Drone Attack Blog for US President Obama visit
to Canberra 25-6 March 2010
Saturday 20 March 2010
On the eve before Obama delayed, and likely cancelled, his visit to Canberra, i had discovered that Peacebus.com was going to be prohibited from entering the protest assembly area outside the Parliament, an area known as the AAA, the Authorised Assembly Area.
The Terror is over if you want it
My AFP case officer, Michael Caldwell had informed be of this and i vowed to find out who had made that decision and challenge it.
The man in my sights turned out to be Nick Tate, Deputy Usher of the Black Rod. Gentlemen of the Black Rod are a feature of many Commonwealth Parliaments; they serve as the doorkeepers to the Parliament, masters of who comes in and who comes near. And that power extends to the grounds outside.
They are answerable to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives but these a MPs usually new to the game. Nick is the doer and decider, the guy with the overall responsibility for security, the man to whom the US security talks.
So the next day i called him. The Drone Attack protest had been aborted, i had time on my hands and fire in my belly.
I got an answering machine and left a message. When he ran back and i was so pleased. Even after all these years of the Terror War, a foolish and passionate old man like me can ring a top apparatchik and get a call back, an invitation to dialogue.
True that i was not a complete stranger to him because my AFP friends had briefed him on what to expect by way of Obama protests and had respectfully carried my specific requests to him.
But such was his openness that he charmed me and i lost my initial head of steam. People skills would have to be of the essence for an Usher of the Black Rod and he had 'em. He listened well and at every turn tried to be unassuming and accommodating.
He said security for US presidents was a special case with special demands. I worked to impress on him that Peacebus.com was also a special case with special demands.
Why not? Eureka spirit, spirit of the ancestors that gives me courage, demands rights and liberties be defended. If not me, who? If not now, when?
This dialogue was probably the most challenging he had had about freedom of assembly at the Parliament in years.
We ended our dialogue with a promise from me that i would email him by complaints.
But I thought i would let the matter settle before i set to wordsmithing. Indeed i went and took a nap and was snug in my bunk in Happy Wheels when i Mark Heinrich arrived bearing a small shopping bag. More gifts.
"I have got something special for you." he said.
While i put the coffee on the stove he sat at the patio table and set about cutting fruit using the knife and cutting mat he had brought with him. Soon he had a array of bright fresh fruit, strawberries and slices of limes, oranges, lemons and kiwi fruit.
He also produced a joint of Zombie Juice, beautifully rolled in a transparent rollie paper, and small jar of cannabis root balm, Hemp-Eaze from Tierra Sol Farm in California, a product he has rights to distribute in Australia.
But the special magic he had to offer was in a small green box labeled "Miracle Fruit Tablets" . "Life can be sweeter" said the box.
And yes it was when i took one in my mouth and chewed it about. The berry somehow changes taste perception. Sour becomes sweet.
Wow! the taste of strawberries reinvented and massively delicious. Lime too, orange and all of them. I was soon munching fruit, slurping juices and grinning like a boy in sweetie heaven.
With delights such as this to welcome seekers who come to our table during our proposed medicinal cannabis / Compassion Club tour, we will win friends and influence people everywhere we go.
Heinrich told me his story of torture; arrested as a 23 year old traveller car smuggling in Turkey and maliciously incarcerated and tortured (beatings, electric shock to balls, rape) because he didn't have money for the bribe.
PSD (night sweats and nightmares) had came years after when he was working in public service in Canberra writing ministerterials. He got busted for being in possession of cannabis, was publicly shamed and retired.
Once a hermit gardner now a man with a passion to be visible in advocacy for medicinal cannabis as a balm for PSD.
PSD is a major fall-out from war experience too, big issue for veterans, and my Stand Fast cap was still cocked; rivers in my life converging and flowing on.
When Heinrich departed he left me in a state of bliss and gratitude. I had been working head down and urgent on the Obama protest for two weeks and more. Obama had not come; instead an angel came to me bearing gifts to lighten my days.
It was in that state then that i set about writing to the Deputy Usher of the Black Rod.
Here is what i sent also cc-ed to Michael Caldwell by AFP case officer and Jack Waterford, editor at large for the Canberra Times and well known as a protester in his student days.
