New monthly action meeting – 3rd Sunday of June and July

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eff_bloggers2

We’re very excited about this change in our schedule: We are going to have monthly meetings for some hands-on activities that serve to help end war, promote and enhance GI Rights, counter military recruitment and engage other peace work. The meeting will be on the third Sunday of June and July at 3 pm at Joy Mennonite Church. We’ll see how that time works out and may change later to meet the schedules of participants.

Some of the things we’ll be doing, and ask you to help us with, are:

  • letter-writing
  • poster/banner making
  • literature prep (folding, stapling, and the like)
  • newsletter production
  • website posts and Facebook sharing
  • library management (books, videos)

We’ll play some of our great peace-themed DVDs, or some music. There will be refreshments, laughter, camaraderie, probably a moderate level of mayhem and undoubtedly some fun. If you have any questions or ideas for these meetings, please let us know. Please join us if you can and share this info with others.

The People’s Journey tour to stop in OKC for talk about Iraq War

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Josh Stieber, Iraq War vet, peace activist

Josh Stieber, Iraq War vet, peace activistU.S. Iraq War vet and Iraqi journalist to share their experiences and mission for peace

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Center for Conscience is pleased to announce that our community will host a nationwide speaking tour on the Iraq War, named “The People’s Journey,” whose speakers come from diverse backgrounds, each having firsthand accounts of war and moving stories of how they came to actively work towards a more peaceful world.

The stop in OKC will feature two of the tour participants: Salam Talib, an Iraqi journalist and refugee, and Josh Steiber. Steiber is a former member of Bravo Company 2-16, the military unit involved in the 2007 helicopter shooting of Iraqi civilians that killed twelve people, including two Reuters employees, as seen on the military video released by WikiLeaks. Stieber has recently been speaking to international media about his former company’s role in the “collateral murder” tape and the letter of reconciliation that followed, www.lettertoiraq.com

According to Steiber, the idea for this trek evolved from two other odysseys: a trip he completed last year called “The Contagious Love Experiment,” and the “Our Journey To Smile” – an effort by Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) to connect with other peace seekers around the world.

“We’ve been blessed,” Steiber said, “to have inspiring people from all over the world come together for this journey that will help to spark examination as to what we support as a country and who we are as fellow humans, no matter where we come from.”

The public is invited to attend and learn more about the war’s impact on civilians in Iraq and their desire for peace and prosperity, as well as ways that Americans can assist them recover from their long suffering and struggle.

The talk will take place at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, June 8 and is sponsored by OCC and Mayflower UCC Church, where the event will be held in Milligan Hall. Mayflower is located at 3901 Northwest 63rd Street.  The event is free and refreshments will be served.

MORE INFORMATION:

OCC:  centerforconscience.org | 405-236-4938 ext 2

Mayflower UCC: mayflowerucc.org | Map

The People’s Journey: thepeoplesjourney.org/

WikiLeaks video of the massacre in Baghdad: http://www.democracynow.org/tags/wikileaks_collateral_murder_video

Afghan Youth Peace volunteers: http://www.ourjourneytosmile.com/

FLYERS

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OCC creates special fund to assist Travis Bishop’s appellate defense

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Photo of Travis Bishop by Eric Thompson

Travis Bishop Appellate Defense Fund

Photo of Travis Bishop by Eric ThompsonWHO IS TRAVIS BISHOP: Travis Bishop was a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas. On a deployment to Iraq, he began to question the morality of the war in the context of his Christian faith. Upon return, he settled back into normal Army life but this was disrupted by news of a second deployment, this time to Afghanistan. Like many soldiers, he did not know he had any options besides deploying, so he experienced serious anxiety and doubts about what he should do.

A few days before his scheduled deployment, Travis heard about his right to file for conscientious objector status as an active duty soldier. This news was too late though, so on the day of his deployment Travis left Fort Hood without authorization. He stayed away for about one week so he could seek legal counsel and prepare his conscientious objector claim. It was at this point that Travis contacted OCC’s supervising attorney, James M. Branum.

Upon return to Ft. Hood, Travis was prosecuted for multiple crimes (missing movement, AWOL and disobeying an order). Travis could have gotten an easier sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, but he instead decided to plead not guilty and demand his day in court. He did this because he wanted to press a creative legal argument at trial and on appeals, namely that the Army’s failure to inform him of his right to file for C.O. status, effectively deprived him of his right to seek C.O. status; also that a soldier who was effectively deprived of their right to file for C.O. status should have a defense to missing movement if their conscience compels them to go AWOL.

