Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Robert Weiss, US Soldier Stationed in Germany Begins Personal Resistance

Dear Chris Capps,

Thank you for your concern. Mike Sharp has previously told me about IVAW. I would like to become a member I just haven't gotten around to do the paperwork for the application. I am pretty busy for the time being. My unit 4-2 CR in Vilseck, Germany is deploying to Iraq in August so there has been a lot of commotion. Despite the expectations of my unit I will not deploy with them. I have submitted my application for conscientious objector status and informed by chain of command that the only way I will go to Iraq is if they tranquilize me, cuff me, and throw me on a plane. That being the case I won't perform any duties or wear a uniform anyways. I don't plan on letting the situation progress that far. I am hopeful that I will be placed on rear detachment until the decision on my application comes in. When it becomes apparent that they won't do this I will simply refuse to follow any orders given to me or wear a uniform. This will surely result in some jail time but that doesn't deter me one bit. It makes more sense to me to resist the military now rather than in Iraq where the situation would be much more difficult. So far, my unit has yet to set up the mandatory chaplain and psychiatrist appointments or even to let me sign the necessary forms (privacy act, barred from VA, and so forth). So it seems like they have no intention of actually giving my application a chance. Nor do they take me seriously in my stated intentions to resist the army. So most likely I will end up in jail. I have considered going awol and than turning myself in but I think the best way is to flat out not comply with any orders given to me. Hopefully that would eliminate the more serious charge of desertion and give me a lesser one. A lawyer has told me that I might get something like 10-20 months for this but I really don't mind. We all have our own cross to carry. In case you are interested in my motivation for this decision; it is based on Christianity. A while ago an acquaintance of mine was killed in a fight. This caused me to reevaluate my life and to become a Christian again. From there I read a lot of books on Christianity and the bible itself. I eventually came to decide that God is against warfare and killing in any form. Jesus' teachings in the new testament reveal this commandment that we must love our enemies rather than to destroy them. Anyways thats basically my story. I am interested in hearing how your dealings with the army and subsequent discharge went if you would care to tell it. Also I think that publicity might help my case so perhaps that is an avenue to consider. Well, thanks again.


Robert Weiss

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rev. Yearwood's Air Force hearing has been delayed

Action Alert - Please Forward
Rev. Yearwood's Air Force hearing has been delayed
July 12th date postponed!
New Date to be set for mid to late August

My dear friends in the movement,
Thank you so much for such a wonderful outpouring of support. It has been incredible to hear that so many of you have made plans to come support me as I challenge the Air Force's attempt to discredit me and our work for peace.
My request for a delay has been granted so I may better prepare my case and raise funds for my legal defense. We will publish the new date as soon as it is determined and along with our plans for action.
For future generations,
Rev. Yearwood

Sunday, July 8, 2007

An Open Letter to America: "Now is the time for us to stand up and stand together" By Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.

July 1, 2007
My Fellow Americans:
The power of our voices against the U.S. occupation of Iraq is reaching the top echelons of the military and the administration. Our government is persecuting Americans who speak out against the U.S. military presence in Iraq. The U.S. military has launched politicized attacks on its own military members and moral leaders who oppose the war to discredit their voices of dissent.

We have seen them target Cpl. Adam Kokesh to stop him from exercising his freedom of speech, after risking his life in Fallujah, Iraq. We have seen them threaten Sgt. Liam Madden for publicly stating the legal fact that the U.S. invasion is a war crime according to the Nuremberg principles. They have targeted Cpl. Cloy Richards, a soldier put in the media spotlight when his mother Tina Richards worked to get him the health care he needs after returning from Iraq eighty percent disabled. These are not happenstance targets. These young men are leaders of the Iraq Veterans Against the War and they are speaking out in a strong and coordinated way.

And now I have been targeted.

Who am I? Many of you know me as a reverend, an activist, an architect of Hip Hop politics and a freedom fighter, but I am also an Officer in the United States Air Force Reserve. I have long been in the struggle for peace and freedom and I serve proudly as a leader of faith. I joined the military as part of the "poor peoples draft" - to help pay for my education. In May 2000 I was commissioned as an Officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and was accepted into the Chaplain Candidates program. In 2002 I graduated from Howard University School of Divinity, Magna Cum Laude. I was ordained a Reverend and Elder in the Church of God in Christ shortly after my graduation and today I remain in good standing in the Church. In May 2003 I completed the Chaplain Candidates program, but I decided not to pursue a career as a Chaplain in the Air Force. I have been in the Air Force Reserve Individual Reserve program ever since.

