The Military & Draft Counseling Project

We are one of two groups (see OCWTR) that constitute the War Resisters League, Portland Chapter, and a non-profit organization registered with the State of Oregon.  We serve as a community resource on issues related to military service, military conscription and conscientious objection.  We also promote alternatives to militarism and military recruitment and, to that end, we engage in public education / outreach and the lobbying of public officials. The Military & Draft Counseling Project works in cooperation with a network of local and national organizations.  We participate in national listserves and have ready access to up-to-date information and referral sources (see links).  We are an all-volunteer organization, and we charge no fees for our services but gladly accept donations.

The Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance

OCWTR provides a community of support for persons conscientiously refusing to pay for war.  The choice to resist payment of personal income taxes spent on militarism and war requires a serious commitment and may entail personal risk.  One person standing alone against the federal government can engender feelings of moral justification – and also isolation, powerlessness and fear.  By joining together, we can make a powerful statement against militarism and war as well as providing a supportive community and a safe haven. By redirecting our taxes from military priorities to socially responsible endeavors, we find personal empowerment.  Our purpose is to share this sense of empowerment with an ever-expanding community.

News

Student letter published in Portland Tribune

Aidan Rierson, one of the students who organized and participated in the protest of recruiters at Franklin High School on November 4th, had his letter to the editor published in the Portland Tribune on December 3.  The letter is a response to the misleading letter published on November 19th from Ernie Freund, the commander of the Portland Recruting Battalion.  The text of Aidan's letter is as follows:

 

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Letter misrepresented Franklin protest

A recent letter ("Nonstudents disrupt Army recruiters," Nov. 19 Tribune) was littered with factual errors and misrepresentations.

I was the student who organized the action in question.  I am 16 years old and worked only with my peers, all of whom are under 18 and are students at Franklin High School.  The claim that "10 unidentified 20-year-olds" participated is simply not true, as well as the implication that we were armed or that we are criminals.

It is true that we distributed materials to our peers after they had spoken with recruiters.  Those materials did contain historically accurate images of war, such as the Pulitzer-Prize winning "Napalm Girl" photograph.  We chose to use these images of crimes the U.S. military has committed to show our peers what they could be signing up to do.  We also held up a sign that stated our belief that any organization that finds it fitting to use nuclear weapons on civilians should be labeled as terrorists, based on the definition of "using terror in pursuit of political aims."

The claims that we initimidated students or bullied anyone with military families are incorrect.  No students were approached in an aggressive manner, nor were insults uttered.  We were there to exercise our First Amendment rights and nothing more and believe that we have the right to discuss issues that impact the welfare of our peers.  It saddens me that  my peers and I are being attacked for expressing our pro-peace views.

Aidan Rierson
Southeast Portland

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Response to letter from recruiters regarding student protest on November 4

On Wednesday November 4th, two counter recruiters from War Resistors League were at Franklin High School during a military recruiting event.  They witnessed a student led protest of the military recruiters and described it as follows:

"Soon after I arrived, a group of male juniors and seniors lined up in front of the military recruiter tables (while 5 students also male) were talking to recruiters.  The juniors and seniors were carrying large signs protesting the recruiters presence and also verbally talking across to the potential listees about the horrors of war.  They also flyered with graphic depictions of recent Middle East wars and the illegal, empire driven actions of the US. The principal of the school after about 10 minutes came out and asked the students to stop and leave the area and the students refused to leave on the basis of freedom of speech and their rights under out Constitution."

Following this event, Ernie Freund, the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battallion in Portland submitted a very misleading letter to the editor in two Portland publicatons; The Bee, and the Portland Tribune. The text of that letter is as follows:

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Editor,

Last Wednesday (November 4, just one week before Veterans Day), at Franklin High School, two Army recruiters offered information on military careers, education and medical benefits.  Recruiters help students to understand how Army service can help them accomplish their life goals.  When they turn 17 or have parental consent (17), youth can make informed decisions.

