SOA Action, Deanna, Jacqui and Tom on the Mexican Side


More pictures below info!

Event Info:

Dear Friends,We are excited to welcome you to our 3rd Encuentro, with the theme this year, “Dismantle Border Imperialism!  Fight, Create, Power to the People.”

We have an exciting weekend planned with workshops, actions, and a concert in Mexico. One of the critical events of our time together will include a vigil at Eloy Detention Center – one of the deadliest detention facilities in the United States. Check out the weekend’s events here and check out our social media for livestreams of workshops and other updates.

During this year’s Encuentro, we will also uplift and remember the Salvadoran martyrs that gave their lives speaking truth to power 29 years ago today – six Jesuits priests, Elba and Celina Ramos were murdered at the University of Central America by the Salvadoran army, trained at the School of the Americas.  It is with their spirit that we send the message that when our communities are under attack, we stand up and fight back.

Beyond the activities planned, this weekend will also be a time for our community to connect, resist, and build the power of our movement. Moreover, this weekend will  be a chance for us to stand united in our resolve to fight back – and most importantly to win – because we know that nothing is stronger than the power of the people.

As the asylum seekers’ caravan from Honduras and other countries across Central America approaches the U.S. border, our collective message of ending border imperialism could not be more important.  We urge you to join us however you can – in person or online to uplift our message of solidarity and collective liberation.  With escalating attacks from the Trump administration towards Black and Brown communities our united voices will signal that the fight is far from over.

We hope to see you throughout the weekend and we stand in solidarity with our communities far and near who are standing against U.S. imperialism.

¡Ya basta!
SOA Watch

ENCUENTRO TRAVEL TIPS

– Don’t forget to register for the Encuentro. If your organization would like to endorse the Encuentro, please do so here.
– Bring a form of identification (US Passport, Driver’s License, LPR Card, Work Permit, etc)
– Wear comfortable walking shoes and WARM clothing. Temperatures are dropping, so check the weather forecast to pack accordingly!
– Wear sun protection and bring a water bottle. Remember you are coming to the Sonora Desert. Stay hydrated. Water is life.
– For any and all legal questions, please contact the Legal Collective at southernarizona@nlg.org. There will be a 24-hour legal hotline throughout the weekend: 520-462-3440 
– For any other questions, please contact SOA Watch at 202-234-3440

ENCUENTRO WEEKEND INFORMATION

– Weekend Schedule of Events here
– Download the full Encuentro Program here
– Full schedule of workshops & Panels* here

*While crossing from the US into Mexico does not require much time, crossing from Mexico into the US does (on weekends, the lines can take up to 2 hours or more). Please keep this in mind as you view the weekend schedule of events and make your decisions accordingly. 

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA!

– We will be informing and updating on the Encuentro throughout the weekend! Plug in by following us on social media:

Twitter @SOAWatch ; Facebook @SchoolOfTheAmericasWatch ; Instagram @SOAWatch

– Use our hashtags:

#BorderEncuentro2018 #LucharCrearPoderPopular #StruggleCreatePowerToThePeople #NoBanNoWalls

#SOAWatch #CloseSOA #NoMasSOA

SOA Watch
The movement to close the SOA is a community, and all ideas are welcome.

If you like the work of SOA Watch, you can donate here or send a check to us at
SOA Watch, 225 E 26th St, Suite 7, Tucson, AZ 85713

  

       

11/17/2018 8:40 AM

Hi all,

Just a quick check in to let you know we are safe and **BUSY**!!! I have a few minutes this morning that I thought I would share what has been going on so far here in Nogales.

Yesterday was a packed day.  We mingled with and met people from all around the country yesterday morning the Hotel Americana in Nogales. At 1:00 we caravanned to Tucson to protest Milkor USA (milkorusa.com – it’s a disgusting website) at the subcontractor in Tucson, called Abrams Airborne Manufacturing. Milkor partnered with them to created the major components of the a 40mm multi-shot grenade launcher). The protest went well – there were about 200 people and George Martin was there! The Tucson Police actually came and helped out due to the crowd size and they even decided to shut down the part of the street we were on to do an impromptu march.

