Welcome to "In Our Own Words," the Ezine from BBBooks. We publish and distribute books, list "Calls for Submissions," Contests, and Writing Classes here on our web site.
We are a grass roots organization, not a corporate entity, so we don't dance to the dollar sign. You can expect to find thought- provoking, creative, alternative writing, information and politics right here. We offer the "People Before Profits Poetry Prize" each year and offer all kinds of other stuff for writers, poets, students, educators, spiritual types, feminists, humanists, and activists. We're people who follow their conscience, but like to have fun too!
The writers in this edition
of "In Our Own Words" range in age from their teens
to their 80s.
is simple: Writers respond to life; they chronicle our times
and remind us what it is like to be human.
Rarely do difficulties between humans have simple solutions that can be solved by "products"(other than basic food/shelter/medicine). Attempts to buy a remedy for an intellectual, emotional, spiritual quandary "in a box" inevitably masks and delays the hard work we must do to evolve as humans. Many writers discover, process, clarify and make evident their own and even our human collective intellectual, emotional and spiritual evolution through their work.
Should we choose to look outside ourselves to the ever-present, always-willing-to-hook-our-attention commercial media, we will be find simplistic formulas. Actual life is enormously complex. Commercial interests rarely present us with accurate versions of history.
At BBP we believe writing is an artform, a process, and a fundamental human right. We understand that all writing has a political context, even through omission. On the other hand, overly polemic, dogmatic writing does little to inspire readers to think for themselves. At BBP we wish to support the power to think independently, the most precious component of human free will.
BBP is not affiliated with any particular political or religious group. Writings contained on this web site do not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff or management of BBP.
The Justice Department today ordered the detention of all numbers between "1" and "9" for questioning because they are of Arabic origin.*
Kiss-My-Ashcroft explained the urgent nature of these actions.
Immediate opposition to his announcement came from the Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Spokespersons explained how it would be virtually impossible to convert the stock exchanges, banking and computer language to Roman Numerals.
Kiss-My Ashcroft responded swiftly to their opposition. "The country will have to change due to the seriousness of terrorism. Arabic Numerals are cleverly designed with too many hiding places, such as the holes inside the '8,' the '6' and the '9' -not to mention the slope of the '7' and crevices of the '3' and '5.'" He called upon all Patriotic Americans to phase out these Arabic Numerals by September I, MMII or be held responsible for aiding and harboring potential terrorist communications.
Other critics of the announcement cited the omission of "0" in Kiss-My-Ashcroft's plan. The Justice Department responded that domestic surveillance and management of the "0" has been delegated to the INS and the Office of Homeland Security.
* Abu Ja'far Mohammed (born Musa al-Khwarismi recorded the system of Arabic numerals in the 9th century, but their use dates back to 773 C.E.
A brick, six-family house with the sandstone stoop:
A wrought-iron door
leading to a vestibule,
A house in a neighborhood
that changed from Dutch and German,
In "Jijel," the Mediterranean town where I grew up, everyone seems to know a little story about fish and newspapers: One beautiful summer morning, a wise man went to the market and bought one kilo (two pounds) of sardines. The sardines were so fresh that they would live and swim again if put back into the sea. The merchant would lay down a whole, unsold newspaper on the scale and put the sardines in it until they reached the desired weight. It was business as usual, and the wise man picked up the newspaper that held the fish and headed home. He was wise, but he somehow didn't put his hand under the newspaper and ooops...the sardines fell onto the sidewalk! Before he knew it, he was holding the newspaper with a big hole and his lunch was also at stake. He was angry and said to the newspaper, "You were able to hold all the lies of the world, but failed to keep one kilo of sardines."