In a salute to John Lennon, i titled it "The Terror is over if you want it"
Thank you for returning my call.
I appreciate that crowd management for state visits of the President of the United States is difficult; a fine balancing act for you and your protocol crew.
On one hand you must uphold the traditions of liberal democracy invested in the Parliament and respect such values for freedom of assembly; on the other you must deal with the warped perceptions ofÊa foreign security operation of a rogue state which tells big lies, wages cruel wars, and consciously creates fear at home and abroad.
The security for the GW Bush visit to Canberra in 2003, at the height of the US led Terror War was gross and offensive to the people of Canberra. It was like a siege of the capital.
Was the now postponed Obama visit going to be handled with greater grace?
I have my doubts. The Terror War maybe a little tired - its fakery worn too thin to be creating much fear and fearful thinking these days - but i suspect the restrictive practices and the crowd controlÊmind sets favoured by the Terror have not. Like a ratchet, with each beat-up of fear the restraints on freedom have been drawn in and tightened; and there is no going back.
I say that the common people have a core right to assemble at the Australian Parliament and make themselves heard and noticed.
The very architecture of the Parliament makes it difficult enough. When a poor fellow citizen like me, walks to the front door i am overwhelmed by the hard edged monumental magnificence, the acres of inhumanly vast space and the hard surfaces underfoot and looming over. It makes me feel small and impotent. Fascistic, I call it.
Which is why the Authorised Assembly Area with its lawns and nearby shade trees is so very important in terms of the free assembling crowds. It is the counter balance, however marginalised. It works because it is human scale and the Parliament and its flags rear up as an impressive backdrop. No longer overwhelming but rather dignifying the crowd and their purpose.
It offends me that artillery pieces where judged to have higher call on the use of the AAA than citizens. For their own safety, citizens were to be pushed back down the hill 100 m. Which meant they were something like 300m from the front door and any glimpse of Obama was unlikely.
But maybe this is the protocol for dealing with tyrants who by nature prefer displays of guns to displays of dissent.
I was also appalled by the decision to ban vehicles in the AAA. No OB vans, no service vehicles delivering PAs, and no Peacebus.com with its 12 V roof rack PA and its signage and flags. Fear of car bombs one must presume. Bullshit i say. Fear of dissent more likely.
I am writing to you to say the Terror is over if you want it.
Here is what to do:
Make it easy for people to assemble artfully in the AAA. Welcome them to occupy the space and be seen with banners, flags and other art.
Make every effort to make the AAA a convivial space where dissent is not feared but rather celebrated and encouraged.
Be flexible in the application of committee-made decisions about protest protocol. Different folk, different needs. Different times, different demands.
Trust AFP officers to liaise with event organisers; trust them to assess and facilitate. The Protective Security are very good at it and much trusted and respected by grey haired event organisers such as i.
Thank you for listening to me.
0407 951 688
Friday 19 March 2010
Obama Bales Out
Before i checked my emails this morning a text message beeped on my phone: Obama had "resheduled" his Australian visit to June and "greatly regrets."
Here the ABC News announcement.
The excuse given is that delays in the passage of his health reform legislation oblige him to remain in Washington. And the media flaks are eager to say the cancellation is no reflection on the US-Oz Alliance.
But it is of course. It clearly shows how minor and trivial is Australia in the concerns of Obama administration. Like the dumb dog that stares at you while wagging its tail and obsessively offering a ball, Oz is the nerdy loyal friend of the kind that needs to be acknowledged out of pity rather than respect.
And the cancellation reflects badly on Obama too and certainly on his time management skills. A president like Lyndon Baines Johnson would have got the health reforms through by remote control from where ever he was on the planet.
Truth is Obama's presidency is already on the back foot.
And the reason why Obama's influence and popularity has imploded is because he has betrayed too many acres of the support base that got him elected. And in particular the Move On America anti war movement. When one promises hope and delivers betrayal, caustic bitterness and cynicism follow.
So i put aside my cardboard cutting blade and mothballed the Obama banner and the part made drone fleet knowing that I had done my best make dissent to his proposed visit visible and that the anti war movement is a much bigger than i.