After that we caravanned to Eloy, AZ to hold a rally and vigil a the ICE Detention Center.  There was music, art, poetry, speakers, signing, dancing.  Two of the speakers had actually spent time in the Eloy detention center and are now speaking out in their activism.  At the end all 300-400 people lined the sidewalk in front of the detention center, sang and made noise. we could see people inside jumping up and down and sending us signals of acknowledgement in various ways. They knew we were there and felt the love and support. This rally/vigil portion of the day lasted 3 hours.  We then travelled back to Nogales and crashed!

Today we are starting off the day with a walk to the border led by Veterans for Peace (they have a strong presence here) at 7:30am. Today is tabling and workshop day that will go to about 6pm.  Our GPUS/GPAX table is on the Mexico side. Then at 7:30pm is a concert at the Border wall with a lineup of great artists and featuring Rebel Diaz, a hip hop artist who has been affected personally by the issues.

Tomorrow all the activities take place at the border wall.  Father Roy Bourgeois will be speaking along with many others.  I will report out on that when I can.  We will be leaving Nogales tomorrow after the Border Encuentro closing to head back to Salt Lake, stopping for the night in Flagstaff and then finishing our journey on Monday.

The entire schedule of activities is at this link (it is a pdf):  http://www.soaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018_SOAW_ENCUENTO_PROGRAM__LINEAR_PDF_WITH_PAGINATION.pdf

I took the liberty of having 10 lawn signs made that split up what is on our banner (attached). I have the banner, but I wasn’t sure how two of us would be able to use it in the various activities, so I had this done to at least have something with GPAX on it to hold/display.  I also had a table runner done by my sign guy and it is absolutely gorgeous.  He even threw in a green table cloth to put under it.  I will be sure to take a pic today and share. One of the attached photos is of me holding one of the signs, standing beside Georg, at the afternoon protest.

Whew!

Peace,

Dee

Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases!

Thank you all and we love you for all that you have done and do!
Please join in tomorrow in the Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases! And see how you can make a difference doing your local `plan below, saving life on earth now, working w/humanity’s options!

Home

Due to YouTube’s 8 hour limitation on continuous streaming, we had to split the streaming into three separate channels, one for each day.

Live Streaming has now been set up in three parts on each of these links:
New YouTube links for streaming:

Friday November 16, 2018:

Saturday November 17, 2018:

Sunday November 18, 2018:

Here are additional links to the Live Stream for the Conference:

Global Campaign Web Site:
http://NoUSNATOBases.org (3 parts)

USPC Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/USPeaceCouncil/ (3 parts)

Please publicize widely and place on your websites and share on your Facebook and other Pages.

Thank you for peace can be real!

Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases

><><><><><><

Please see what you can take part in now as together we efficiently rethink and mindfully act, as we reach out w/your help to all and share humanity’s options now, for each to do one’s local `plan, w/neighbors and gain healthy working communities, as together we save life on earth and clean it and space up ASAP!

http://i-come-to-talk-story.3220728.n2.nabble.com

Thank you for this read!
Peace is real! love kara
speaking for our combined `effect at `i come to talk story
Shared publicly

Gather Endorsements for letter to the ICC – Probe Israel’s War on Palestinians

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A letter written by the Green Party US Peace Action and International Committees to the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been endorsed by the Green Party US.  This letter urges the court to investigate Israel for war crimes against the Palestinian people and will be delivered to the ICC at the Hague in November.  The letter will be circulated to peace and justice organizations and influential individuals around the world requesting their endorsement prior to delivery.

Go here right now and add your support.

Our goal is to convince the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes against the Palestinian people.  We also want to demonstrate to the world that there are people in the United States who want to hold Israel accountable. We are in the process of forming a delegation of US Greens to deliver the letter. Thus far we have a tentative agreement from Ajamu Baraka, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Miko Peled, and Marie Spike.