On March 26th of this year I received notification from the Air Force that they are taking action to honorably discharge me on the basis of "behavior clearly inconsistent with the interest of national security." Ironically, this letter arrived six days after I announced the launching of a national "Make Hip Hop Not War" Tour at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

On July 12, 2007, when I leave Robbins Air Force Base after my discharge hearing, whether I remain an Officer or not, I will be a leader always, and a patriot evermore committed to ending this immoral war.

In February 2003 I felt the sense of urgency many felt in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq to speak out. Even though I was only a Chaplain Candidate and a 2nd Lieutenant, when I had the opportunity to preach at Andrews Air Force Base, the home of Air Force One, the message that I preached was "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" Since then hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans have lost their lives and we now face a state of permanent warfare in our world.

This moment in history is our generation's lunch-counter moment - Iraq is our Vietnam and New Orleans is our Birmingham. Our generation could be the generation to defeat racism, poverty and war, but only if we come together as people of conscience. In the movements of the 60's, solidarity among the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement was never truly achieved. As the "Hip Hop generation" - a generation where the sons and daughters of former slaves work side by side with the sons and daughters of former slave owners - we have the ability to bridge the gap and link movements for peace, justice, civil rights and the environment in true solidarity.

We will not make the world safer - or achieve true national security - by starting wars that put our humanity at risk and we are certainly not making our country safer by intimidating veterans who courageously speak out. Policies that address the issues of poverty, racism, climate change, the economy and jobs are at the core of national security. I will continue to speak out against the war, seek justice for Katrina survivors, fight against racism, struggle for equality and advocate for a healthy planet. I hardly think that this sort of behavior is "inconsistent with the interest of national security."

My brothers and sisters, opposition to this illegal war and occupation is not a cause - it constitutes a response to a state of emergency. It is our urgent responsibility to stop this war. According to the Book of Psalms, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." I know it looks bad now and our hope seems to wane and sometimes we want to give up. But, if we can all come together - black and white, brown and yellow, rich and poor, male and female, straight and gay, republican and democrat - whether you still love this country or are withdrawn in anger, not only can we defeat this war and restore justice and democracy, there will once again be joy in the morning.

My mother in the movement, Cindy Sheehan, will be with me on July 12th at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and I urge you to join me on the 12th as well. I also urge you to continue to increase your activism. This is our lunch-counter moment.
For Future Generations,

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is President of the Hip Hop Caucus. Much needed donations to his legal defense fund can be made at:
Online donations:www.hiphopcaucus.org
Checks, money orders or cash can be sent to: Hip Hop Caucus
1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600,
Washington, DC 20036.
You can contact the Hip Hop Caucus at 202.787.5256 or at info@hiphopcaucus.org.

Please visit iraqmoratorium.org, ivaw.org, declarationofpeace.org, unitedforpeace.orggrassrootsamerica4us.org, worldcantwait.org, votersforpeace.org, democracyrising.us, and impeachcheney.org to find out what you can do.

Call to Action

When :
July 12, 2007 12:00 Noon Rally
Warner Robbins (100 miles south of Atlanta), GA Hwy 129 & Martin Luther King Blvd.
To stand in solidarity with Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. as he faces his United States Air Force separation hearing.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is facing discharge from the United States Air Force Reserve Individual Reserve as he is being charged that his behavior is "inconsistent with the interest of national security."

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. intends to hold a candle light vigil at Martin Luther King's tomb in Atlanta, GA on the evening before he returns to Washington DC. Time to be determined.

If you are unable to attend, please send much needed donations for Rev. Yearwood's Defense fund:
Online Donations: HipHopCaucus.org
Checks, Money Orders or Cash:
Hip Hop Caucus
1112 16th St NW Ste. 600
Washington, D.C. 20036

Friday, July 6, 2007

Three IVAW Members Arrested at Fort Benning Gate

On July 1st, members of the IVAW bus tour drove near the gate at Fort Benning, Georgia on the Yellow Rose of Texas Bus for Peace, which now says “IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR” in large letters across the side. Fort Benning is an open post, and anyone with proper ID is allowed on base. They turned around and parked just outside the gate. As soon as they parked the bus, a Department of the Army police car pulled up behind the bus with its lights on and an officer warned Jim about bringing the bus on post.

Liam Madden and Nate Lewis decided that they would approach the gate on foot to enquire as to whether they would be allowed to enter on foot. It was at that point that two MPs came out from behind the fence and arrested them for “criminal trespassing.” Fort Benning is an open post, and right where these guys walked across is a highway that goes through base year round. They received no warning, and were not told why they were being detained. That was when I got the call in the Bronco while I was out running errands with Steve.

