OCC’s Email Newsletter

email-iconThis is the first issue of a newsletter that will be going out occasionally to our email list. If you would like to receive it by email, please visit the subscribe page. Or you will also be able to read each issue on the public archive for the newsletter at http://groups.google.com/group/occ-news, and that page also offers other ways to subscribe, via different feed options.

Welcome to the first issue of the new OCC newsletter. We hope you find it interesting and useful. It will come out about once or twice a month, more frequent only for special circumstances or important breaking news about our work. We know you are busy and have an already overflowing inbox.

Please let us know what you think. If you would like to unsubscribe, or would like us to invite someone to receive it, more info and links are at the end of this email, or at the list homepage http://centerforconscience.org/mailman/listinfo/occnews_centerforconscience.org.

We are going to be making the old Yahoo Group into a more general discussion list for those who choose to participate in a conversation about Oklahoma peacemaking, GI Rights work, alternatives to militarism and the like. You can join by sending an email to okobjector-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or, you can visit the web page for that group, groups.yahoo.com/group/okobjector, where you can unsubscribe or update your membership (such as to a less-frequent mailing).

Action alert!
We need motivated, energetic folks to help with our alternatives to military service project. There are roles to play in front and behind the scenes. See below under events.

OCC activities

Rethink Afghanistan film
Our screening on 10/14 was the Oklahoma premiere of this important and timely documentary. We had a gread discussion afterward, and signed a petition “Demand Civilian Solutions for Afghanistan” which the producer provided. You can sign and learn more at rethinkafghanistan.org.

The DVD was added to OCC’s library, and is available for local screenings. If you want to order your own copy, they are $25 and if you order through OCC, we get $5 from the film company.

Web sites redesigned
Rena has remodeled our online presence with new designs for centerforconscience.org and okgirightshotline.org. Check them out!

Article published
Moses Mast wrote a wonderful article explaining our GI Rights work, and it has been published in the latest issue of the Peace Strategy News, the newspaper of the Oklahoma City Peace House www.peacehouseok.org. It’s also posted on our web site, www.centerforconscience.org.

We continue to operate the Oklahoma GI Rights Hotline, and coordinate associated servicemember legal support, which is our largest expense. If you are moved to help with this project, our mailing address is below, or you can check our web site, where you can donate with a credit card.

Upcoming OCC events:

Help our youth find “Work Without War”
We’re having a hastily called meeting on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 1pm at Joy Mennonite Church to do some counter-recruitment planning. Please join us if you can, or email us with your interest in future meetings of this project. We will be doing outreach not just in schools, but at public events, and at recruiting stations.

November Business Meeting
We’re rescheduled the November meeting from the usual first Sunday to the second Sunday of the month instead. So join us on Nov. 8 at 1pm at Joy Mennonite Church, 504 NE 16th. Among other things, we’ll have a report from our GI Rights hotline attorney, James Branum, on the recent National Lawyers Guild conference, where he was one of the presenters of the workshop on courts-martial.

2009 Fall Peace Festival
We will again be at the Fall Peace Festival sponsored by the Peace House. Please stop by our table and say hi. We are hoping to have a place for folks to sign holday cards and write letters to GI resisters who are serving sentences for their refusal to fight an illegal immoral war. If you would like to help with the table, contact Rena at 405.615.2700.

Other news of interest:

The Honest Recruiter
New updated edition of Sgt. Abe, the Honest Recruiter is now available.This is THE essential counter-recruitment tool, so make some copies and have them handy for distribution to anyone thinking of joining the military, or of recruitable age. They should make the decision with ALL the facts, and not the selected spin given by recruiters. The site also has the handout in Spanish, as well as a video.

Obama’s War
PBS did outstanding work with its Frontline documentary Bush’s War. Now they reexamine the subject with Obama in the White House. It has prompted a lot of discussion as to whether it’s too soon to criticize the new president for the problems he inherited, or whether the anti-war movement is being too lenient on the new commander in chief when he is continuing, or expanding, Bush’s militaristic policies. What do you think? Watch the film at the link below and let us know.

The sound of peace
Speaking of PBS, did you catch the wonderful profile of lifetime pacifist Joan Baez on PBS earlier this month, part of their American Masters series. If not, don’t worry, you can watch online until Dec. 10.