We do not want the world to think the views of the Democratic and Republican Parties on Israel are the views of all people in the United States.  We will demonstrate that the Green Party of the United States disagrees with the corporate duopoly. This will also send a message to people in the United States that there is a political party that stands for the human rights of Palestinians and against the war crimes of Israel.  We expect this effort will begin to change the political dialogue in the United States and garner international and domestic media coverage.

We urge Green Party members and other peace and justice organizations to widely circulate information about this project, and request appropriate endorsements. A form for online endorsement and full text of the letter is here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSce1o1-C9FbudsiNncqI8vIn5jhV3nESglRHyzuKLxDq01KRA/viewform

A press release concerning this project is here: http://www.gp.org/probe_israels_war_on_palestinians

 

 

Green Party Endorses School of the Americas Annual Border Encuentro

Protest War and Racism, in Chicago, on August 25th

Commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention Protests

(This article is posted here.)

The following is the prepared text of remarks Rich Whitney made on behalf of the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism at a press conference on July 24th, 2018 in Grant Park in Chicago, near the statue of John A. Logan, General John Logan Statue in Grant Park, scene of one of the most iconic protests against the Vietnam War during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. 

The CCAWR has issued a Call for a demonstration against war and police violence on August 25th, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when the movement against the Vietnam War was suppressed inside the convention hall, and brutally attacked by Mayor Richard Daley’s police on the streets of Chicago. If you can, won’t you please come to Chicago, and help change the world, on August 25th!

In calling for this demonstration, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism declares that in many respects we are confronting worse evils today than we were 50 years ago — but we are still confronting the same institutional barriers to peace and progress.

Just 11 days ago, U.S.-led coalition warplanes in Syria conducted intensive airstrikes near Abu Kamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with estimates of civilian casualties ranging from 30 to 54, the higher estimate coming from The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. All too typically, this received little media attention. It was not part of the so-called “national conversation.” But acts like these, occurring on a regular basis, need to become part of the national conversation, and that is part of what motivates us to call for this protest. These acts of aggressive war are not somehow magically transformed into moral acts simply because relatively few U.S. personnel are at risk of harm.

In 1968, the U.S. government was engaged in one illegal war. Now the U.S. illegally bombs, drone-strikes and/or occupies territory in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. It is responsible for millions of casualties, horrific devastation and suffering, and the displacement of millions of refugees. It has also been financing covert destabilization, “regime change” and support for repressive governments in much of Central and South America –and then it cruelly imprisons and punishes the hundreds of thousands of refugees who come to this country seeking safety and the opportunity to work. It spends $10.3 million a day of our tax dollars in military support for the repressive, now officially apartheid regime in Israel.

Every single one of these attacks on countries that never attacked the United States are illegal under established international law, including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Nuremberg Charter and the United Nations Charter. As in 1968, we have no right to attack other nations that never attacked us.

Let us be clear. These wars are not only thoroughly immoral and illegal in their direct impacts, they are also part of a war at home against the American working class, and especially its most oppressed members, people of color. We spend over $1.3 trillion a year on wars and maintaining a military machine, including about 1,000 military bases in about 135 different countries — while working people and students are being driven into poverty and debt, and while millions of people go without access to health care, decent schools, higher education, decent and affordable housing, safe drinking water, decent public transportation and other necessities. And our government spends these colossal sums on what amounts to corporate welfare, to help ensure the continued profits of giant energy corporations, weapons manufacturers and others, to maintain an empire and continue policies of global domination that actually make us all less safe.

Read the rest of the article here or continue reading below.

Continue reading “Protest War and Racism, in Chicago, on August 25th”

Armistice Day, Not Weapons Day

The Green Party of the United States has endorsed actions called for by a coalition of peace organizations in opposition to President Trump’s plan for a military parade to be held in Washington, DC on November 10th.

Stop Trump’s Military Parade in Washington on November 10. Celebrate Armistice Day and Peace Everywhere on November 11.

