SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Mar 21

Crimea and Punishment

By Randall Amster, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Russia's brazen annexation of Crimea presents a vexing foreign policy crisis for the Western powers. How can these actions be denounced without pointing a finger back upon their own forays and interventions? Indeed, President Putin said as much in his recent address in the Kremlin, chiding the West for its condemnations of Russia's actions and stating that "it's a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law -- better late than never." Putin reinforced this view by citing the "Kosovo precedent" -- which he takes as "a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country's central authorities."

Mar 21

Army Makes Case Against Enlisting

By David Swanson, War Is a Crime | News Analysis

Remarkably, the U.S. Army War College has published a report (PDF) that makes an overwhelming case against enlisting in the U.S. Army.  The report, called "Civilian Organizational Inhibitors to U.S. Army Recruiting and the Road Ahead," identifies counter-recruitment organizations that effectively discourage young people from joining the military. 

This is the highest honor the Army could give these groups, including Quaker House, the Mennonite Central Committee, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist.  Activists often disbelieve in the effectiveness of their own work until the government admits it explicitly.  Well, here is that admission.  And counter-recruitment activists really do seem to appreciate it.

Mar 20

Thanking Me for My Service

By William J Astore, The Contrary Perspective | Op-Ed

A visitor to my home today saw my retirement plaque, which marks my twenty years of service in the US Air Force. He immediately thanked me for my service to my country.

I appreciated his thanks because I took (and take) some pride in having served honorably in the military. But people who thank me make me uncomfortable. Why, you ask?

Because I believe it was an honor to serve my country. It was an honor to be entrusted by the people of our great land with their trust.

Mar 20

Obama's Drones Made Simple

By Dennis Trainor Jr, Acronym TV | Video Report

Before the 2012 election, Obama told John Stewart of The Daily Show: "One of the things we've got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president is reined in terms of some of the decisions that we're making."

In a development that will shock nobody, no such legal architecture has been put in place to "reign in" Obama or any future POTUS.

Mar 20

Hundreds of Tribal Representatives Join Huge Rally to Oppose Fracking

By Dan Bacher, The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center | Photo Essay
Hundreds of members of California Indian Nations and Tribes from throughout the country gathered with a crowd of over 4000 people at the State Capitol in Sacramento on March 15 to send a clear message to Governor Brown: ban fracking, an environmentally destructive oil extraction practice that pollutes groundwater, rivers and the oceans. 
The large Tribal contingent included members of the Miwok, Maidu, Winnemem Wintu, Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Ohlone, Pit River, Cahto, Round Valley, Pomo, Tule River and Chumash Nations and other Tribes from throughout the state, as well as members of the Dakota, Lakota Sioux, indigenous communities, native organizations and activists in the Idle No More Movement and Klamath Justice Coalitions. Many Tribal representatives emphasized the direct connection between fracking and the Shasta Dam raise and the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan, which will provide water for fracking.

March 18, 2014, Richmond, VA– A month before the 10-year anniversary of the Abu Ghraib torture photos, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel urged a federal appeals court to re-open a case brought by four Iraqi Abu Ghraib torture victims against private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. The men were subjected to electric shocks, sexual violence, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food, and water. U.S. military investigators concluded that several CACI interrogators directed U.S. soldiers (who were later court martialed) to commit "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of Abu Ghraib detainees in order to "soften" them up for interrogations.

Said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy, "U.S. courts must at last provide a remedy for the victims of torture at Abu Ghraib. CACI indisputably played a key role in those atrocities, and it is time for them to be held accountable. The lower court's ruling creates lawless spaces where corporations can commit torture and war crimes and then find safe haven in the United States. That's a ruling that should not stand."

With marijuana becoming legal in some states, the use of this substance is obviously going to increase, which is bound to have an impact on how certain laws are enforced. The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington has raised concerns over high driving and whether legalization will increase the number of stoned drivers. Also, there is the question of how police will now regulate driving while high and how officers will determine whether a driver is stoned or not. Since marijuana is no longer a prohibited substance, at least in a few states, driving under the influence of marijuana has to be regulated differently than it has been so far and a legal limit for marijuana intoxication will probably have to be determined.

Mar 19

The US Trojan Horse in Cyprus

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I listened to the ambassadors of the US and the United Kingdom denounce Russia's intervention in Crimea. I was astonished, but not surprised by their dishonest appeal to international law. They judged Russia with the fervor of missionaries who had, conveniently, forgotten their countries' blatant disrespect for human rights and international law when their ally, Turkey, invaded Cyprus in 1974.

In contrast to Russia, which, at least, has some legitimate reasons for "breaching" international law in Crimea – protecting the largely Russian population of Crimea from the illegal government of Kiev - Turkey invaded Cyprus as an aggressor. Turkish troops killed thousands of civilian Greeks and occupied forty percent of the island. And what did the US and the UK do? They facilitated the Turkish atrocity and prevented Greece from defending Cyprus.

Mar 19

Military and Congressional Leadership Failure

By Sarah L. Blum, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Thursday March 6, our US Senate, in a 55-45 vote margin, struck down the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) that would have taken reporting of sexual assault crimes out of the chain of command. Had that vote not been filibustered, women in the military would have seen passage of Senator Gillibrand's MJIA and for the first time in decades, militarywomen would have had an opportunity for justice. In spite of the many women veteran victims of sexual assault who poured out their stories to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, power and control of our militaryprevailed over justice.

The culture of abuse toward women in the military has been going on for decades - destroying the health, lives and careers of valuable women soldiers. We know there were 26,000 assaults in 2012 and only 238 of those resulted in any accountability to the perpetrators or the officers who protected them.

Mar 17

The (Abortion Providers) Holiday That Wasn't

By Fran Moreland Johns, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The day did indeed get some good coverage, including at least one excellent blog post noting the degree of vilification and abuse that providers suffer today. And it raised the hackles of a few on the right fringe: a blogger on Free Republic, for example, called it “the most disturbingholiday of the year,” – tossing in the opinion that abortion providers are “people who make lucrative piles of money for tearing babies apart.”

Not exactly. Abortion providers, many of whom work hard to keep services available to the mostly poor and voiceless women who are victims of today’s fringe politics, would be surprised to hear themselves described as making “lucrative piles of money.” What they do is in fact poorly compensated in dollars but richly rewarded by the gratitude of women who seek their services.