March on the Pentagon Rages Against the War Machine, by Emma Fiala

In our short existence, it has been a priority of March on the Pentagon to effectively communicate that we are also against the bipartisan war machine and all of the war, all of the imperialism, and all of the ways each and every one of us is affected. 

WAMM board members Carol Walker, Sarah Martin, WAMM Director Kristin Dooley, and WAMM Co-chair Emma at teach-in.

By Emma Fiala  Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) Newsletter  Volume 37  Number 6  Winter 2019-2020

It has been glaringly obvious for far too many years that organizing against war and the whole military-industrial complex and its support systems—in other words, “the war machine”—isn’t easy. At the same time, if one turns on the television or peeks at the week’s mainstream media headlines, protests related to issues like gun control, the climate, and migrants at the U.S. border attract tens of thousands of people and grab headlines. While it’s important to stand up for what we believe in (or against that which we don’t), missing from the media narrative is the issue of war, the single most important issue that we must stand up against.

Because what good is health care when we’re bombing each other to oblivion? And how will we pay for it when more than 50 percent of our country’s entire budget goes to the military? Likewise, how will we ever afford decent education? How will we invest in infrastructure? How can we possibly combat environmental destruction and receive justice for this planet when the military is the world’s largest institutional polluter and consumer of fossil fuels?

The various effects of war related to the federal budget and the environment are certainly within reach of our understanding, but the pure brutality of war should be enough to send us all pouring into the streets ¾ the deaths and the disturbing ways in which they occur, the ruined lives, the physical and mental damage to those who didn’t perish, the irreversible damage, the rapes, and more. Unfortunately, current mainstream popular protest movements did not address the evil of war.

The Women’s March on the Pentagon was born in early 2018 after Co-Director Cindy Sheehan inquired about the issue of war with the national Women’s March, the big, national, now worldwide protest movement.  Since the Women’s March wouldn’t address the issue of war, Sheehan decided to start the anti-imperialist group, Women’s March on the Pentagon, to address the issue of women and war, among other things. Sheehan has been renowned as an antiwar activist ever since her son Casey was killed in the Iraq War.

The Women’s March on the Pentagon was held in October of 2018 when around 2,000 of us marched from the Pentagon City Mall to the Pentagon itself. An invigorated crowd of protesters and a host of amazing speakers found ourselves in the middle of a vast empty parking lot in Washington, D.C., on a Saturday, out of view of all but the Pentagon police tasked with watching us through binoculars from afar.

This year we decided to do things a little differently. This year’s event, which we named “Rage Against the War Machine,” manifested out of our extreme outrage for the marginalization of antiwar voices. The peace movement has been preaching and practicing peace for decades and while acknowledging that this is indeed important, a pro-peace movement alone doesn’t do justice to the outrage we feel about the heinous acts committed by our government across the world in our names and with our tax dollars. (It should be noted that, to be inclusive, we dropped “Women’s” from our movement’s name.)

In our short existence, it has been a priority of March on the Pentagon to effectively communicate that we are also against the bipartisan war machine and all of the war, all of the imperialism, and all of the ways each and every one of us is affected. And so, on October 11th, Rage Against the War Machine led the March on the Pentagon through the streets of Washington on a Friday afternoon, so that this time we were visible to passersby and employees of the various targets that we stopped by related to the war machine.

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The march began at 11:00 a.m. at the White House where, as a group, we raged against the Republicans and the Commander in Chief. It is here where our audience who joined via livestream assumed we were liberals, simply expressing outrage at the President, when in fact we were raging against only one half of the corrupt war machine government. We were just getting started.

While at the White House we spoke of past and current ills of the executive branch. Acting as March on the Pentagon co-director and Women Against Military Madness board member, I read an open letter addressed to President Donald Trump in response to his recent anti-war statements. I said: “We take what you say with a grain of salt and will continue to do so until your actions back up your words, because, historically speaking, presidents so rarely back up their words with their deeds.” (Ironically, the previous day Donald Trump traveled to the Twin Cities, where he was met with thousands of unhappy Minnesotans who filled the streets surrounding Target Center, the downtown Minneapolis venue where he spoke.)

Then Rage Against the War Machine moved through the streets of Washington to the nearby International Monetary Fund (IMF) office. The IMF is responsible for causing economic instability the world over, often in preparation for U.S. regime change efforts. The IMF effectively holds countries hostage in exchange for loans and also facilitates contracts that benefit U.S. corporations in these countries.

Standing on a bench in front of the IMF, March on the Pentagon Co-Director Cindy Sheehan spoke of the anti-IMF uprising in Ecuador. Sheehan then introduced Judy Bello of the United Anti-War Coalition, who spoke of the sanctions currently harming citizens of 21 countries around the world right now. “When people think about war, they usually think about the military…. The U.S. is conducting another type of war that is equally devastating, an economic war against most of the developing countries of the world.”

Dakotah Lilly, student activist and Rage Against the War Machine planning committee member, spoke of the international oligarchy, of which the IMF is a part. Lilly spoke of the devastating effects of the U.S. embargo and sanctions on Venezuela, a country he has visited numerous times.