 

If you can be in Washington, D.C., to oppose the Trump military parade, please sign up at notrumpmilitaryparade.us. There will be family-friendly, permitted, pro-peace events. There may also be opportunities to try to prevent the weapons parade. Or our public commitment to be there may discourage the parade planners from holding it. So it is important that we commit now en masse.

Other Events
Click here to read on the GPUS site or continue reading below.

Continue reading “Armistice Day, Not Weapons Day”

Bipartisan Dysfunctionality Puts The World At Risk

It is an imperative for US foreign policy to seek cooperation between Russia and the US to make a more safe, healthy and secure world. To accomplish that the stranglehold of the duopoly war parties must be broken.

All of humanity is being put at risk by the duopoly of Democrats and Republicans opposition to dialogue with Russia. The combination of Russophobia and the Democratic Party’s compulsion to criticize Trump’s every action, even when he accidentally does something sensible, is preventing the two largest nuclear powers, with the two most advanced militaries in the world, from working together to create a safer and more secure world.

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin finally met for a lengthy meeting. Not much was accomplished, but it might be the beginning of an important dialogue, which could have significant positive impacts.

Russia and the United States are involved in many conflicts where de-escalation is possible if a working relationship is established. There are global crisis situations that could be reduced if the two nations work together, and bring other nations with them, to confront those problems.

Unfortunately, the reaction by members of the political duopoly and media to the Trump and Putin meeting is preventing progress urgently needed by the world. Hurdles are being created to prevent continued dialogue. For example, Russiagate delayed this first meeting and is making detente difficult to achieve.

Partisan Democrats are calling Trump a traitor for even meeting with Putin. They treat Robert Mueller’s indictment, timed just before their meeting, of Russian intelligence officials as if it were a conviction, not an accusation. It is unlikely these cases will ever be brought to trial so we are unlikely to see the evidence. Robert Mueller has a history of “misleading the public as he did when he was FBI director and claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

There are too many potential conflicts that could lead to war and too many crisis situations impacting millions for the United States and Russia not to be talking. Presidents Trump and Putin should meet again. Before their next meeting the two governments should negotiate progress on at least the following issues so their talks will be meaningful:

These are seven top priorities for diplomacy between the United States and Russia. There are many other crisis issues that the world is facing that a positive relationship between Russia and the US could ameliorate if not resolve — imagine the potential of a world where peace broke-out.

Continue reading “Bipartisan Dysfunctionality Puts The World At Risk”

Hold Israel Accountable! Sign the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights’ Petition

The Green Party Peace Action Committee (GPAX) has endorsed the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights’ Petition demanding a congressional investigation into the excessive and lethal use of force against the Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza border prison fence since March 30, 2018 for their legal right of return. As of July 13, 2018, IDF snipers have killed 138 and injured more than 160,000 others.
Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid, 3.7 billion a year, and the Leahy Law requires the imposition of sanctions against any government which uses US military aid to commit human rights abuses.
Please demand that your members of Congress observe the Leahy law and hold Israel accountable for the Great Return March Massacre. TAKE ACTION and SHARE:  https://uscpr.org/campaigns/accountability/

Antinuclear Resisters at Büchel Airbase in Germany

By Pat Elder, July 4, 2018

The German Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornado fighter jet.

WBW’s Pat Elder is encamped with antinuclear resisters just outside the gate of Büchel Airbase in Germany and he sends us this report.

Early in the morning, when I approached this sprawling airbase that employs 2,000 civilians and soldiers, the bucolic setting was reminiscent of the rolling foothills of the Blueridge Mountains in western Maryland and Virginia. Scattered large, well-kept farmhouses amid the beautiful rolling land planted in wheat and corn reflected this prosperous and peaceful country.

The Airbase (Der Fliegerhorst Büchel) is located in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of western Germany, about 60 km from the border with Belgium and Luxembourg. About 20 US thermonuclear nuclear weapons, fitted to the German Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornado fighter jet, are ready to be deployed in a moment’s notice. German pilots will take off with these weapons if the order comes from President Trump through NATO. The Germans will drop them on their targets, presumably in Russia.  The Tornado is capable of delivering the B-61 nuclear bomb with a yield of up to 180 kilotons.  That’s 12 times the size of the Hiroshima blast.