Recommended reading:

Cyber Resistance by Dahr Jamail
Technology has enabled alternative voices to penetrate the wall of silence around soldiers and war.

Multiple Deployments May Raise Risk of Military Spouse Suicide by Stacy Bannerman

We also recommend the following books:
The Will to Resist by Dahr Jamail
Rules of Disengagement by Marjorie Cohn and Kathleen Gilberd

On Facebook?

Become a fan of OCC’s page:

Oklahoma Center for Consciencecenterforconscience.org
Donations are tax deductible. Mail to OCC, 504 NE 16th, OKC 73104

Moses Mast on the Critical Work of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience

This is an article written by OCC founding member Moses Mast. In various forms it will appear in the Joy Mennonite Church newsletter and in the Oklahoma Peace House newspaper, Peace Strategy News.

It has a good overview of our Oklahoma GI Rights Hotline project.

Oklahoma Center for Conscience was started with two concerns: First, to assist soldiers who no longer wish to serve in the military, with special attention to those who want out for conscience sake. Second, to counsel youth before they enlist about the realities of war, and options for those who have enlisted but later regretted it. There is great need for this counsel because at their most vulnerable age our youth are enticed with promises that do not have to be kept, and deceived with no sense of accountability to provide them the whole truth. Our country spends millions to snare our youth in this manner, making our military not a true volunteer force.
OCC was formed by groups and individuals from the peace community in Oklahoma City. Joy Mennonite Church serves as the host church, with support from members of Catholic Peace Fellowship, Veterans for Peace, and Quakers of OKC. Later, Eastern Oklahoma Pax Christi in Tulsa added their endorsement.

These are all small groups, only able to provide very modest monetary support. We raise funds from those in our community who support our mission, and that brings me to the purpose of this message: seeking your help.

What any donor wants to know is: How will the money be used? Let me explain where bulk of our budget goes.

We have lay counselors trained in military law answering calls to our Oklahoma G I Rights Hotline. Someone trained in psychology does evaluations that help in court cases. All these serve as volunteers.

Our greatest expense is providing legal services, and this is our most urgent need for assistance. James M. Branum, our attorney on staff, is helping as many as 40 clients at any one time. His work also requires lots of travel, as court cases are at the client’s home base. James charges a modest fee for those who can pay. Sometimes parents pay for legal counsel. There have also been other organizations that have paid for legal counsel. This still leaves a good number who cannot pay. To cover these cases, OCC pays James $400 a month.

If you observe James at work, besides being skilled in military law James is able to speak about the moral issue of war without imposing his beliefs on another.

Most of those who ask for our assistance have not formed a conscience about violence and war. They are more often troubled people who cannot adjust to military discipline. Our policy is to address the concern they bring to us. Often we can do no more then explain what to expect from certain decisions. We have, however, had some very rewarding experiences that have cheered us on the way.

* Camilo Mejia, after serving a tour of duty in Iraq, was troubled with his experience and took a stand as a conscientious objector. For this he was incarcerated in the military prison in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. After his release we provided lodging for him and his family the first night. Later Camillo returned to Oklahoma to participate in forming an Oklahoma chapter of Catholic Peace Fellowship

* Jake Malloy, a sincere young Christian man, wanting to do the right thing as he was taught and understood, enlisted in the military to defend our freedom and way of life. Jake was sent for training to Ft. Sill, OK. During training Jake realized he was being trained to kill.; as a follower of Jesus he realized he could not do this. When he refused to train he was severely threatened, but Jake remained firm. His application for conscientious objector status was refused. Our attorney helped him with an appeal, and Jake was granted a less than honorable discharge. Later Jake returned to Oklahoma with his wife and child, his parents and grandparents, and at Joy Mennonite we had a service of celebration.

* Daniel Sandate served a tour in Iraq but after a short leave in the states, did not return to duty but fled to Canada to escape the war. Daniel was one of the first ones deported from Canada. Attorney James Branum represented Daniel in his trial. Daniel served his sentence at Ft. Sill. After his release from prison, because he had no family or place to go, we invited him to come to Oklahoma City to have some time to adjust to life again. Daniel has since become active in Joy Mennonite Church and in the community and has been a delight to be with.

