Below is my exact transcription of the testimony Joan Nicholson gave to Judge Canan following her arrest by Park’s Police in Washington during a peaceful VFP demonstration on the Iraq and Afghan wars.
Good afternoon Judge Canan,
I am thankful for this opportunity to testify as to why I found it necessary to participate in the peaceful veteran-led presence in front of the white house on March, 19th.
To me, it was above all, an affirmation of the sanctity of human life. I believe our nation’s war policy should be transformed into a policy based on respect for human life and adherence to international law. I further believe that it is not only a constitutional right to peaceably assemble for a redress of grievances, it is our moral responsibility to do so as long as we are physically able. I add this last, because my 77 years have made me more conscious of the passing of time and the need to use the time well.
Corporations prescribe and promote the war policy. They lobby Congress, and it gives nearly half of all Federal Funds to the military establishment to implement the policy.
Because of this, troops and contractors are stationed on bases around the world. During the past decade, 1.6 trillion dollars have paid for wars waged against two countries. The military and CIA are active in an undisclosed number of other countries. Weapons manufacturers are able to develop advanced systems for perpetual warfare.
This is what brought me to witness in front of the White House where the final war policy decisions are made.
Justification given for the war policy? The need to protect this nation from terrorists. Corporate-controlled media lies, distorts and distracts, and it conceals OUR governments war of terror. This has been a further reason for me to try to witness and do it publicly.
The war policy may seem abstract until we consider its effect upon people such as those in Afghanistan, where we have waged a 10-year war. The main instruments of terror and murder are ground raids, helicopter gunships and predator drones. There are on my heart and mind every day.
Ground raids are carried out each night. Doors smashed in by soldiers wielding assault rifles, small children cowering while men and older boys are wrist-tied, hooded, interrogated. Occasionally at the outset, men, women, and children have been shot. Many of the people who are kidnapped are never heard from again. Most of the prisoners are held without charges. Torture has been routine. The construction at Bagram prison will more than double it’s capacity.
The helicopters may target anything that moves. On the first day of the month it which our witness was halted, ten young boys were attacked as they searched for firewood for their families. 11-year-old Hemad was wounded. Sheltered by fallen branches, he watched as the other boys were murdered. Later, an uncle reported, “Finally, we found the dead bodies. Some of the dead bodies were really chopped up by the rockets. The head of a child was missing. Others were missing limbs. We tried to find the body parts and put them together.” During the preceding and following weeks, 46 other children were reported to have been murdered in the same way.
The use of deadly unmanned drones with guided missiles has proliferated in recent years. They are regularly launched from the United States and other sites to attack people in the tribal regions. The Afghans do not know when or where the missiles will strike. They do know there is no protection and that even wedding parties have been attacked, leaving all the celebrants dead or injured.
These unspeakable crimes against humanity were by themselves enough to compel me to join the veterans and others in front of the White House on March 19th.
Why this effort to “stabilize” Afghanistan? It is a strategic location vis a vis other countries in the region. It has extensive natural gas reserves and has long been regarded as being a crossroads for lucrative gas and oil pipeline routes. There are huge mineral deposits including iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and lithium estimated to be worth between 1 and 3 trillion dollars. An internal Pentagon memo has stated that lithium, a critical industrial metal, could be for Afghanistan what oil is for Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon is using geologists to locate the minerals.
Peaceful efforts to effect change often seem to be futile gestures, but I believe we must never give up hope that our nation’s war policy can be radically transformed. We must continue to believe that the President and other government officials will realize there is broad public support for them to disengage from the corporate stronghold. Only when that happens will our nation begin to follow a path that will benefit humankind and save our shared planet, earth.