Under Portland Public Schools' equal access policy, PPS invited "counter recruiters."  This allegedly provides alternate perspectives and other career paths to students seeking military career information.  However, on November 4, about 10 unidentified 20-year olds (and perhaps some Franklin students) prepared for counter recruiting disrupted the event.  They distributed inflammatory materials labeling Soldiers terrorists and "hitmen" and containing explicit images.  They offered nothing helpful for students' futures, only propaganda, whereas recruiters had information on the free college-test preparation course available to all (March2Success.com).

This mob intimidated students who sought information and also called Army recruiters "baby killers."  These two professionals have experienced worse; between them they have six combat tours and one Purple Heart.  I recognize and defend PPS students' right to assemble and exercise free speech in responsible ways.  If PPS has taught them well, they should research facts and exercise critical thought before responsible action.

However, no one should harass youth for seeking opportunities or insult and bully students with veteran family members.  It is very disturbing that PPS lacks sufficient capacity to prevent unknown outsiders from accessing and intimidating students.  Who were these individuals.... were they armed... or criminals?  Do parents consent?  PPS has not explained.

This under-resourced, paternalistic "equal access" approach does not protect students (who can legally decide themselves) but gives activists without credentials a stage for antics while denying deserving students opportunities.  Parents should ask PPS to reexamine the risk of "counter recruiter" access; it jeopardizes their goal to prepare students "to make productive life decisions."

In full disclosure, I command the U.S. Army Recruiting Battallion in Portland.  I am also the proud father of two PPS students.

Ernie Freund
via e-mail.

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In response to Mr. Freund's irresponsible and misleading letter, our own Angie Hines has written and sent the following letter to both of these publications.

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Dear Editor,

the November 2015 letter by Lt. Colonel Ernie Freund, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, asserted that the counter-recruiting team implanted protesters, up to age 20 and possibly armed criminals, into Franklin High School to confront military recruiters on November 4th, 2015.

His biased outburst is an insult to the intelligence and protected freedoms of the students. Freund has suggested to the public that these student demonstrators may be armed adult criminals. Considering the school shootings that have take place nationwide, this nescient comment humiliates families and survivors of such attacks. It promotes an atmosphere of fear, foments images of terror, and mocks American students' Constitutional Rights.

The students who protested on Nov. 4th did so on their own accord, with no assistance from the counter-recruiting team. Counter-recruiters were not involved in the planning or implementation of any student action that may have occurred. That is not what counter-military recruiters do on Portland Public School (PPS) campuses.

I have been a counter-recruiter for 5 years in the PPS District. I am an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran. I never tell children not to join the military, but I do ask them to consider the severity of making that choice. That is what our voluntary counter-recruiting team does. Our educators comprise veterans ranging from wars in Vietnam, the Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan. We are former special forces soldiers, combat, and non-combat veterans. We are social workers, former public school teachers, parents, and peaceful citizens.

The wars mentioned above have resulted in millions of deaths. The economic cost is in the trillions. Freund enjoys his paycheck, funded with our tax dollars, to write an appeal to abandon First Amendment protections. Freund's letter does nothing to help our veterans who remain vulnerable to tax austerity fall-out and risk higher rates of houselessness, unemployment, suicide, substance abuse, and moral injury than the non-veteran population.

Military recruiters seem to desire sole and unprohibited access to children and for the public to view dissenting PPS adolescents as weaponized adult aggressors, being "puppeteered" by the peace community.

As the Middle East and parts of Africa crumble into total chaos, resulting in the largest exodus in recent history, and rates of US military death by suicide surpasses death by combat, it it imperative that our youth have truthful information about the military. We should consider the words of thousands of veterans nationwide, hundreds of which who spoke at the 2009 Winter Soldier Testimonies, who will tell you that we do not wish war on our worst enemy. www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier

Sincerely,

Angela Hines
Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Navy
2001-2005

2015 Peace Festival Auditions

2015 Peace Festival Auditions

Sunday, May 31 or Sunday, June 21

North Portland Library Auditorium 512 N Killingsworth Street
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

2015 Rose Festival Militarism Protest

Here are some photos from our 2015 protest of militarism at the Portland Rose Festival.  Thanks to everyone who came out.

