Friday, June 20, 2008

Paper Over Iraq

In Burlington, Vermont, a project of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is using the art of paper-making to transform military uniforms into books and art paper as mediums for words and images.

See more about this creative project, Combat Paper at the site of the Green Door Studio. Here's their introduction to the project:

About Combat Paper

The story of the soldier, the Marine, the men and the women and the journeys within the military service in a time of war is our basis for the project. This is a collaborative project initiated by Drew Matott and Drew Cameron along with members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Utilizing uniforms worn in combat in Iraq, veterans cut, cook, beat and form sheets of paper out of their uniforms. In this way, veterans are able to use the transformation processes of papermaking to reclaim their uniform as art and begin to reconcile their experiences as a soldier in Iraq.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Essay contest!

This fall in Austin, a group from the Austin Mennonite Church is sponsoring a National Assembly to Honor Freedom of Conscience, scheduled for October 3 -5 to be held at the Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Austin. Keynote speaker will be Walter Wink, noted author and theologian.

As part of the goings-on, the group has issued a call for essays from high school students on the theme of Why freedom of conscience is important to me.

Here's the criteria:

All high school students and those recently graduated are invited and encouraged to participate. Submissions will be accepted from any part of the world.

Essays must be a maximum length of 800 words, typed and double-spaced on white paper with black print. Essays must be postmarked on or before September 8, 2008.

Cash prizes! Prizes will be distributed whenever the essays are read during the assembly, or mailed to the authors if they are unable to attend the event.

All essays submitted become the possession of the assembly working group who will work for their publication in various media outlets along with the authors' credits.

Mail entries to:

Essay Contest, National Assembly
Austin Mennonite Church
5801 Westminster Drive
Austin, TX 78723

for more info:

National Assembly to Honor Freedom of Conscience

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Education Not Arms Coalition going strong

Rick Jahnkow of the Project on Youth and Nonmilitary Opportunities (Project YANO) and the Education Not Arms Coalition in San Diego sends this update on their campaign challenging the JROTC programs in area high schools:

With support from parents, teachers and community activists, students have been waging the campaign at their own schools and repeatedly attending school board meetings to testify and protest. Above is a photo taken June 10, at the last school board meeting before summer break. Students who spoke to the board promised that they would continue to come back until the district changed its policies.

As a result of petition gathering (2000 signatures), these protests, and growing media coverage, in May the school district ordered its personnel to stop talking to the media about the JROTC controversy. It also launched an investigation into the claims of involuntary placement of students in military science courses. The district's new school superintendent has recently stated publicly that he personally opposes gun ranges in schools, and he's promised that involuntary enrollment in JROTC will not be tolerated.

The Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC) will continue organizing until we see what concrete action the district takes in response to our demands.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

United Nations Committee calls on US military recruiters to stop targeting kids under 18

From a press release sent June 6, 2008 by the American Civil Liberties Union:

GENEVA – A United Nations committee of human rights experts today issued a strongly worded critique of the United States' record on the detention and treatment of youth in U.S. military custody abroad. The committee also urged the U.S. to make sweeping policy changes regarding domestic military recruitment practices that target juveniles. The committee reviewed reports and testimony from the U.S. government as well as "shadow reports" by the American Civil Liberties Union and other non-governmental organizations before issuing the report.
"The Committee on the Rights of the Child has created a blueprint for changing the U.S.'s practices on detention of suspected child soldiers abroad and military recruitment of children here at home," said Jennifer Turner of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The committee's strong critique of U.S. policies — especially those that depart from accepted international practice and standards — are deeply troubling, and the world will be watching whether the U.S. government swiftly implements the U.N.'s recommendations."
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child oversees compliance with the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which the U.S. ratified in 2002. The protocol mandates countries to protect children under 18 from unlawful military recruitment tactics and guarantees basic protections to former child soldiers.
The committee called on the U.S. to institute much-needed policies for dealing with juveniles in U.S. military custody, including nearly 2,500 juveniles under the age of 18 that have been held in Guantánamo Bay and other U.S.-run facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan to date.
The committee also called on the U.S. to end domestic military recruitment practices that target juveniles under 17 and to protect youth under 18 from recruitment practices such as false promises and coercion by military recruiters. According to an ACLU report submitted to the CRC in May, the U.S. military regularly targets children under 17 for recruitment through a heavy presence on high school campuses, military training corps, military aptitude tests, and a database that includes information on 16-year-olds for recruitment purposes. The committee also condemned the U.S. military's practice of targeting students of color and low-income youth for military recruitment.
Finally, the committee criticized the U.S. practice of denying asylum or refugee status to foreign former child soldiers under immigration provisions intended to bar those who victimized them. Some former child soldiers who were the victims of serious human rights abuses and cannot return to their home countries are being denied protection in the U.S. because they are deemed "persecutors of others," even though they may have been forced to fight in a government army or militia.
"The message from the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child leaves no doubt that U.S. policies and practices violate universal and treaty obligations aimed at protecting children from abusive recruitment tactics and alleged foreign child soldiers from mistreatment and unlawful incarceration," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "To claim the high moral ground and assert leadership on the issue of human rights, the U.S. must take vigorous action to bring its current conduct in line with the committee's recommendations."

Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child to improve protection for children's rights.

The full report of the U.N. CRC is available online at:
The ACLU report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child is at:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Weapons in schools?

The Education Not Arms Coalition consisting of students, parents and concerned community members continues its challenge of the JROTC programs in San Diego area high schools. A June 4 article from the San Diego Reader, A cool elective you can't get out of, explains the concerns of the coalition:
"The Education Not Arms Coalition has rallied behind three points in its opposition to the military science program.

The coalition's first concern is marksmanship training on public school grounds. Each JROTC program represents a branch of the armed forces. In San Diego Unified schools, 7 of the 13 programs are Army, 3 are Navy, 2 are Air Force, and 1 is Marines. Every program has a rifle range except for the two Air Force programs, at Scripps Ranch High and Mira Mesa High (at Crawford the range is not in use). The rifle ranges typically are in an old classroom where students, supervised by instructors, practice shooting .17-caliber air rifles at targets. Jack Brandais of the district's Media Relations Department explains, “This is a controlled, very specific type of program. At one time it was a CIF [California Interscholastic Federation] sport. It's still an NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] sport and an Olympic sport, so it's taught under very tight control, in tight conditions, in a specific area of the campuses.”

Lincoln High School's Ochoa says his students questioned the mixed message the school was sending. “We teach our kids to think critically,” Ochoa says, “so as soon as my kids became conscious about a gun range on campus and other students being trained to shoot weapons, they started asking questions about the zero-tolerance policy. Since day one at this school, they've been told about there being no exception to having any weapons on campus, so they started making petitions and getting signatures from other students and staff members.”

Cristabel A., who graduated from San Diego High last year, was a member of the school's Army JROTC marksmanship team. In 2007, the team won the California Junior Olympics. She recalls the experience of being on a shooting team. “For one thing, it is the one sport that needs the most teamwork,” she says. “It takes a team to win. It helps with concentration, good health, and dedication. It teaches a group of people how to be a team. Through that, the team becomes family, like my team did.”

The second concern of the Education Not Arms Coalition is that students are being placed in JROTC who have not chosen it as an elective. Once they are enrolled, it is difficult for them to transfer out. The allegations come despite a districtwide policy requiring that parents provide written consent to their child's enrollment in the class. The instructors pass out the consent forms at the beginning of the term. However, the program's own manager, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Janus, has reported missing forms at some schools.

Barajas, the Mission Bay High student, is aware of several classmates who had a difficult time transferring out of the class. “During the few weeks that I was in the class, some kids signed up because they thought it was going to be an easy class,” she says, “and there were others who were just placed in it without them knowing what it was. Another boy said that he was in there even though he didn't want to be, so he told the instructor, and the instructor just told him that he was going to have to figure it out.”

However, according to Brandais, the district's media representative, the school district has not received any formal complaints concerning students in the program who do not want to be there. “We require all of our students to return a consent form for the class,” he says. “Our assistant superintendent has never received an appeal call from a parent about their child in Junior ROTC. Now, if the parent wants their child to be in the program, but the student doesn't want to be there, then that's a matter the student must resolve with the parent.”

Jorge Mariscal, professor of literature at UCSD and a Vietnam War veteran, feels that it is a common occurrence for students who have not chosen the elective to be placed in the class. “The most troubling development in some Los Angeles and San Diego schools is the placement of students in JROTC programs without student or parent consent,” he says. “This is an infringement on students' rights, and any school official that condones this practice should be reprimanded.”

The coalition's final objection to the military science program stems from allegations that JROTC instructors are recruiting cadets by stating that the course meets college eligibility requirements. Jahnkow, of Project YANO, says, “Even those who choose to go into the program are often doing it based on misinformation given to them to hype the program and make them believe that it provides benefits it really doesn't. Specifically, students have been told this will help them qualify for college, when, in fact, the credits that students get for this elective aren't even counted by colleges, and the grades aren't even counted for eligibility for financial aid.”'
The entire article, along with other news and information about the coalition, can be found at the Project YANO website
photo above by Rick Jahnkow of Project YANO