This morning, on December 16th, military veterans will lead a nonviolent act of civil resistance against the ongoing U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Led by Veterans for Peace, the organizers expect this to be the largest veteran-led resistance since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
A rally will be held in Lafayette Park will be held. Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame; Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst; Mike Ferner, Veterans for Peace National President; Chris Hedges, author and former New York Times war correspondent; Mike Prysner, Iraq vet and co-founder, March Forward!; Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent and whistleblower who was TIME Magazine's Person of the Year in 2002; and Dr. Margaret Flowers, Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program will all speak at the rally. They will then join the veterans and risk arrest in an action in front of the White House that is expected to involve nearly one hundred people chaining themselves to the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue.
I spoke with Elaine Brower, one of the lead organizers, and Matthis Chiroux, a veteran. They both will be risking arrest tomorrow. I asked them what they had been thinking over the past weeks as they finished planning this action, which had been in the works for two months, and the U.S. began to persecute Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for leaking hundreds of State Department cables.
"Over the past weeks, as we've been planning this, WikiLeaks has been releasing cables about what our government is doing and how really secretive and corrupt their actions are and how they are handling things around the world and who is talking about Iran and who is talking about Iraq," said Brower. "A lot of it points to Hillary Clinton, a lot of it points to many of the officials in the Obama Administration."
Chiroux expressed excitement at the thought that WikiLeaks might be pushing people to act because of their outrage at what WikiLeaks has been revealing now and in the past months. He said, "You know, it's been a while since we had an action of this scale (on a weekday no less). For me, it's important not only to continue to stand against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the continued torture, but, to me, this is such an important time to be doing this because, while this country is currently stuck in two illegal occupations, we are standing on the brink of yet another war with North Korea."
Brower explained how the rally would be tied into Private Bradley Manning's incarceration in a military prison for supposedly leaking classified information (the war logs, the cables and the "Collateral Murder" video to WikiLeaks):
"We have to tie-in Bradley Manning to this. Bradley Manning has been locked up since May, and he's been accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks. He's in Quantico and we're demanding his release. [The U.S. government is] silent on his charges. He's been in there a very long time. Supposedly they're going to go forward with a court-martial coming up in 2011. But, we don't really know what he's done. Everyone is saying he's the one who leaked these documents. Whether or not he did, he's a hero and he needs to be freed. Julian Assange should not be the scapegoat. It's a very similar situation to what happened with the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg. So, we have to look at these people as our heroes for giving us information to act upon and fortunately we were planning this action for the past two months and now we have all this support because people are very outraged with what's happening. [emphasis added]
When asked whether they felt more people were expressing interest in the action than normal, both Brower talked about how this action had already surpassed expectations.