We raced to the gate and got there just in time to see Nate and Liam getting loaded into cruisers. One of the cops came out to where we were standing and explained that “they had been arrested for protesting,” and told us that if anyone crosses the line “in protest,” they will be arrested. We have this on tape. Then the press showed up and wanted a statement, so I waited until they were set up and put a mic on me, and gave a statement to them and for the record to the documentarians who were with us, and our own camera for safety. I changed my shirt so it would be clear I was not protesting and went across to ensure that Liam and Nate were, “afforded the full protection of the law.” You can see a video of that here.

Fortunately, Michael Blake stepped up and dealt with all of the press that came and really did a great job presenting our side of the story as opposed to the Army spokeswoman’s story, which only identified me as a “third unidentified protestor.” We’ve really seen some stupid coverage over this. (But that all pales in comparison to the lie the Marine Corps told about Liam Madden’s response to the plea bargain that, “they were dropping the case because they had ‘received sufficient indication’ from Madden that he would no longer wear his uniform when engaged in political activities. They also determined that his statements did not warrant further action.)

I gave them my driver’s license right away when asked and they immediately called it in and cuffed me. By the time we got to the station, one of the cops that had arrested Liam and Nate, was in their control room checking out my blog. His superior had to say, “Knock that shit off. This isn’t Larry King live.” Then I went to the back to answer questions for some paperwork. When the cop started with, “What is your social security number?” I said, “I prefer not to answer that question.” “What? These are just personal info questions. You have to answer them.” “Don’t I have the right to remain silent?” “But you haven’t been read your rights.” “So?” “Here’s how it works: You answer the personal info questions, then I read you your rights, see, here’s the acknowledgement, then I’ll ask questions about the incident and you can decline to answer them if you want.” I responded, “Are you telling me that I only have my rights after you read them to me? Let me tell you how it works. My rights come from the Constitution, not from you reading them to me. I don’t need to wait for you to give me my rights.”

While he left to finish the paperwork without me, one of the MP Sergeants was sitting in the area so we started chatting about Iraq. He said he pretty much agreed with me about things there, but said it didn’t really matter. I didn’t understand what he meant, but Nate explained to me that he had said something about there being a day of judgment coming and none of this mattered, not even our participation in it. But he was willing to listen with an open mind and think for himself. But then, he did tell me how he was such a big fan of O’Reilly, and he agreed to check out the documentary called Outfoxed, which I described to him as “making fun of O’Reilly especially for telling his guests to shut-up,” and explained how watching Fox News has been statistically proven to make you stupid.

They wouldn’t drop us off at the gate, but drove by it on the way to the official point of drop off for people who are detained on Fort Benning, namely a gas station down the road, that they said was technically on base property. They had forgotten to bring my umbrella, so one of the cops had to drive all the way back to the station and get it, then bring it back. The next day, the documentarians wanted to interview me outside the gate, so after the bus punched out, Steve and Liam (who needed to be advanced party for Philly) and I went to the gate with them in the Bronco. It was then that Liam got a call from an Army JAG saying that he needed to serve us papers for an arraignment the next day. So while I finished the interview, Liam got Nate off the bus and we met with the JAG.

Then we met with a Lawyer in Atlanta. Liam had talked to him earlier, and was waiting for a call back, but since we had nothing else to do, and Atlanta was on the way to Philly, we just went to his office unannounced. But he was happy to see us. He made a few phone calls and got the arraignment that the Army was trying to slap on us for the next day, “for our convenience” pushed back to the 27th so that we could continue with the tour and with the hope that the case might get dropped by then. We’ll see what happens, but as of right now, I plan on having to make another trip down to Georgia.

We still managed to pass the bus well before getting to Philly and started preparing for the fundraiser, which ended up going very well. The next day was supposed to be my day to relax, but the night before I agreed to speak at a press conference/panel talk at an anti-war coalition meeting. Very fun, but not very relaxing. Then we had our show at the Millcreek Tavern, and aside from Sun of None and Head Roc, I also had the pleasure of seeing Ryan Harvey perform a couple of songs.

Today, we had a barbecue at Dyker Beach Park where there were as many cops in attendance as invited guests. The Fort Hamilton Provost Marshal even came out to warn us against bringing the bus near base. The rest of the cops were pretty friendly, and some even partook when invited. When it was time to leave for the concert, they offered to give us a lights-on escort, but they only stayed with us until it was clear we were getting on the bridge and then ditched us. It would seem they are that scared of us talking to soldiers. But we still managed to get one new member and that makes it all worthwhile.