In addition to these examples, James, as our attorney, has represented others who took the stand as conscientious objectors. He reports an increase of those who oppose war as conscientious objectors.

We have spoken to university and high school classes. We have literature tables at peace events and at places where youth gather. We have spent hundreds of dollars for literature and anticipate our expense for literature will increase.

If you would like to participate with us in this work you can contact us via email: mosesmast@gmail.com. Or you can mail us: Moses Mast, 4708 Outpost Dr., Spencer, OK 73084. If you wish to write a check, make it out to “Joy Mennonite Church“ and earmark is for “OCC.”
Thank you for your prayers and support. We wish all of you well in your efforts to bring peace to the world.

OCC to screen Rethink Afghanistan on 10/14

Rethink Afghanistan filmJoin us for the Oklahoma City premiere of Robert Greenwald’s newest film, Rethink Afghanistan. OCC will host the film on Wednesday October 14 at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public. Because seating is limited, RSVP is requested.

The screening will take place at Joy Mennonite Church, 504 NE 16th Street. The church is is a large house on the corner of 16th and Lincoln. On street parking is limited, so please carpool if possible.

Greenwald, who also created the films Uncovered: The War on Iraq and Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, is using his Brave New Foundation as a vehicle for making the film part of an advocacy effort for initiating a citizen’s campaign to bring a new approach to the country where the U.S. has been at war for eight years.

Trailers and large parts of the film are available online. Here’s a segment that discusses how the war could further destabilize a nuclear-armed Pakistan:

Update: Here’s a pdf flyer promoting the event. Download, print and share freely.

Rethink Afghanistan OKC screening flyer

Update 2: The film is part of an advocacy campaign to get political leaders to heed the desires of the majority of Americans to pull out troops out of Afghanistan. To this end, BNF is distributing a petition (pdf) to Demand Civilian Solutions for Afghanistan. You can also sign online at rethinkafghanistan.com.

Update 3: When you buy a copy of Rethink Afghanistan through this link, OCC receives $5.

Teaching peace workshop kicks off counter-recruitment program

We are very excited to be hosting a workshop on teaching peace in Oklahoma public schools, and with that workshop kicking off a program to provide alternatives to the pro-war messages and limited options offered to young people by recruiters in schools, malls and just about everywhere they go these days.

Here’s the text of our invitational flyer: Continue reading Teaching peace workshop kicks off counter-recruitment program

Understanding and treating the hidden wounds of war

PTSD DVD cover

Documentary video explores the hidden wounds of war

Date: Wednesday, 7/21
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Joy Mennonite Church, 504 NE 16th, OKC

The Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Oklahoma GI Rights Hotline invite you to a screening of the film “PTSD: Invisible Wounds of War” on Tuesday, July 21 at 6:30 pm at Joy Mennonite Church in Oklahoma City. After the film, there will be a discussion led by Nathanial Batchelder, a medic in Vietnam and director of Oklahoma City Peace House, Phyllis Byerly, a retired psychologist, and James Branum, a lawyer specializing in military law and supervising attorney for the Oklahoma GI Rights Hotline. Continue reading Understanding and treating the hidden wounds of war

Workshop on Army AWOL regs and procedures for surrender and discharge

GI Rights: AWOL in the Army

Introductory training session for anyone seeking to help GIs know their legal options

Sunday, June 21, 4:30-6:30
Joy Mennonite Church, 504 NE 16th, OKC

A workshop entitled AWOL No More: (Relatively) Painless Processing Out of the Army will be offered on Sunday June 21 at 4:30 pm. The program will help volunteers learn about the regulations concerning AWOL soldiers and how to help them return to civilian life by turning themselves in and, when eligible, being processed through the Army’s PCF at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. The Ft. Sill facility is one of only two in the U.S. where “absent without leave” service members who meet certain requirements can surrender and be discharged.

Leading the workshop will be James M. Branum, an attorney with a private practice specializing in military law who has worked with hundreds of soldiers to facilitate their surrender to and separation from the Army. Branum is the supervising attorney with the Oklahoma GI Rights Hotline, serves on the board of the National Lawyers Guild’s Military Law Task Force and is a co-founder of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience. Continue reading Workshop on Army AWOL regs and procedures for surrender and discharge

Individual resistance, community power