Granny Peace Brigade Asks Us To Say No to US Militarization

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They often show up in hats adorned with artificial flowers and sing anti war lyrics to well know tunes.  To the tune of Side by Side:

We are a gaggle of grannies
Urging you off of your fannies;
We’re telling you now
We’re ANGRY and how!
NO MORE WAR!

or to the tune of There is Nothing Like a Dame:

We have bases in Hawaii, and bases all around,
In old Peru and Timbuktu, wherever there is ground.
In one hundred thirty countries, and in every case,
What do they give us, ANOTHER base

Chorus:
There is nothing like a base.
NOTHING IN THIS WORLD
And we have them every place
We will soon have them up in space.

Seven hundred thirty-seven, foreign bases plus.
We dominate these countries, they fear and don’t want us.
Let the U.S. people know, our bases we must yield.
We only want our bases on a baseball field!

They may look and sound comical, but these women, some of them appearing on the street in wheelchairs, see nothing funny about US aggression.

I hold in my mind a vivid image from the Saturday after the 2006 elections when David and I went to Philadelphia to attend a meeting of peace groups at Constitution Park.  On the lawn outside were the Grannies on a low stage with a group of young IVAW veterans behind them.  These women had a court appearance the following Monday because they had been arrested for trying to stop military recruitment of other young people to kill and die in the US illegal and immoral wars of aggression and occupations.

On Sunday, 9 November 2008, the NY chapter were hosting the last of their three teach-ins about US global militarization, focusing this time on Latin America.  The Granny who introduced the event, Nydya Leaf, told us that the NY chapter became especially interested in this aspect of US militarization when some of the members attended the XIVth world conference of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Caracas in 2007.  This organization is over 50 years old but little known in the US.  The Grannies present there witnessed the demand of some of the Japanese delegates that action be taken to close the military bases in Japan that have been there since the end of WWII.  Immediately, these delegates were seconded by similar demands for closure of US bases in their countries from delegates from Germany, Italy, Korea, and elsewhere.

I met at Camp Casey women who are active in Italy in the movement to close US bases there.  You can read posts on this blog about that here.

Speaking at this teach-in were Maria Fernanda Espinosa, the former Foreign Minister of Ecuador, currently their Ambassador to the UN; Professor Greg Grandin of NYU, author of Workshop: Latin America, The United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, and contributor to the Nation, Harper’s, and the Times; and Camp Casey’s Commander Ann Wright, retired colonel US Army and former member of the US Foreign Service who retired in protest of the US invasion of Iraq, now dedicated to full time activism to stop these illegal wars.

Granny Leaf finished her introduction by saying that Noam Chomsky calls Latin America the most exciting place in the world, a statement supported by much of what followed.

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Ambassador Espinosa agreed with Chomsky.  She read to us from the new Constitution of Ecuador which stipulates that it be a country of peace and forbids military bases and “security” accords.  It was Sra. Espinosa in her function as Foreign Minister who told the US that the agreement for its base at Manta would expire in 2009 and not be renewed.

I was thrilled to hear that they know in Ecuador that peace is not just the absence of war, that it demands justice, inclusiveness, equality, and true democracy.  She says that the new constitution, which is being translated into other languages at the request of countries wishing to study it carefully, expresses the aspirations of the people of Ecuador.

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Professor Greg Grandin continued with more information about the “explosion of democracy” as he puts it in Latin America.  He says that the US notion of Latin America as its “back door” needs to be changed to the”canary in the coal mine.”  The Times categories of “good leftists” and “bad” ones in the region is not at all the way the people there see themselves.  They know that the region gives examples of a variety of approaches to democratic governments that are designed to serve the interests of all the people and not just those of a few and of the US and multinational corporations which have traditionally held sway.

Grandin further said that the US response to this explosion of true democracy has been heavy handed and repressive.  The Colombia Plan in that country and the Merida Plan in Mexico, which Obama approves, are examples of ways the Us is seeking to gain control of a region rapidly getting out of its control.

The way to move forward, according to Grandin, is not just to talk about cooperation but to repudiate the doctrine of preemptive war and to show respect for the sovereignty of other nations.  Will Obama do that?  Will he listen to these democrats and learn from them?
Ambassador Espinosa mentioned that there is discussion now at the UN about the concepts of preemptive war and the “responsibility to protect.”  Ecuador is opposed to both of them.  The latter, she said, is too often used as a guise for taking over weak nations and exploiting their resources instead of protecting.  Her country wants to see absolute sovereignty of all nations respected.

The last speaker was Colonel Ann Wright.

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Colonel Wright reminded us that the largest polluter in the US is the Pentagon, which is given special dispensations.  The pollution goes forward apace at its bases in other countries as well, another reason people all over the world want them closed.

Wright reminded us that Obama promises 100,000 more troops.  She encouraged the Grannies, whose focus is counter recruitment, to step up their activities as Obama tries to enlist more of our young people.

The US, said Wright, has not historically supported the democratic revolutions of Latin American.  She said that the recent ones have shaken the US military and corporate establishments.  These powerful institutions will be hard at work in the Obama administration.  She urged us to be vigilant and active until 1) the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan are stopped; 2) Guantanamo and all the other secret prisons around the globe are closed and torture stopped; 3) Plans Merida and Colombia are dismantled; 4) the new “Prosperity and Security Partnership” with Canada and Mexico, which are aimed at giving the US more say in the affairs of those countries is stopped.

Wright also urged us to be on guard against military slogans that cloak aggression.  “Peace time engagement,” “War on drugs,” “War on terror,” “Disaster assistance,” are all words masking militarism and aggression.

The Grannies sang their songs as the audience stretched before QandA.  At the end, they urged us to use the post cards handed to everyone attending to write to elected officials telling them to close the bases and end the occupations and wars.

I left grateful to these great patriots and committed to continuing my own activism against US aggression.

 

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2 Responses to “Granny Peace Brigade Asks Us To Say No to US Militarization”

  1. Dance For Peace » Blog Archive » Granny Peace Brigade of New York Plans Event on March 18 Says:

    […] Read more about the work of the Grannies here. […]

  2. Dance For Peace » Blog Archive » US Invasion and Occupation of Haiti Says:

    […] In the post from this blog on November 11, 2008, there is a report of Ann Wright’s warning to us to be on guard against military slogans that cloak US aggression.  “Peace time engagement,” “War on drugs,” “War on terror,” “Disaster assistance,” are all words masking militarism and aggression. Read the full post here.  The current situation in Haiti is a perfect example. […]

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