Everything seemed normal very early this morning until I reached the access road to the main gate of the base located off a sleepy country road. A stream of cars carrying German soldiers and civilians proceeded into the base at a snail’s pace. As the traffic that engulfed me inched closer, I heard the deafening noise of the Tornado as it lifted off the runway just a few hundred meters away. It is a ghastly and frightening assault to the ears, Like Dylan described,

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world.

After several minutes of single-lane bumper-to-bumper traffic I came within a hundred meters of the main gate and took a sudden and sharp right into the Peace Camp. This is one of the most extraordinary places on earth.

A prototype B61-12 with its newly designed GPS-guided tail-kit.

The Peace Camp is located on public land adjacent to the base, completely shrouded by a healthy hedge of brush and trees. It has been here, on an acre of land, for five years. There are several camper-trailers and a few large tents with bathrooms and a kitchen. The place has a solar panel that provides electricity to power the satellite and electronic devices. The internet these peaceniks have developed is lightning fast.  Leave it to Germans. I’m impressed with this country. Everything is better here.

I think this Peace Camp and the Peace Park, on the corner at the entrance to the base, demonstrate the guilty conscience of the German people. These great people, perhaps the pinnacle of human civilization, have learned many lessons in their tumultuous history, but this may be beyond their comprehension and/or resolve. They don’t have the courage to stand up to the American empire.

The organization behind the Peace Camp and the Peace Park is the Nonviolent Action Nuclear Weapons Abolition (Gewaltfreien Aktion Atomwaffen Abschaffen, GAAA). It has organized a remarkable twenty weeks of actions to represent the twenty nuclear bombs readied to kill millions. Vigils, rallies, prayer services, flyering, mass demonstrations and civil disobedience actions have been planned for the period that extends to August 9, 2018, Nagasaki Day. People and groups from throughout the continent check in and out. These peace warriors and prophets were greatly encouraged by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The leaders, including Marion Kuepker, say they are emboldened by the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This coming weekend a half-dozen local churches, with a healthy mix of Catholics and Protestants, are expected to bring 500 parishioners to the main gate for religious services. Last year, a Catholic Mass brought 60 to the main gate.

The Peace Park is positioned on the corner off the main road that all traffic must pass when it enters the base. The Peace Park carries a strong religious message, reflecting the region’s Catholic identity.

This Catholic shrine in the Peace Park is seen by 2,000 soldiers and civilians as they enter Büchel every day. It is just 200 meters from the main gate.

The shrine depicts Jesus breaking a gun in two. It says, “Think – Atomic weapons are a crime against God and Humanity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trump administration is in the process of  upgrading the nuclear arsenal at Büchel. The Americans plan to produce the new B 61-12 nuclear weapon by 2020. The B 61-12 will also be deployed with NATO forces in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Turkey.

The B 61-12’s thermonuclear warhead will reportedly have a maximum yield of approximately 50 kilotons, (three times Hiroshima) but war planners are expected to be able to reduce that using a so-called “dial-a-yield” feature that effectively limits the extent of the nuclear reaction when the weapon detonates. The weapons may be as small as 0.3 kilotons – about 2% of the size of the 15-kiloton bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima. This feature makes nuclear warfare much more likely – and much more attractive for use as a strategic weapon.

There is often confusion between “tactical” nuclear weapons and the traditional “strategic” nuclear weapon. The new B 61-12 may be considered a tactical nuclear weapon because its blast is generally smaller, and it is designed to be used on a battlefield after a ground war has begun. A strategic nuclear weapon may be several hundred times larger than a tactical weapon and is designed to completely destroy an enemy’s ability to exist or wage war. The largest strategic weapon in the US stockpile is the B-83 with a yield of 1.2 megatons, about 80 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb.

