Sunday, May 19, 2019
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A Salute to Veterans

Elliott Adams

"... I have been accused of obstructing the war. Gentlemen, I admit it. I abhor war. I would oppose war if I stood alone. ... I have sympathy with the suffering, struggling people everywhere. It does not make any difference under what flag they were born, or where they live". -Statement to the jury by Eugene Debs

It is Veterans’ Day again. Some will celebrate. Some will march in parades. Some will rally around the flag. Some will go shopping. Some will mourn.

Some mourn for the 500,000 Iraqi children, killed by US policy. When Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes asked Madeleine Albright about the 500,000 deaths, Albright made her famous statement: "... we think the price was worth it." Really - worth it to whom? To the voters, to the people, to you....

Some mourn for all the students in US schools who are never taught an accurate history of the United States. They are never taught about the treatment of Native Americans. They are never taught about No Gun Ri, or Mi Lai, or the many other war crimes. They still celebrate Columbus Day and continue to wave the flag. What is the purpose of education, if not to give an accurate view of world history?

How many students are taught about the conviction of the United States in the International Court of Justice? In 1986 the United States was found guilty of mining the harbors of Nicaragua, among other violations. Check your child's text book. Chances are that information is not included. Subtle censorship is censorship of the most serious kind. It is under the radar. Unless parents and students are paying close attention, it is overlooked. There is an easy fix to this problem - just use Howard Zinn's History books. That would save taxpayer dollars and also show respect for the spirit of the First Amendment.

Some mourn mostly for those we have killed – and some mourn for those we haven’t killed yet, but will in the days ahead. Some mourn for all of the mothers and fathers who put their children to bed at night and wonder if this will be the night that they are killed by a drone attack.

As a nation, none can compare with the United States when it comes to the ability to slaughter innocent civilians. Now we can do it from the comfort of our own neighborhoods… at no risk to our own safety. Is the use of drones a war crime? No matter how one feels about drones, it is certain that drone-warfare has raised the killing of civilians to a new level. The slaughter of little girls walking to school is a crime against humanity. It is a crime that shocks the conscience.

Do the drone operators who sit at a computer thousands of miles away from any danger deserve our respect? Their safety is not at risk. Should they be ‘thanked for their service’? Is killing-by-computer really an example of heroism? Does wearing a uniform make anyone a hero? Does wearing a uniform give the moral or legal right to kill unarmed civilians? Really, how can ‘heroism’ are defined. Heroism is the willingness to stand alone in opposition to evil and injustice.

When I think about heroes, I always think about my friend, Elliott Adams from Sharon Springs, NY. During the 60s, Adams volunteered for the Army. He fought in Vietnam. He was a paratrooper. He was wounded. After hospitalization, he was redeployed to Korea, and then Alaska.

All of those things might make Adams seem like a hero to most people, but that is not why I think of him as a hero. Adams is a former president of Veterans for Peace, but that also is not why he is a hero to me. More than almost anyone I have known, Adams has totally dedicated his life, since being discharged from the military, to working for global peace. He has gone to Gaza with Physicians for Social Responsibility. More recently Adams has been at the forefront of the protests against the use of drones at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, NY. Adams was arrested while participating in peaceful protest. He, along with others, was Tried and found guilty.

Below is Adams’ Sentencing Speech as he delivered it to the Judge. It is one of the most articulate anti-war statements ever heard in a US Court.

 “I appreciate the bench’s effort to understand the arguments made – arguments involving local law, international law and, even the principles of civil disobedience.

 My experience in war has taught me that in life we periodically get tested to see if we can stand up to the pressures of “socially acceptable procedural norms” which push us to work within the little laws, and instead comply with the requirements of International Humanitarian Law. I cannot condemn others when they fail that test for I have failed it myself. But those who do fail it are condemned to live with the horrendous cost society pays for their failure. I believe this court failed that test. The court may not have felt an unavoidable compulsion to comply with International Humanitarian Law, but it certainly was given the justifications it could have used to stand up and comply with International Humanitarian Law. But being here in DeWitt near an epicenter of war crimes couched in the humdrum of civilian life, the bench may find it is tested again … and again.

 I believe that my co-defendants and I did what is right morally, but more relevant to this court, what is required by the law, the big law, the law that deals with thousands of lives, not the little law that deals with disorderly conduct. If the court had chosen to decide on the big law, it would have found us innocent. But since the court chooses to rule on the little law, the law about orderly conduct, then it must not only find me guilty but guilty to the fullest extent, with no mitigation.

 As the court stated there will always be consequences for pursuing justice through “changes made by actions outside the socially acceptable procedural norms.” Among other life experiences I have over 15 years in local elected public office and it became apparent to me that abiding by the “socially acceptable procedural norms” can only lead to more of the same injustice, indeed those norms are there to prop up those injustices.

I am proud to accept the consequences of my acts and any jail time. I do not want any suspended sentence. If you give me one, also please let me know how I can violate it before I leave the courtroom. I do not have money to pay a court; I spend what little money this old man has trying to bring about justice. My community service has been doing the duty that the courts shrink from – calling attention to war crimes and trying to stop war crimes. Standing in this court is a community service; it is the little I can do for society."

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