MERCHANTS OF DEATH NETWORK

a report by Carol Urner, DISARM co-chair

MacGregor Eddy, Ellen Barfield and I all attended the national Merchants of Death gathering in Minneapolis St Paul (September 29 to October 2). I think it was a successful and useful event and we hope it will mean the expansion of what WILPF calls Mil-Corp work both nationally and internationally. The event was facilitated very ably by War Resisters League (WRL) and co-sponsored by WILPF.

Other organizations represented at the networking conference included the American Friends Service Committee, Fellowship of Reconciliation, CorpWatch, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, the CAT campaign Colorado Springs Peace Witness, Nevada Desert Experience, Nuclear War Resister, Arms Control Resource Center , Pax Christi, Catholic Worker Movement, and over a dozen other national, international and local organizations. Frida Berrigan, Winona LaDuke and Medea Benjamin were among the many wonderful folk who joined us for all or part of the conference.

I was able to meet with Frida Berrigan during the conference about updating our own WILPF Mil-Corp Manual material on the nuclear weapons and aerospace war profiteers, and she is very willing to help with that. More about that will follow soon.

Since WILPF was a national co-sponsor I was able to serve on the program and planning committee, working over a three month period with three WRL staff. A member of the local Twin Cities Alliant Action group, which initiated the whole concept and served as wonderful local hosts, joined us in the planning.. I will also be serving on the committee charged with developing the inter-agency network.

We hope to develop a common website where each organization can post current materials in Wiki fashion, but where core documents are kept and updated only by an authorized editor or responsible organization. We would each contribute from our own area of expertise, and those with common interests would work in tandem. We would also link to each others websites, of course. Together we would like to map corporations and their subcontractors, identify their major products, their links to government, to various military bases, to ongoing and threatened wars, and to members of Congress, the Cabinet and the Administration.

MacGregor Eddy from WILPF DISARM made an important contribution by sharing her power point on Vandenberg Air Force Base and the aerospace war profiteers involved in developing our nuclear weapons and space domination programs there. Loring Wirbel of Global Network gave valuable assistance. Most of the other interest groups focused on lesser war profiteers, while those involved at Vandenberg and other Space Command bases are also the ones providing top leadership in our government and pushing hardest for war and a hi tech military killing machine.

Ellen Barfield is on the WRL Board and volunteers in the national office. She attended the sessions on the CAT campaign, and she should be of help to WCUSP in getting that part of their campaign up and running.

My own suggestions for an interest group built around our Mil-Corp manual didn’t fly, but the concepts proved useful when it came to the final sessions in which we sought to develop our network and identify ways to move forward. I also volunteered to speak on the opening panel where we gave three “case studies” about successful campaigns. I spoke about Oregon where business leaders and local and national elected officials decided in the early 1960s not to court military industry or bases, and even now is surprisingly “clean and pure.” And then I told about Portland’s key role in the birth of the women for peace movement which helped achieve the nuclear test ban, and then the rebirth of Portland WILPF and its role in ensuring the state’s rejection of a militarized economy.

Two excellent sessions were facilitated by David Meireian, with whom I’ve worked on our UFPJ nuclear issues sub group. One was on campaigns against Halliburton and Bechtel and the other on the military-industrial-university complex. The long and short term goals of this group are very similar to ours, and I think we can look forward to further cooperation with David and his organization.

The gathering opened Friday night with a showing of the new video Iraq for Sale which explored negative effects of privatization of war for profit. It focuses on Halliburton (a major and influential war profiteer) and two of the security firms replacing soldiers in guard positions at much higher cost, or interrogating prisoners without real accountability. I thought it would have been improved by at least mentioning the humongous profits being made in Iraq by Bechtel and by Lockheed-Martin and other aerospace corporations.

The conference closed on Monday, October 2, with a demonstration at Alliant Tech.
The conference was actually initiated and hosted by the local Alliant Action group. This was the twentieth anniversary of their successful non-violent campaign against Honeywell, forcing that corporation to get out of the military business and to leave Minneapolis. However, the military work was taken over by Alliant Tech, now one of our own Dirty Dozen, involved in everything from the nuclear and space military industries to manufacture of cluster bombs, depleted uranium and guns and bullets.

About 40 people, including three WILPF members were arrested for crossing the line at Alliant, attempting to deliver a message to the present CEO, a form U.S. Navy Admiral. Another 60 or 80 (including myself) stood in support chanting and singing peace songs old and new. All of those arrested were cited with petty misdemeanors and released that same morning. Most of us then adjourned for breakfast together where we shared experiences in challenging the War Profiteers, and discussed possible future strategies.

The chance to meet with Minneapolis/St Paul WILPF members was another wonderful benefit of participation in the conference for the DISARM Team was. They now plan to use the 2006 Mil Corp Manual to study war profiteers in their own area.