I liked this story very much and repeated it often when I worked most of one summer as a fish seller. I liked it even more two years later when I graduated from the journalism institute and started working as a reporter for a small weekly newspaper. Two kinds of work--yes--but they were similar in many ways. In the fish market we had raw material and we had to follow some strict procedures in order to keep the fish fresh, attractive and consumable. In the newsroom we also had raw material, which were stories, headlines and news from the wire that required filtering, organizing, rewriting before presenting to the consumer. Both jobs seemed to require the same types of skills. Time was crucial at the fish market. The fish was loaded from fishing boats before sunrise and then it would be iced and ready on the table before daylight. If I was late or slow at putting the sardines in the quaris (special boxes for fish), my boss would yell and show me his fist. On the other hand, my editor-in-chief at the newspaper would go crazy if we were late for a deadline. He wouldn't scream, but his finger would tear paper and break pencils in a horrifying way. At last, I didn't stay long in either one of these jobs, but the experiences were really rewarding. The editor-in-chief once asked me why I was so crazy about reporting about the fish market, and even my fish boss would get nasty if he caught me reading parts of the newspaper: "I don't understand you. It's last month's news. How can you read it?" When I worked these jobs, many times I wished I could have sat with my newspaper while eating fish for lunch.
During the past two decades in the battle of Vieques, we have had ample opportunity to learn from people throughout Puerto Rico, the United States and other countries, about the effects of militarism on communities. The impact of the expropriations, military toxics, violent actions by military personnel, and economic stagnation in areas like Culebra, Aguadilla, Salinas and Ceiba to mention a few examples - has much in common with the military presence in Vieques. For years we have shared with residents of these areas our experiences and strategies of struggle.
What we did not know, until recently, was the widespread and horrible impact of US militarism within its own national territory and in many countries where the US maintains military bases. The armed forces of the Unites States of North America carries out a war against its own people, particularly against Afro American, Latino, Indigenous and generally poor communities. The plague of militarism extends to US territories like Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico and is manifest in Japan, Okinawa, Phillipines, Korea, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama, among other places on this planet.
The Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques (CRDV) has important contacts with peace organizations in Puerto Rico, in the US and internationally, that help us see our situation in a broader context. The participation of delegates from the CRDV in conferences about militarism held in the US, England, Phillipines, Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Washington, DC, New York, San Diego, among other places, has permited us to learn first hand about the efforts of community organizations working to end military activities that violate the human rights of millions of people throughout the world. The CRDV works with the Caribbean Project for Peace and Justice (PR), the Military Toxics Project (US), the International War Resisters League and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (San Francisco), among other peace groups, to spread the word about Vieques and to learn more about how militarism affects other peoples. Vieques is not alone in this battle against the forces of destruction.
Within US territory inside and outside the North American contintent a network of bases and installations brings death and destruction to entire communities, through intense military contamination with the same long list of cancer causing chemicals that we see in the reports from Vieques heavy metals, nitrites, nitrates, RDX, uranium, among others. Mustard gas bomblets, a chemical weapon used in the Second World War, were recently found during a construction project in Colorado. In Memphis, Tennessee, the community fights against the terrible health effects from a military dump. In San Antonio, Texas, the recently closed Kelly Air Base is considered the root of unusually high cancer rates and other sicknesses related to the long history of contamination generated on that military facility. In Massachussetts, millions of gallons of water in the most important aquifers of an extensive area on Cape Cod, have be seriously contaminated with military contaminants from Camp Edwards, where diverse National Guard units have carried out military exercises for more than half a century. In the same state, the Wampanoag Indigenous Nation, struggles for the environmental recuperation and tribal control over the Island of "Tequanomans". Of great spiritual significance, the Navy bombed this island for decades. Families of this indigenous people who live close to Tequanomans Island suffer from the highest cancer rates in that part of the state.
In Alaska, radar stations abandoned at the end of the Cold War, with the cessation of spying operations directed at Russia, have left an enormous amount of toxics in the ground, in the waters and in the food chain of thousands of indigenous peoples of that region. In San Diego, California, large numbers of poor, Afro American, Latino, Indigenous, Asiatic communities, suffer the consequences of long years of contamination causes by military shipyards and the contamination from nuclear wastes from submarines and aircraft carriers stationed in that city's waters. Military practices relatively close to Washington, DC, at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, have forced neighboring communities to take action to stop military toxics including depleted uranium from migrating to their backyards.
A series of rapes of young girls and other violent acts by US military personnel in Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Phillipines and Panama, remind us of the violence against Viequense women by gangs of Marines in the streets of Vieques in the 1950's and 60's. The death of "Mapepe" Christian, and old man in the Destino area of Vieques who was brutally kicked and punched by several soldiers in 1952, is repeated constantly in US military zones on every continent.
