Friday, April 27, 2012

Bradley Manning Supporters Fill Courtroom

I was among several members of Veterans For Peace who attended the pre-trial hearing for Bradley Manning this week. 

We were part of a group of 25 supporters who filled the court room each day of the three-day hearing.  We all wore black t-shirts emblazoned on the front in white with only one word, TRUTH.

Bradley looked good - healthy, relaxed, fully engaged with his civilian and military lawyers, occasionally offering an observation with a smile.

At the end of the hearing today, many of us shouted out greetings to Bradley, and one person said, "Aiding the public is not aiding the enemy." 

David Coombs, Bradley's lead lawyer, put up a brilliant full-court press, submitting well argued motions for dismissing all charges, dismissing the most serious Aiding the Enemy charge, dismissing unreasonably multiplied charges, compelling testimony from the secret Grand Jury hearings against Wikileaks, and requesting access to Defense and State Dept. "damage assessments" that reportedly show little to no serious damage from the Wikileaks releases.

The military judge denied all defense motions but did make some clarifications and concessions that may be helpful. Most significantly, perhaps, she said that the prosecution would have to prove that Bradley intended to release classified information to "the enemy," which the government has defined as Al Quaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

See news reports and commentary, below.

The Bradley Manning Support Network put up ads in 21 metro stations in Washington, DC this week, after raising $14,000 dollars from 400 to do so. They can now be seen by tens of thousands of DC commuters, including employees of the Defense and State departments, among others.  

The ad defines the word, "Whistle-blower" as "noun, a person who tells the people what the government does not want them to know.  See also, Hero, Patriot, Bradley Manning."  with Bradley's photo. 

Check out the following three articles on Bradley Manning's pre-trial hearing this week.  

David House was interviewed today on MSNBC. See below.

Bradley Manning judge warns military prosecutors in WikiLeaks case
UK Guardian

The Government's Warning To Bradley Manning and Others:  Tell On Us and We Will Put You Behind Bars for the Rest of Your Life
by Ann Wright

David House, of the Bradley Manning Support Network, Interviewed on MSNBC today.


Veterans For Peace is proud to be an active supporting organization of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

The Bradley Manning Support Network has tons of useful updates and action alerts on its excellent website.

Join our facebook page: savebradley 37,186 followers, and growing

“God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… I want people to see the truth... because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”  

-from Bradley's alleged chat with Adrian Lamo


Gerry Condon

Board Member / GI Resistance Co-Chair / Veterans For Peace

Steering Committee / Bradley Manning Support Network,  202-534-9829

Thursday, April 12, 2012

UK Veterans Launch VFP Chapter

                                     SAS Veteran Ben Griffin Addresses Inaugural Event of VFP UK

by Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon

The first chapter of Veterans For Peace in the United Kingdom is now a reality. On a dreary “Easter Monday” afternoon in a working class section of London, England, veterans, allies, friends and families gathered for the inaugural event of Veterans For Peace UK.

The Guiseppe Conlon Catholic Worker House hosted the event in the sanctuary of an old church draped with banners proclaiming peace and justice. British and Scottish veterans, young and old, fresh from their first official meeting as a VFP chapter, testified in word and song that they will go to war no more.

Ben Griffin, a former self-described “gung-ho” SAS soldier who deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but then refused to deploy again, took the lead in pulling together a diverse group of veterans. He and several of the veterans have already been active for months, participating in Occupy London, and demonstrating solidarity with Wikilieaks founder Julian Assange and alleged Wikileaks whistle-blower, PFC Bradley Manning.

With the help of Ciaron O'Reilly of the Catholic Worker, they reached out to other veterans, including Bruce Kent, a Catholic priest, and John Lynes, both longtime peace activists whose military service was in the mid-1940's.

Folksinger and activist Jim Radford, a founding member of Ex-Service's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1960's, sang a beautiful but sobering version of “Waltzin' Matilda,” the classic antiwar song from Australia.

Barry Ladendorf, president of the VFP chapter in San Diego, California, flew a very long way to be present on this historic occasion. When Barry was in London last year, he had attended a public meeting where he heard Ben Griffin speak about countering the influence of the military in British schools. Barry told Ben, “Hey, you ought to think about forming a Veterans For Peace chapter.” The seed was planted.

A large good-looking banner reading “Veterans For Peace UK, Established 2012” graced the altar of the church. Decorated with the VFP dove-on-helmet logo, the banner was sent by Gene Marx, VFP National Membership Coordinator, and a member of the Bellingham, Washington chapter. Gene had been maintaining regular communication with Ben leading up to the London launch. Ben and other veterans repeatedly said how much it meant to them to receive so much support and guidance from VFP members in the U.S.

Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace in the U.S. were also present at the festive launch of Veterans For Peace UK. London was the last stop on their seven-month journey around Europe, where they have networked with peace activists in many countries.

Gerry was invited to address the gathering about the importance of supporting Bradley Manning and all GI resisters. The UK VFP chapter doesn't need any nudging in this regard. Several of the founding members, including Ben Griffin and Michael Lyons, have resisted illegal wars and occupations while in the military.

I was 18 years old when I joined the Navy,” said Michael Lyons. “It was economic conscription. I was told I could give medical aid. I spent about five years in Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I started questioning the government, wondering, are we really the good guys? I learned Diego Garcia history and decided that I'm the bad guy here, supporting B-52 bombings and torture. I'm part of this.”