For although it is not, and cannot be, said in the corporate media which has driven dissent about the Terror Wars and the increasing military spending from its pages, anti war sentiment like leaking battery acid is corroding the body politic of illusion unnoticed, silently and relentlessly.
And where is the anti war movement? Hard to see and few on the ground when it comes to workers and supporters. But it is there untangible and unseen, like the ambience of cathedral; and unmoveable too, resistant to the tricks and deceits of spin doctors.
Too many lies have gone down: from the Big Lies of 9/11 and the beat up of the Terror War, to the demonisation of the Taliban to justify a US attack, the invasion of Iraq justified by non existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the denials about US torture and secret jails, the worst of the worst being held indefinitely and without charge or trial in Guantanamo.
The US State Department and the puppet regimes of Empire are a vast interconnected lying machine that truth can no longer be near and draw breath.
Over a million Iraqis killed, untold civilian dead in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the lies goes on. And the killing too. And it revolts moral consciousness so profoundly that one just wants to say 'no', turn off and turn away.
Not me. I want to pitch flags and banners on the top of this vast iceberg of revulsion and dissent and make it visible. I want to use that ride media of propaganda events such as the Obama visit and counter them with new stories and images that catch the imagination, evoke laughs and draw forth the ah-ah! of artful dissent.
So maybe Obama will be back in June. Maybe not. Me likewise.
End the lies. End the wars. End the US Alliance.
19 March 2009
Thursday 18 March 2010
Droning on for Obama
This was a day of media and cutting cardboard.
Media occupied the morning and it was about promoting a drone making workshop next Saturday afternoon at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre in Canberra. I was trying to get it noticed by the In Canberra Today page of the Canberra Times
It's a well read page, interesting to write and the journalists swap the responsibility around it seems. I rang and found that this week it was Claire Low's job and she loved the idea of the cardboard sculpting master class for veteran drone makers.
I sent off a media release . And cross my fingers and see what happens.
My dream would be to have a small host of service people and ex service people working together in an assembly line, hands occupied and hearts open, meeting and talking across work tables and building a small fleet of cardboard drones.
Doing things together is how men in particular best relate. My aim is to make our Obama protest movement building for veterans who know Obama's wars are morally wrong and want to work together to bring an end to them.
We do best we can. Even if there are just two of us. That's more than one and twice as many drones.
In the afternoon i began making the second prototype (the first i made and left in Sydney), cutting pieces of cardboard both for the prototype and as a patterns for others to come.
I worked at getting the drone head made. Hot melt glue and masking tape makes assembly quick.
I have no idea what's left of the Left in Canberra is doing about Obama's visit. But my Nimbin friends are mobilising to bring the Big Joint to Canberra.
They gave me their Canberra contact - Mark Heinrich and he came to visit me in Kambah. I recognised Mark from previous Nimbin Mardi Grasses .
He knew of me from watching me organise in Nimbin. He was kind enough to say i and my mate, Michael Balderstone, president of Nimbin HEMP. had inspired him to become visible in his passion for cannabis law reform, particularly in regard to medicinal cannabis.
He said that as a consequence of suffering the torture of electric shocks in a Turkish jail (i didn't ask the details), he suffers post traumatic stress syndrome: nightmares and the like. He had become withdrawn, a Tv watching, gardening hermit. But going to the Nimbin Mardi Grass had changed his life.
Many armed services veterans and many police officers suffer PTSD and Mark reckons cannabis is the best medicine (and cheapest when you grow your own) when it comes to calming the mind and bring on mellow sleep. Armed services veterans, police officers and hempsters, arise and unite! Free the weed!
We had a lovely talk and we agreed to work together and maybe do a road campaign on medicinal cannabis next year; touring about regional NSW setting up local Compassion Clubs which bring together carers, growers and cookie cooks. Compassion based, locally managed, not for profit. Watch this space.
Mark is a distributor for Treating Yourself - The alternative medicine journal , a medicinal cannabis glossy with lots of lovely photos of fat sappy buds, published by Marco Renda, Ontario, Canadian.
