found that the U.S. military has engaged in a “pattern of indiscriminate arrests involving destruction of property and brutal behavior towards suspects and their families” in Iraq. “Sometimes, they arrested all adult males present in a house,” the report states, “including elderly, handicapped or sick people.” Of the people detained at Abu Ghraib prison, even U.S. military intelligence officers estimated that 70 to 90 percent were arrested “by mistake.”

U.S. soldiers have been trained to view Iraqis–just like they were once trained to view the people of Vietnam–as less than human. Soldiers call Iraqis “hajis,” just as they once called the Vietnamese “gooks.”

A clear message has been given to troops from the highest levels of political and military authority: Iraqi deaths and Iraqi suffering do not matter.

A recent Human Rights Watch investigation found that U.S. military personnel routinely torture Iraqis for “sport.” The investigation documented widespread use of torture, “often under orders or with the approval of superior officers.”

Soldiers in the 82nd Airborne described beating Iraqis “to amuse themselves.” “Sergeant A,” from the 82nd Airborne Division, told Human Rights Watch how occupation troops would routinely “fuck a PUC” or “smoke a PUC” (a “PUC” is a “Person Under Control,” a term used to differentiate Iraqi detainees from prisoners of war, who have legal protections the Bush administration does not want to recognize).

“To ‘Fuck a PUC’ means to beat him up,” the sergeant said. “We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them. This happened every day. To ‘smoke’ someone is to put them in stress positions until they get muscle fatigue and pass out. That happened every day. Some days, we would just get bored, so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib, but just like it. We did that for amusement.”

Torture is just one symptom of an occupation that constantly shows contempt for the people it claims to have liberated. U.S. forces have engaged in numerous prohibited forms of collective punishment against the Iraqi population.

Though the United States refuses to count the number of dead Iraqis, an October 2004 study by The Lancet, Britain’s leading medical journal, estimated 98,000 “excess deaths” in Iraq in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. This figure is actually conservative, as it excludes deaths in the “mortality cluster of Falluja”–the site of some of the deadliest U.S. military attacks. According to the survey, “The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher…than in the period before the war.”

Under these conditions, it is no surprise that strong majorities of Iraqis view U.S. troops not as liberators but as occupiers.

Meanwhile, the death toll has also continued to climb for U.S. soldiers, and is now more than 2,000. Injuries are also mounting. One in six soldiers returning from Iraq reports experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, leading to high rates of depression and suicide. Soldiers who came to Iraq believing they were protecting the world from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or liberating Iraqis now find they are instead being asked to subjugate a population that does not want them there.

“[W]hen I first went to Iraq, I actually believed what the government was saying, that we were searching for weapons of mass destruction, we were making the country safe for democracy, and things like that,” one soldier who applied for conscientious objector status recently told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! “But when we got there, I quickly found another story. I very quickly found that the Iraqis didn’t want us there…If soldiers had come into our country and had invaded us and had come into our homes, then I would have fought back, too.”

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THE ONLY way to liberate Iraq today is to end the occupation, and bring the troops home now. To do so, we’ll have to challenge all the racist lies that Iraqis are incapable of running their own country, or that the United States must remain in Iraq to confront “the terrorists.”
This war has nothing to do with terrorism or liberation. From the beginning, it has been about oil and its role in sustaining the United States as a global capitalist empire. Racism has been used to sell the war to a public, but people are increasingly seeing through the lies.

Today, a clear majority of people in the United States now believe the invasion of Iraq wasn’t worth the consequences and should never have been undertaken. A Washington Post-ABC poll this month found that “Bush has never been less popular with the American people.” In a September New York Times-CBS News poll, support for immediate withdrawal stood at 52 percent. Seventy-nine percent of African-Americans think the war in Iraq was mistake. Approval of President Bush among African-Americans is 2 percent, a statistical anomaly.

Millions of people sympathize with the aims of the antiwar movement, but have not yet been mobilized for actions. We need to involve these wider audiences in our movements, and to connect local actions with coordinated national actions that can help people overcome the pervasive sense of isolation and atomization that so many feel.

As with the movement to end the war on Vietnam, we will have to fight on many fronts: supporting counter-recruitment, confronting government and military officials about the human costs of this war and the lies they use to justify it, exposing war profiteers, encouraging and protecting soldiers who speak out and who resist their orders or service, working with veterans and military families–and all along arguing, patiently yet urgently, with everyone around us that we need to end the occupation now.

Index to November 18th issue