I was told to go to Afghanistan,” continued Lyons. “I didn't buy the lies. Wikileaks came out and I knew that I couldn't be part of that.” Lyons applied for Conscientious Objector status but was sentenced to prison for seven months.

Military prison was tough,” said Lyons. “I got support from Ben, Ciaron, my family, and strangers who sent my wife money and wrote to me every day.”

VFP UK is planning a vigil outside the U.S. Embassy in London on Tuesday, April 24, the beginning of three days of pre-trial hearings for Bradley Manning at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Gerry Condon said it was also important to remember and support U.S. war resisters who are underground in the U.S., or seeking sanctuary abroad, including Rodney Watson in Vancouver, BC, Kimberly Rivera in Toronto, Ontario, and André Shepherd in Munich, Germany.

At its first official chapter meeting, the UK veterans agreed to pursue three priorities; Nonviolent resistance to war; supporting war resisters, and countering militarism in society, including in schools and on Armistice Day.

The military indoctrination of our youth begins long before the recruiter appears,” said Ben Griffin.

It looks like the first VFP chapter in the UK will do us all proud.

You can check out their website and say hello at

Sunday, March 25, 2012

First GI Cafe in Germany Opens Its Doors

by Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon

Kaiserslatern, Germany, March 25, 2012

U.S. soldiers in Germany now have a GI coffeehouse. The Clearing Barrel Bar and Café opened Saturday, March 24, in Kaiserslautern, Germany, home to Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, among a constellation of U.S. bases, with 50,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel living in the area.
The grand opening was a big success, with over 60 people in attendance.  Well-wishers enjoyed good food and drink, and marveled at the large beautifully remodeled space, with couches, tables, chairs, a bar and barstools, his and hers bathrooms, and a full kitchen.

Beautifully printed posters from the “War Is Trauma” art exhibit were displayed on spacious white walls.  “War Is Trauma,”a collaboration between Just Seeds, an art collective from Brooklyn, New York, and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), is about “Operation Recovery”, a campaign to stop the deployment of traumatized troops and to focus public attention towards Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and Military Sexual Trauma.

Neighbors, friends, and activists convened from far and near, including Germans and U.S. citizens living in Germany.  Nathan Peld, an IVAW member, arrived after a long train ride from Vienna, Austria, where he is working with the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Young German women and men mixed easily with Vietnam-era friends. Political discussions were lively and interesting.  Live music was provided by two young men, one German and one American, who sang and played guitars and were joined by guests in a sing-along.

Chris Capps-Schubert, an Iraq veteran and war resister, and his German wife Meike, an organizer-extraordinaire and member of Military Families Speak Out, have been working very hard for the past two years to make their dream of opening a GI coffeehouse in Germany a reality. Their efforts have been supported by the Military Counseling Network, Connection-EV, the Center on Conscience and War, the German Mennonite Peace Committee, members of IVAW and Veterans For Peace, and many other German and American friends and activists.

Meike and Chris are both counselors with the Military Counseling Network, the European branch of the GI Rights Hotline.  Chris has been a member of IVAW for several years and went on a speaking tour around Germany to gain support for The Clearing Barrel project.   Chris and Meike and other counselors will be available to help soldiers who are seeking to be discharged from the military, facing other difficulties with the military, or seeking help dealing with military trauma.

Meike said, “Having this space available allows us to bring together in one place what we do personally, socially, culturally, and politically.  I am very grateful for all of the help and support that we have received from the peace community and we hope that they will continue to support us.”

Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon representing Veterans For Peace spoke of the importance of supporting alleged Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, and GI resisters like André Shepherd, an Iraq veteran who refused to redeploy to Iraq and is seeking political asylum in Germany. Dave Blalock, a Vietnam-era GI organizer who lives in Heidelberg, Germany, said “This is the beginning of resistance.”

GI coffeehouses were a mainstay of GI resistance in the Vietnam era, providing safe, alternative spaces for soldiers to socialize, learn about their rights in the military, receive counseling, engage one another in political discussions, and organize themselves to resist illegal wars and occupations.  The coffeehouse movement grew throughout the 60sand 70s.  Today’s veterans have revived the coffeehouse tradition in order to build community and resistance.  There are two successful GI coffeehouses in the U.S., Coffee Strong just outside the gates of Joint Base Lewis McCord in Washington State, and Under the Hood at Fort Hood, Texas.

You can find out more about The Clearing Barrel on their Facebook page, GI Café Germany, and on their website,  Donations are still very much needed, so it’s not too late to contribute to this important new resource for our GIs in Germany.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

In Munich with Malalai Joya and GI Resister André Shepherd

My partner Helen Jaccard and I are in Munich now, where we marched yesterday with Malalai Joya of Afghanistan and Iraq veteran / GI resister André Shepherd, who is seeking political asylum in Germany. Today I had the honor of representing Veterans For Peace in a press conference where the main speakers were Malalai Joya, André Shepherd and me. 

Malalai Joya was great. Of course, she called for all foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan. She also expressed her sympathy for US and NATO soldiers who "are also victims of their governments' war policies." She thanked soldiers who are resisting illegal wars and occupations and she gave encouragement to GIs who are revealing the reality of war crimes.