Since the end of World War II, the Germans have dealt heavily with matters of conscience. Germany committed itself in the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 and all fractions of the Bundestag voted in 2010 for the disarmament of nuclear weapons. Last year 122 states voted for a UN nuclear weapons ban, while Germany abstained.

Nonviolent Action Nuclear Weapons Abolition calls for the German federal government to withdraw all nuclear weapons from Büchel and all nuclear weapons from German soil.  The overwhelming majority of Germans – a staggering 93%  – want nuclear weapons to be banned just as chemical and biological weapons have been banned, according to an opinion poll commissioned by the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

About 50 German peace groups are involved in a long-term campaign to prevent the switch to the more user-friendly B 61-12. There is a deep and genuine fear of this new weapon. The core element of the campaign is the Declaration of Commitment signature campaign where people declare
on the website:

I will come to Büchel once a year and take part in an action until nuclear weapons are withdrawn, and I will actively commit to seeking a nuclear weapons-free world in the place where I am living.”

The brilliant German organizers are holding an international week of action next week, from July 10th to the 18th.  If you are interested in joining, please contact: Marion Kuepker: mariongaaa@gmx.de

World BEYOND War is honored to be associated with these actions.

Speaking of nuclear weapons, Pope Francis has categorically condemned not only “the threat of their use” but also “their very possession.”

Original article here: https://worldbeyondwar.org/antinuclear-resisters-at-buchel-airbase-in-germany

 

COMBAT VET, WEST POINT GRAD FORCED TO RESIGN FOR SUPPORTING ECONOMIC & RACIAL JUSTICE

By Spenser Rapone, Truthdig.com
RESIST!
Original Link: https://popularresistance.org/combat-vet-west-point-grad-forced-to-resign-for-supporting-economic-racial-justice/

Above Photo: Fist raised, Spenser Rapone displays a slogan written inside his cap after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in May 2016. (Courtesy of Spenser Rapone via AP)

Editor’s note: On the outside, Spenser Rapone’s West Point graduation uniform looked like all the other cadets’. Underneath his dress uniform, however, was evidence of his political views: a T-shirt bearing Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara’s image, and a cap that read, inside, “Communism will win.”

The shirt and hat made waves in the U.S. military community after Rapone posted photos of them on social media in September, and now he has been given an “other than honorable” discharge. According to The Associated Press, he was charged with “conduct unbecoming of an officer” after an Army investigation determined that he “went online to promote a socialist revolution and disparage high-ranking officers.”

In the following statement for Truthdig, Rapone explains his political beliefs.

I am a combat veteran with the First Ranger Battalion, a recent graduate of West Point and a former second lieutenant who was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. Since identifying myself as a socialist, there has been much controversy generated by a number of my public statements.

It began with my post on social media, in which I expressed my full and enthusiastic support of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his fight against racial injustice, white supremacy and police brutality. After revealing a picture of myself in uniform with the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick, I was met by solidarity from my fellow soldiers, as well as harsh blowback from my chain of command.

To this day, I stand by my convictions, despite the efforts of ranking officers to pressure me into silence. I believe that standing up for the exploited and the oppressed is the most honorable thing we can do as people. No job should hinder or repress this pursuit, which is why I decided to resign my commission as an officer in the United States Army. My conditional resignation was denied by the secretary of the Army. Instead, the military forced me into either submitting an unconditional resignation or appearing before a board of inquiry—an adversarial trial in which a jury of senior officers would determine my fate. Rather than submit to the antics of what amounts to a show trial at best, I tendered my unconditional resignation. Passing judgment on me one last time, the military determined the character of my service to be “other than honorable.” Despite the brass prolonging my time in service, I have come to the conclusion that leaving the military altogether, whatever the circumstances, is the only moral way forward. During this ordeal, I have learned that I am far from alone in my feelings of disillusionment and betrayal within the rank and file of the U.S. military.

As a teenager, I believed the United States military was a force of good for the world. I thought that I signed up to fight for freedom and democracy, to protect my loved ones and my country from harm. My experiences showed me otherwise.