Mark came bearing a gifts, a bundle of magazines and a green bouquet. It was a species of cannabis species named Zombie Juice (?). Mark showed me the advertisement in the magazine. The distributors, the Niagara Seed Bank are promising a pandemic. Already 420 infections! Now me!
In the afternoon i got a call from Agent Michael Caldwell who is Peacebus.com's case officer on the Obama visit for the Australia Federal Police. I have high regard for the the Protective Security unit of the AFP; they negotiate policing for all protests, state visits and other events in Canberra and the do it well and with respect.
We had already met to discuss the Drone Attack and Michael was ringing me to say that all vehicles had been banned from the socalled "Triple A", the Aurthorised Assembly Area, the grass area 120 m back from the front door of Parliament House. Even the Outside Broadcast vans of the media had been banned.
I wanted to know who had decided this and how. No vehicles means no PA and no Peacebus.com.
"Not us," he said. "It was a decision of the National Capital Authority." Pressing him for further information i learned the decision had been taken jointly by the President of the Senate, the Hon John Hogg
, and the the Speaker of the House of Representatives,
Mr Harry Jenkins MP.
These slithy ALP toads have decided, as more or less divine right of parliamentarians, to impose strictures on dissent worse that those imposed by the Howard government when George Bush came to town in 2003 at the height of the heighten fears of the US led Terror War.
Michael gave me some contacts and i started phoning. One call led to another passed up the line. But it was the end of the business day and i put it aside for the morrow.
This is going to be a major issue. The right of dissent is what makes Australia a robust democracy; respecting and defending the rights to free assembly and free speech the practice of liberal democracy. In the US the homeland Terror War practice is to use security arrangements as the means and the rationale to frustrate, oppress and marginalise dissent. Out of sight of the media cameras, out of mind.
Like Sydney APEC, a US President comes to visit and suddenly we the people are stripped of our rights and liberties. They bring with them a police state attitudes with them and our elected representatives kowtow. Spineless wonders!
"Let me know how you go, Graeme," said Agent Michael before he rang off. "I am very interested."
Of course he is interested. The AFP don't want to contest space with veterans and veterans don't want to have a confrontation with the cops.
I vow we will make media out of this!
17 March 2010
Preparing for Drone Making
This morning first thing I rigged the Obama banner in the backyard of my hosts place in Kambah, Canberra, so that i could get photos of it in the morning light.
'Twas the first time i had seen it in the vertical after days of bending over it on my work table. Magnificent!
In the culture transforming politics of enlightenment (I have been reading a 1981 essay on this subject by Robert Thurman), there is an art of getting noticed.
And here it was! Vibrant, eye catching, and very clever.
Thank you darling daughter designer!
Here i am with my yoga legs on. As the eye of the maker must, it was drawn to the errors: the poor hang of the edges, the smudges, the mistakes with hues, the compressed and oppressed O in HOPE and so on. But the glory of it was beyond doubt.
With all the national and international news media focussed on Obama and his Canberra visit, i knew for sure that somehow, somewhere this banner is going to end up in focus in print and on Tv.
To the computer at once to email it about. To Facebook for example with a swift response from a dearly beloved and long-time-no-see, defacto nephew, Dharma friend, who wrote: "Nine days worth it. Nine bows Graeme." Ta Martin.
Then with my head turned to drone making I hurried to the Tuggernong Arts Centre to see if i could set up a "cardboard scuplting master class workshop in drone making." A making workshop to draw some media attention in the lead up.
I had called to inquire about hiring a workshop space the day before and got a return call from the Dominic Mico, the executive director, saying are you the Graeme Dunstan from ... I had first met Dominic in 1979 when he was a young man organising community arts in the name of Blue Folk.
Back then he had lease on an old sheep farm and we used the old shearing shed as a workshop space. Now he was presiding over an arts palace. He and his community arts officer, Felipe Bernabo, greeted me warmly and we soon sorted out a deal. Difficult for them at such short notice.