Photos by Gregory Sotir

Veterans For Peace Armistice Day Commemoration, Tuesday - November 11th

Tuesday, November 11
Armistice Day Commemoration
10:30 am

Please join us in Portland's Pioneer Square (701 SW 6th) and bring a bell if you have one. At 11 o'clock we will circle around and ring bells together -- 11 chimes -- to celebrate the end of one of the bloodiest wars in history, and to call for cessation of today's hostilities and for the end of all war.  Cosponsors (to date):      Veterans For Peace Chapter 72,  Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Portland Branch,  -Code Pink Portland, Living Earth, Recruiter Watch, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, St. Luke Lutheran Peace and Justice Group.

Other Veterans for Peace Events

Tuesday, November 11
VFP Monthly Meeting
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

First Unitarian Church (Buchan Bldg., lower level)
1011 SW 12th Ave., Portland
 
Wednesday, November 12
Twilight Café charity initiative
7 p.m – 9 p.m.

Percentage sales and all tips donated to VFP72
1420 SE Powell St., Portland
(thank you Sean Lewis)
 
Tuesday, November 18
A talk by Reese Erlich:   Assad, ISIS, Obama and US Middle East Policy
7:00 p.m.

College of Urban and Public Affairs, Second Floor Gallery
Portland State University
506 SW Mill Street

Foreign Correspondent and investigative reporter Reese Erlich discusses his new book,  Inside Syria: the Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect., foreword by Noam Chomsky.  Erlich recently returned from northern Iraq where he interviewed displaced Yazidis, peshmerga fighters and US diplomats. He will discuss the growing influence of extremist rebel groups and why the US bombing campaign will hurt both Americans and people of the region. Erlich has covered the Middle East for almost 30 years, reported from Syria five times and visited all its neighboring countries.

Reese Erlich's history in journalism goes back over 40 years. He first worked as a staff writer and research editor for “Ramparts”, an investigative reporting magazine published in San Francisco from 1963 to 1975. Today he works as a full-time print and broadcast, freelance reporter. He reports regularly for National Public Radio, CBC, ABC (Australia), and Radio Deutsche Welle. He is special correspondent for GlobalPost.  His television documentaries have aired on PBS stations nationwide.
Free and Open to the Public
Sponsors: Middle East Studies Center, Office of International Affairs, Portland State University in collaboration with World Affairs Council

International Week of Action for Military-Free Education and Research: 25 - 31 October

From War Resisters International:

25 - 31 October sees the first international week of action for military-free education and research: a concerted effort of antimilitarist action across the world to raise awareness and challenge of the role the military have in education, and to give voice to alternatives.

Last year saw the first ever international day of action for military-free education and research, with groups in India, Germany, South Africa, the state of Spain, Chile, Congo, the USA and Israel taking action to call for an end to the military's role in education and research. We hope that expanding the initative to a week will allow for even more actions over more time and with more creativity!

If you want to get involved this year, you are welcome to arrange your own autonomous actions, using the name and the logo above (a version in Spanish and German will follow) - if you would like to make another version in your own language, email cmoy@wri-irg.org for a copy.

Confirmed

What you can do

  • Sign a call to action: A call to action will be launched by War Resisters' International and others. If you are interested in signing up to this call to action, please email cmoy@wri-irg.org for a copy
  • Organise your own nonviolent action as part of the week of action for military-free education and research! Tell us what you are planning. If the action is public, we will publicise it to spread the word. Visit this page for some action ideas.
  • Not sure what to do? Get in touch and we can discuss action ideas with you, or put you in touch with others in your country who are already planning something.