After bearing witness to the senseless destruction in Afghanistan during my combat deployment to Khost Province in the summer of 2011, I knew that our wars must be stopped. I was assigned to my platoon as an assistant machine-gunner. I took part in missions where human beings were killed, captured and terrorized. However, the horror wrought by the U.S. military’s overseas ventures is not limited to combat engagements alone. Some nights, we barely did anything at all but walk through a village. As such, the longer I was there, the more it became apparent that the mere presence of an occupying force was a form of violence. My actions overseas did not help or protect anybody. I felt like I was little more than a bully, surrounded by the most well-armed and technologically advanced military in history, in one of the poorest countries in the world. I saw many of my fellow soldiers all too eager to carry out violence for the sake of violence. There is no honor in such bloodlust; quite the contrary. I saw firsthand how U.S. foreign policy sought to carry out the subjugation of poor, brown people in order to steal natural resources, expand American hegemony and extinguish the self-determination of any group that dare oppose the empire. Idealistic and without a coherent worldview yet, I thought that perhaps pursuing an officer’s commission would allow me to change things and help put a stop to the madness. I was wrong.

It soon dawned on me how pervasive the military-industrial complex is. I studied, examined my own experiences and began to grasp more completely the horrors and impact of U.S. imperialism. Learning that over a million people have lost their lives since 9/11—the vast majority being innocent civilians—began to haunt me. Seeing that up to a trillion dollars a year were being diverted from education, health care and infrastructure in the U.S. to support our 800 military bases around the world began to feel increasingly maddening. Within the Army itself, one out of three women are sexually assaulted. The death of football player and later soldier Pat Tillman by friendly fire was covered up to sell a war. Generals responsible for war crimes—from the unbridled destruction of Afghan and Iraqi villages to the construction of torture prisons—are rewarded with accolades and political power. These sad and dishonorable truths increasingly grew impossible to ignore. The military was not the noble and selfless institution the commercials and Hollywood movies made it out to be—far from it.

At West Point, I soon found myself at odds with my future role as someone tasked with the responsibility of leading soldiers into battle. However, leaving West Point after my junior year would have meant returning to the enlisted ranks or finding a way to come up with a quarter-million dollars to pay the academy back. So I stuck it out, hoping I would find a way to reconcile this contradiction. Again, I was wrong. Upon returning to Fort Benning, Ga., to begin my training as an infantry officer following graduation, I was filled with dread. It was like I was in a place simultaneously familiar and unknown. There were things I noticed that my 18-year-old self could not have recognized before. Most strikingly, I observed the scope of the brainwashing within the ranks, from bald, buzz-cut, mostly teenage infantrymen fresh out of training, to college graduates eager to lead those naïve soldiers into America’s next war. I felt witness to a collective delusion—one that I was once a part of, but had somehow miraculously escaped. After nearly a year there, as I prepared to move to my new duty station at Fort Drum, one thing became clear: I cannot be a part of this any longer. I cannot kill or die for the U.S. military—no one should.

I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. My feelings and experiences are not an anomaly. I know, because I have had conversations with others who have expressed the same sentiments.

You are out there, and should you take the same steps that I have, I am with you. While the prospect is daunting, united together we have far more power than all of the generals and politicians combined. We possess the ability to grind this entire military machine to a halt. It is high time we live up to the trust and respect bestowed upon us by the people. Let our mutual love of humanity and our desire for liberation and peace be our guiding principles.

Most importantly, let us find common cause with the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Libya and so many others who have suffered at the behest of the United States. To those soldiers who I’ve heard from, and to those I haven’t yet, I hope that you too find the courage to lay your weapons down with me, and refuse your orders to kill and die for the benefit of a handful of ruling-class elites at the great expense of the rest of us. Freedom lies on the other side. Together, let us fight to put a stop to these endless trillion-dollar wars, and let us join our brothers and sisters around the world in putting a stop to all forms of exploitation, oppression and senseless violence.