I also booked a public notice classified ad in the Canberra Times to advertise the workshop: "Cardboard scuplting master class. Artful drones to welcome Obama. noon to 5 pm Saturday 20 Tuggie Arts Centre. Veterans most welcome, 0407 951 688"
Maybe the workshop will suss out some support and maybe even uncover some activist veterans in Canberra. may it be so. Whatever it will add to the mystique of the cardboard drones and the welcome they are promising Obama.
I expect we dissenters will be few on the ground when Obama comes. We do best we can, truth at our side. All big political movements begin small, the apparently eccentric efforts of dedicated few.
The disappointment of the day was news from the office of WA Senator Scott Ludlam, Greens spokesperson on war and peace, who declined the invitation from Stand Fast to come and address us before Obama addresses the joint sitting of Parliament on 26 March. In lieu a statement of support was offered.
We were informed that Scott would not be attending the joint sitting of the Parliament specially assembled to hear Obama, preferring instead to stay in WA and presumably do electorate work.
The commander in chief of the most expensive and most aggressive military ever on the Earth comes to Canberra and Scott has got better things to do elsewhere? maybe he is taking a moral stand by doing this. But it looks like a lost opportunity and a wimp act to me.
Where are you now, Kerry Nettle when we need you so? Some folks will recall that when President George Bush II addressed a joint sitting of Parliament in 2003 (the first and last US President to do so) Kerry Nettle was bowled over by a self appointed body guard of Coalition members when in 2003 she tried to approach Bush when she attempted to hand deliver a petition to Bush. The petition was from the family and friends of Mamdouh Habib, who was then in Guantanamo jail.
Back in those days Green senators came out of the Parliament to address protesters. In return we encouraged them to be strong and true to their anti war principles. But times change and i gotta say there has been some shift and the Greens of today seem wishy-washy by comparison.
So it goes. Such shifting sands is what bearing witness in the here and now reveals.
Tomorrow i start cutting cardboard.
16 March 2010
Banner Painting for Peace
Today the dates of US President Barack Obama's visit to Canberra were, after some confusion and doubt, confirmed. He arrives 25 March for dinner at The Lodge with PM Kevin Rudd and next day addresses the Parliament and flies out.
This day I completed the banner i had been working on for some 9 days.
And this day i begin a blog to record my path to giving Obama the war criminal's welcome he deserves.
Obama came to power promising hope, hope for something different to the lies and wars of the Bush era. But on assuming power he set about continuing Bush policies at home and abroad, escalating Bush wars and now starting a new one of his own in Somalia.
Australian Prime Minister Rudd, riding to power on the national revulsion for former Prime Minister John Howard, his neo liberalism and his support for the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. has likewise deceived the Australian electorate with policies of continuity.
Rudd the dud, Howard-lite, just another US puppet in a suit.
And now they are to meet; Bush-Obama and Howard-Rudd. The Meeting of the Morphs is how i first responded to the news of this oh-so ambivalent, on again, off again state visit.
Participating in the Peace Convergence at Rockhampton/Yeppoon last July I noted that the activist peace movement had imploded following their elections. People in the US and Australia had assumed things were going to get better.
To contrary, in terms of soldiers committed to fighting in foreign wars and in terms of expenditure of taxes on wars, things have got much worse. Collectively we have been deceived.
Killing hope is what Obama has set about doing. And all across the US empire.
Killing Hope became the slogan of the banner i resolved to make for Obama's visit. My daughter Softly Dunstan of Mighty Nice studios in Sydney came up with the design.
Killing Hope by William Blum is also the name of a book which i read recently. It details the foreign interventions by the CIA and US military since WW2 and the stories of the lies and denials and the consquent of murder, torture and crushing of progressive movements outrages any sense of morality.
The book was loaned to me by my Stand Fast comrade, Gerry Binder. And it is the name of Stand Fast, veterans against the wars, that i am organising the Obama's Canberra reception, styled as a drone attack. See media release.
With most people are asleep in front of Tv and still wanting to believe in Tv illusions of peace and progress, I don't expect big crowds either cheering or jeering at Obama. Indeed it will be one of those fly in, fly out State visits designed to avoid crowd contact and fake popularism for the cameras.
In the absence of a broad based popular resistance, we who strive for peace and justice must be artful to rebuild reistance. And art is where i am focussing my efforts.