Background info: http://www.antimili-youth.net/week-action-military-free-education-and-research-25-31-october-2014

STOP BOMBING IRAQ & SYRIA - Visibility Action

END THE AFGHAN WAR
*STOP BOMBING IRAQ & SYRIA*
The Invasion of Afghanistan 13 Years Later
Visibility Action
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
3:30-6:00 PM
NE Couch & Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
(East End of Burnside Bridge)
TriMet bus lines 6, 12, 19 or 20 or Central Loop streetcar

Tuesday, October 7 will mark 13 years since the devastating US invasion of Afghanistan. A visibility action at the east end of the Burnside Bridge from 3:30 to 6 PM that day will remind people that the US still has a large presence in Afghanistan despite its promise to withdraw all "combat troops" buy the end of 2014. Of the 10,000 who will remain, roughly 10% will be members of the Oregon National Guard. The Peace and Justice Works "Tower of Peace" will remind motorists, cyclists and pedestrians heading in three directions about the ongoing effects of US policies in Afghanistan and the "Middle East."

On August 8th, the US began bombing in Iraq again, in an effort to "degrade and destroy" the Islamic State. On September 22, US missiles began raining down on Syria as part of that effort. While the President has promised "no boots on the ground," war is war, by land, sea or air.

Event coordinated by Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, cosponsored by American Friends Service Committee, Occupy Portland Elder Caucus, Recruiter Watch PDX, Little Light of Mine Friends Worship Group, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland, Freedom Socialist Party-Portland, and others.

For more info contact Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group at
(503) 236-3065 or iraq@pjw.info.

US Foreign Policy: The Wars Continue

A forum called "US Foreign Policy: The Wars Continue" will take place on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:00 PM at the Friends Meeting House, 4312 SE Stark in Portland to examine America's role in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and the re-ignited Cold War with Russia.

After the US "withdrew" from Iraq in late 2011, the President urged Congress to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, yet in early August, he ordered bombs and missiles to be dropped on that country. President Obama also promised to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but now it appears at least 10,000 troops will remain there indefinitely. The US Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting Israel's recent incursion into Gaza, which killed hundreds of civilians. Tensions in Ukraine signal a renewed military standoff with Russia. And the US continues dropping bombs from drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, while Libya and Syria's situations remain unstable as well due to US intervention. Meanwhile, America spends more on the military than any other nation as its infrastructure crumbles and the gap between rich and poor widens.

Organizers expect to have one or more action items related to US policies for people attending to undertake.

The coordinators of the forum include Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, Occupy Portland Elder Caucus, and American Friends Service Committee. Endorsed by Recruiter Watch PDX, Little Light of Mine Friends Worship Group, Portland Fellowship of Reconciliation, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and others. Other groups are welcome to support the effort. For more information or to get involved contact Peace and Justice Works at 503-235-3065 or iraq@pjw.info.

Fall Opt-Out Campaign - Volunteers still needed

Buried deep within the No Child Left Behind Act is a provision that requires public high schools to hand over private student information to military recruiters.
The purpose of this invasion of family privacy is to allow minor students to be recruited at home by telephone calls, mail and personal visits. If a school does not comply, it risks losing vital federal education funds.

The only way to keep your children's contact information from military recruiters is to submit an "opt-out" letter in writing to your school district's superintendent.

Section 9528 -- this little-known provision of the No Child Left Behind Act -- was originally inserted into the bill by Rep. David Vitter of Louisiana, with almost no debate in Congress. Vitter included this provision after learning from the Pentagon that many public schools maintained strict privacy policies protecting student information from being released to any outside parties, thus preventing aggressive military recruiting.

In addition, the Pentagon also recently set up a database of 30 million 16-25-year-olds, including name, address, email addresses, cell phone numbers, ethnicity, social security numbers and areas of study. This Pentagon database is updated daily and distributed monthly to the Armed Services for recruitment purposes.

Each year we place volunteers at school registration events to distribute opt-out forms and inform students and their parents about their rights to opt-out of having their personal information released to military recruiters.  We are still in need of volunteers for all of these events.  If you would like to volunteer, please contact us.  Below are all of the available times and places for volunteer shifts.

Wednesday, August 20
Benson High School

546 N.E. 12th
Junior Registration:  9:45 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
(Volunteer should be in place at 9:30 a.m.  We can probably get done by 11:00 a.m.)