We again took to the streets as we marched to Farragut Square, to rage against the other half of the government war machine, the Democratic Party. The park is frequently passed by lobbyists whose offices are nearby. Here Sheehan spoke of promises that were never kept, including when Nancy Pelosi once told Sheehan that if Sheehan were to help elect her, Pelosi would help end war. As a result of this broken promise, Sheehan eventually left the party. Sheehan explained, “I left the Democrats in 2007 because they refused to end the wars. They told me: ‘If you help us get elected, we’ll help you end the war.’ … They betray every movement, they are the death of movements.”

Activist Diane Moxley of New Jersey spoke to the group from the base of the statue of Admiral David G. Farragut, a 19th century naval commander. Moxley spoke of the need to fight back against the war machine. “What we all need to be doing right now is raging against the war machine and the military-industrial complex. They commit atrocities around the globe in our name and for no other reason than the big profits of their corporate donors and the wealthy elite. What we have going on right now has nothing to do with our security. It is about greed.”

Upon arriving at the Atlantic Council, a think tank with connections to NATO and the Department of Defense that is staffed by former government and military officials, Jan Weinberg spoke. He is the founder of Show Up America, an organization that promotes civic engagement, and the author of the book Violence Incorporated, which addresses the influence of the military-industrial complex on public policy and the trade agreements. He spoke of the Atlantic Council meeting he attended the previous day and about who it is that makes up the think tank’s ranks.

Emma Fiala and children rage against war in Washington, D.C

I spoke of the massive Facebook purge of independent media and anti-war voices that occurred exactly one year prior to Rage Against the War Machine, and the fact that the Atlantic Council partnered with Facebook prior to this purge of 800 pages and people. “They gave them no warning. They gave them no explanation. They gave them no opportunity to get their pages back, and some of these pages had millions of followers,” I explained.

Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former State Department foreign-service official who is an antiwar activist with Veterans for Peace, spoke about information technology company Booz Allen Hamilton, and other war profiteers. Wright explained that Booz Allen Hamilton “prides itself on having the greatest collection of intelligence in the whole world. Now, I thought that was the NSA. Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the parts of the NSA.” Wright informed the crowd that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had been employed by Booz Allen Hamilton.  She also explained that the company has contracts with United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two countries currently wreaking havoc on Yemen.

Our final stop took us to the doors of the Washington Post, purchased in 2013 by Seattle billionaire Jeff Bezos, who owns both Amazon and Whole Foods, and has million-dollar contracts with the CIA.* Here, activist-writers Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance spoke of the lies told by corporate media that manufacture consent for war. They also spoke of the need for independent media to counter these narratives.

Marchers then engaged in a die-in on the sidewalk in front of the Washington Post, where protesters lay on the ground and chalk outlines were drawn around their bodies It was during this time that others among us were able to take the microphone to add their words of outrage against the war machine.

The following day, we held a teach-in at St. Stephen’s Church (full name: St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church) in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. Various panels of activists presented information to encourage attendees and spur conversations about how we can act against the war machine’s imperialism, which is causing so much suffering around the world. Information and statistics were provided about the many effects on people of color both within the borders of the U.S. and beyond our borders, harm perpetrated by sanctions and in other ways. This information provided us with tools to use and much more for when we returned home.

The first panel of the teach-in included members of Women Against Military Madness’ (WAMM’s) board of directors who spoke on the history and successes of their organization. Audience members had the opportunity to speak of their own local organizing experiences and ask questions of the WAMM members.

The panels that followed included speakers and moderators such as Dakotah Lilly; Ann Wright; Medea Benjamin, Teri Mattson, and Paki Wieland of Code Pink; political commentator-comedian Lee Camp of the program Redacted Tonight; activist journalist Eugene Puryear; Lisa Davis, vice chair of the Black is Back Coalition; Native American environmentalist Gray Michael Parsons; New Jersey peace activist Madelyn Hoffman; Don DeBar of Community Progressive Radio (CPR) in Spokane, Washington; and others, including musical guests. Cindy Sheehan provided a short keynote, speaking of the 18th anniversary of the war on Afghanistan.

March on the Pentagon plans to continue holding an annual anti-imperialism event every October and will be working to encourage additional action between now and then.

Livestreams of the march and each panel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpqjupEanQWGgH1zxRImEAw

Emma Fiala is the co-director of Rage Against the War Machine and a Women Against Military Madness board member.

* “CIA long relied exclusively on Amazon for its cloud computing.” Washington Post. Apr 2, 2019. tinyurl.com/y4d4doda Also note: “Amazon has been selling its cloud services to the CIA, the Army, and the Homeland Security Department. The billionaire’s rocket company, Blue Origin, is vying for Air Force space launch contracts.” from “Amazon’s Bezos Hits Silicon Valley for Not Working with the Pentagon, Defense One, Dec.7, 2019. tinyurl.com/rge9z2x
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Emma Fiala and children rage against war in Washington, D.C

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