DISARMAMENT and the U.S. World Social Forum, June 27-July 1
DISARM: Dismantle the War Economy committee sponsored or co-sponsored five workshops at the USSF and we were generally pleased with the results. In addition, Linda Richards of the DISARM team managed to present a statement on behalf of WILPF to the final plenary, calling for more emphasis on demilitarization in any future Social Forum. Other goals of the forum – economic justice, human rights, universal health care, etc. – cannot be realized while more than half of our tax dollars are going to feed the war machine. The final WILPF statement and follow-up details on the workshops should be posted on DISARM UPDATE by July 15 at www.disarm.wilpf.org
Our lead workshop was A Military Economy or an Economy of Peace? Happily staff and key leadership from POCLAD, National Priorities Project, War Resisters League (WRL), Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, UFPJ, Western States Legal Foundation, Students for a Democratic Society and the new Bite the Bullet War Profiteering Education and Action Network all joined us to share grim information on the war economy, its profiteers and its weapons of death. During the second hour we explored non-violent ways to end war profiteering and develop a peace economy. In the process we of course shared WILPF's extensive resources for the task. We also introduced the new Bite the Bullet Network which grew out of the Stop the Merchants of Death conference WRL and WILPF co-sponsored in Minneapolis last September. Expect major follow-up after this workshop. Jean Verthein (WILPF UN rep), Linda Richards(Ashland OR), and Carol Urner (Portland OR and Los Angeles) participated for the DISARM team and Jody Dodd, Judy Claude and Linda Belle (JAPA) from WILPF staff also joined us.
Boston Branch sponsored the other WILPF DISARM workshop on community resistance to the Boston Bio-Terror lab and did a great job of it. Sue Gracey and Rene Kasinsky brought Klare Allen, a dynamic grassroots community organizer from the Afro-American district in Boston that is now threatened by a high level (BSL-4) Homeland Security Biolab. That lab, to be administered by Boston University, will research and genetically engineer the most deadly (always fatal) African diseases in the midst of this high density community. Accidents do happen in such labs – and, in addition, they appear to be part of an illegal Bioweapons program. Nancy Price (Water Campaign) told how her community in Davis, California successfully fought off a similar lab, and Rene outlined the Boston campaign in which WILPF members work alongside Klare and the threatened community. Sue showed a segment of a DVD (which Boston WILPF helped produce) in which eminent scientists point out the dual use nature of this research which feeds into rapidly expanding military Biolabs. $44 billion has already been allocated for these labs since John Bolton of the U.S. torpedoed the UN Bioweapons Treaty Inspection Protocol in 2001. Many of these labs are operated by universities in cities with WILPF Branches, yet even WILPF members are too often unaware of their existence. All of us were enamored of Klare Allen and hope she joins WILPF. One participant, new to the issues raised, told us Klare and this workshop were changing her whole life.
Our co-sponsored workshop on War in Space or Life on Earth? featured Bruce Gagnon and Mary Beth Sullivan of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Both gave powerful presentations. Unfortunately, however, the work shop was in an out-of-the-way building reachable only by public transportation, and just a few intrepid souls were able to find us. WILPF DISARM had invited Bruce and Mary Beth especially for this workshop and paid Mary Beth's airfare. We wish many more could have joined us. Fortunately, however, they were able to make many other good connections and media contacts. I only wish we had known about the plenary on militarism in time to suggest inclusion of Bruce in the panel. That presentation lacked facts on the full horrors of current U.S. militarization, and both Bruce and Mary Beth can present those facts in non-technical language grass roots folk can understand.
WILPF DISARM also co-sponsored a workshop on No Foreign Bases , organized by the AFSC and Fellowship of Reconciliation. This was another very productive work shop, in part because key leadership of so many peace organizations took active part. We laid the ground work for a U.S. coordinating committee to support the No Bases Network launched in Ecuador March 5-9. Mary Day Kent participated in Ecuador, as did WILPF members from Japan and Germany. U.S. WILPF submitted a resolution to the WILPF Congress in Bolivia based on their reports, and we can expect international WILPF to actively support this movement during the next three years.
WILPF DISARM co-sponsored a third workshop on Iran 's Nuclear Ambitions and the U.S. Nuclear Reality. It was organized by Jackie Cabasso of the UFPJ working group on Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Human Security. MacGregor Eddy (Monterey) and I (Portland OR and Los Angeles CA) participate actively in that group. Jackie, as always, gave a stellar presentation. A University of California student joined her to report on their recent fast which enabled students to have dialogue with the US regents on the need to free the university of military contracts. We should welcome and cooperate with rising student resistance to increasing militarization of our universities. I only wish we could have drawn more participants to this challenging workshop.
Our WILPF DISARM team participated in other ways as well. Ellen Barfield (Baltimore) spoke on the WILPF Water Campaign panel on Women, Water and War. Linda and Jean were able to meet with the Shoshone and other Native Americans, and with Ruckus society nonviolent trainers. We were all moved by the various plenaries which gave voice to the "grass roots" on labor issues, immigration, health care, the Katrina disaster, militarism, Native American and gender issues. All of us helped with WILPF tabling. I only regretted that we did not know about the Peace and Justice Tent in time to secure a table there, however we made many fruitful contacts with our sister organizations in the peace movement. We distributed literature from DISARM and Reaching Critical Will and 60 copies of Addicted to War. We rejoiced that the WILPF organized Court of Women was a huge success, and were impressed by the great work of the AHR/CEDAW committee and the Water Campaign in their excellent workshops.
Altogether WILPF was an important presence at the USSF in Atlanta. Our thanks to Pat Willits, WILPF staff and all who made our successful participation possible.
In peace, Carol Urner
DISARM! Dismantle the War Economy