Tuesday, August 19
Franklin High School

5405 S.E. Woodward
Senior Registration:  1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
(Volunteers should be in place by 12:30 p.m.  We should be done by 2:00 p.m.)

Wednesday, August 20
Franklin High School

5405 S.E. Woodward
Junior Registration:  1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
(Volunteers should be in place by 12:30 p.m.  We should be done by 2:00 p.m.)
Current volunteers:  Cherie H., Joanne L.

Friday, August 22
Grant High School

2245 N.E. 36th Avenue
Juniors and Seniors pickup schedules:  8:00 a.m. - noon
(Volunteers should be in place by 8:00 a.m.  We should be done by 11:30 a.m.)

 

Summer 2014 Update

Fundraising

In response to the appeal letter that was mailed in January, our friends & supporters contributed a total of $1075.00 to support our student outreach and other organizing efforts. We are most appreciative of the generous support which comes each year to sustain this important work.

In addition, The Military & Draft Counseling Project received a grant of $800.00 from the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign Escrow Fund in April to support the Equal Access project in Portland Schools.

Student Outreach and Education

We completed 30 equal access visits to Portland High Schools during the 2013-14 school year, visiting each high school 3 times when military recruiter were also present. The military had difficulty, at times, following the school district guidelines for equal access; and we are currently in negotiations with school officials and military representatives to strengthen the rules for school visits.

We also gave 13 classroom presentations arranged with sympathetic teachers when military recruiters were not present. These are typically panel presentations involving Iraq War (and older) veterans and other local activists. We also distributed nearly 8,000 counter-recruiting fliers directly to students from the public sidewalks in front of local high schools during the fall and spring.

In August/September, we will be participating in the annual Opt-Out Campaign, distributing fliers to educate students and parents about their legal right to refuse to allow students’ personal contact information to be released to military recruiters, as otherwise prescribed by federal law. This effort is coordinated by Recruiter Watch PDX.

Protesting Militarism at the Rose Festival

On Sat. June 7th, about a dozen activists from WRL Portland, Veterans for Peace, Chapter 72, Peace and Justice Works, and others held signs and banners at the downtown seawall. This was our annual protest of militarism at the Rose Festival in the form of the military fleet of warships and military recruiting booths scattered among the other booths and carnival rides. As usual, we generated a mixed response and had some interesting conversations with passers-by.

Does War Have a Future?

National officials certainly assume that war has a future. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditures totaled nearly $1.75 trillion in 2013. Although this is a slight decrease over the preceding year, many countries increased their military spending significantly, including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, 23 countries doubled their military spending between 2004 and 2013. None, of course, came anywhere near to matching the military spending of the United States, which, at $640 billion, accounted for 37 percent of 2013’s global military expenditures. Furthermore, all the current nuclear weapons nations are currently “modernizing” their nuclear arsenals.  

Nevertheless, there are some reasons why war might actually be on the way out.

Destructiveness and Cost

Over the past century, conventional wars (including two world wars) have slaughtered over a hundred million people, crippling, blinding, or starving many more, and laid waste to large portions of the globe. When the U.S. spends [at least] 55% of its annual budget on the military, it is almost inevitable that its education, health care, housing, parks & recreation, and infrastructure will suffer.

Peace Movements

Peace organizations began to emerge in the early 19th century…. These organizations became a very noticeable and, at times, powerful force in the 20th century and beyond. Drawing upon prominent figures like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell…peace groups created a major social movement that government officials could not entirely ignore.

Nonviolent Resistance

It was not only utilized in dramatic campaigns led by Gandhi and MLK, Jr., but in mass movements that, subsequently, have challenged and toppled governments. Indeed, nonviolent resistance has become a new and powerful tool for people to draw upon in conflicts without slaughtering one another.

Alternatives to Mass Violence

Why not expand international exchange and peace studies programs? Why not dispatch teams of social workers, mediators and negotiators to conflict zones to work out settlements? Why not provide food, employment, education and hospitals to poverty-stricken people? Why not help build a more equitable, prosperous world?

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