Travis was convicted at trial and received a sentence of 12 months in prison and a bad conduct discharge. While in custody at the brig at Fort Lewis, WA, and was subsequently declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. This resulted in more than 500 people from around the world writing to Travis’ commanding general asking for clemency, and in the end a successful RCM 1105 clemency action, which knocked three months off of Travis’ sentence.

Now that the clemency process is complete, Bishop and Branum are free to pursue appeals of the conviction itself.

WHY APPEAL? While Travis will soon be out of jail (likely in late March), the appeals are not moot. According to James, Travis hopes to achieve two things by appealing his conviction:

1. We hope that the appellate courts will recognize an extension of the Miranda decision, effectively making the argument that if a soldier is not told they can file for C.O. status, that the soldier has been denied that right. We also hope the courts will rule that a soldier can raise this issue as a defense to missing movement and other absence related offenses at court-martial.

Or to say it another way, we hope someday that all soldiers will be periodically read their “Bishop” rights.

2. We hope to see Travis’ conviction be overturnd and to see his Bad Conduct discharge be changed to Honorable.

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?

1. Travis will soon be filing an initial appeal with the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals (USACCA)

2. If he loses at the USACCA, he is able to appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (USCAAF). It is possible to further appeal a negative ruling by the USCAAF, but in most cases this requires “collateral review” under Habeas in a Federal district court.

3. While pursuing challenges through the courts, Travis also hopes to engage in public discourse on this issue. If the courts will not recognize our arguments, we hope to work through the Department of Defense to seek a change to the current C.O. regs and/or Congress to change federal statutes.

HOW YOU CAN HELP?

This is where OCC and, hopefully, you, come in. OCC has agreed to manage a special fund to help defray the legal costs for the appeal. We hope to be able to provide the means for Travis’s attorney to attend to the case with the care and attention it deserves. For him, this is a labor of love, but he also needs to be compensated for his time and work. Here’s what we are asking for your help with:

1. Tell your friends about Travis Bishop and encourage them to visit his website at: http://freetravisbishop.wordpress.com/

2. Once Travis is out (sometime in late March) he is willing to speak at public events. If you would like to bring him to your town, contact him through the website above. Travis also is an aspiring singer-songwriter, so book a concert!

3. You can donate for Travis’ appellate defense costs. We ask that donations be sent to:

Oklahoma Center for Conscience
504 NE 16th St
Oklahoma City, OK 73104

Checks should be made out to “Oklahoma Center for Conscience/Joy Mennonite Church.” (please include a note stating that your donation is for Travis Bishop appeals) All donations are tax-deductible.

Please note that in the unlikely event that donations are raised in excess of the final appellate defense costs, the excess will be earmarked for conscientious objector education and outreach by the Oklahoma Center for Conscience.

Also please note that this fund-raising drive is for Travis’ appellate case only. Courage to Resist (couragetoresist.org) took care of raising funds for Travis’ legal defenses costs at trial, his C.O. hearing and rebuttal and the 1105 clemency process.

Thanks in advance for your assistance and support.

Photo by Eric Thompson, used with permission.

Winter 2010 issue of Oklahoma Peace Post now available

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Our debut issue of the Oklahoma Peace Post was a big hit at the Fall Peace Festival in November. We almost gave out of printed copies that first day! (You can download and read it as a PDF document by clicking ← that link.)

Now we’ve published Vol. 1, Issue 2, our Winter 2010 edition. Click ←  that link to download. If you want to receive a hardcopy version in the regular old mail, just contact us and we’ll be happy to send it to you. Such subscriptions are free.

The new issue features an article by Camille Landry about Martin Luther King’s mission for peace as well as civil rights. There’s an essay by Gene Stoltfus about President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, and a report on the current activity with our OK GI Rights Hotline project.

For the next issue we are tentatively planning some resources for War Tax Resistance, a report on the work of our military law attorney, James M. Branum, and an essay on Howard Zinn by one of our counter-recruitment volunteers. If you have any content you would like to suggest or submit, please let us know.

Peace House and OCC to show Rethink Afghanistan on Nov. 22

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Rethink Afghanistan filmOCC is joining the Oklahoma City Peace House to screen Robert Greenwald’s new 90-minute documentary Rethink Afghanistan from BRAVE NEW FILMS FOUNDATION.

Sunday, Nov. 22
Church of the Open Arms
3131 N. Pennsylvania Ave, OKC

  • 4:15 pm: Early seating & Refreshments
  • 4:30 pm SHOW STARTS
  • 5:59 pm DISCUSSION “What to do Now”

If you attend, you can sign the petition calling for civilian solutions, or you can add your name at the film’s website.

To help promote this event, you can  download a flyer to print and distribute.