In Maehyang-ri, Korea, jets rest only on the week ends. Every other day they fly low over the poverty of the rice fields on their way to the impact zones only a few miles from the homes of thousands of Koreans.
Manila Bay and the closed bases of Subic and Clark in the Phillipines, where today thousands of people try to remake their lives, have been converted into some of the most contaminated places in Asia - and the US government refuses to take any responsibility for the environmental clean up. A similar situation exists in Panama, where the military left the Canal Zone, but also left a deadly contamination that includes large amounts of chemical weapons in the Panamanian jungles and uranium dispersed in the ground and air.
The diverse struggles of the Hawaiian people for Peace and for demilitarization, share much in common with those of the people of Vieques. In the 1970's, while our fishermen paralyzed NATO maneuvers and were arrested and jailed, Hawaiians were beginning their struggle to rescue the Island of Kaho'olawe, an uninhabited island with great spiritual and archaeological importance. In the Makua Valley, the guns of the US Army have been silent for some years, but they want to renew practices. The people of Hawaii fight to defend Makua.
US militarism has left a trail of contamination, death and violence around the world / and has provoke a new wave of international solidarity among people opposed the destruction of natural resources, to the arrogant and racist military attitudes, to the irresponsibility and air of superiority that permits the most horrendous actions against humanity.
The struggle of Vieques is not unique. However, the successful campaign of peaceful civil disobedience and the widespread support generated among sectors of the Puerto Rican and US communities that are usually divided has had important repercussions. The attention we have received in these two years of intense battle, combined with decades of previous struggle, has caused other communities with similar struggles to look toward Vieques, to ask for our help, to learn from our successes and failures. The residents of Maehyang-ri, Korea, have begun to call themselves THE VIEQUES OF KOREA!
We must do the same learn from the multiple examples of other communities that struggle with great dignity and with greater or less success, against the same enemy and in favor of the same ideal.
US Army General James Jones, said recently in a Pentagon interview, "I do worry about the effect of being forced to leave Vieques, not only on our domestic training ranges but on international access: this is a small world now. People on Okinawa watch what happens on Vieques, and they will draw conclusions from that.''
Vieques is Okinawa. Vieques is Makua. Vieques is the Phillipines. Vieques is Maehyang-ri. Vieques is the Canal Zone. Vieques is Alaska, Camp Edwards, Memphis, San Antonio, and San Diego. For the children of Vieques, for the children of Hawaii, Phillipines, Okinawa, Memphis, San Antonio, San Diego and Massachussetts, we will continue this struggle to end the dehumanizing structures of militarism, until there is peace on Vieques, until there is peace for all.
Committe for the
Rescue and Development of Vieques
of Depleted Uranium Over the Little Girl Island (Vieques, la isla nena)
The US Navy has for years conducted weapons tests with "depleted uranium" (DU) projectiles in Vieques, without warning the Puerto Rico government nor the people of Vieques about the danger that this type of practice represents.
Notable among the tests and experiments with DU weapons in the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training (Testing) Facility (AFWTF), is the technical evaluation of the "Navy's Phalanx Block 1B" which was conducted from February 3-12, 1999.(1) This system, designed to defend the naval fleet from possible enemy missile attacks, is capable of shooting 4,5000 DU projectiles per minute. A second system test, known as OPEVAL (Operational Evaluation), was programmed to commence april 19, 1999, precisely the date that David Sanes was killed (in Vieques). In its September 2000 edition the official magazine Sea Power (Navy League of the United States) the success of this second test. (2) An official press release of the Naval Sea Systems Command Wire Service (NAVSEA) on March 5, 1999, described te tesst conducted in February:
"The Navy's Phalanx Block 1B weapon system recently completed a highly successful surface mode technical evaluation (TECHEVAL) aboard USS Underwood (FFG 36) at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility (AFWTF) in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico between Feb. 3 and Feb. 12. The operations consisted of day and night tracking operations against high-speed boats, helicopters and light general aviation aircraft. Day and night firing operations were conducted against remote controlled surface craft and remote controlled half scale aircraft. All weapon system requirements were exceeded with the Underwood's Block 1B operating well above specifications. Testing demonstrated that there was no degradation to Phalanx's primary anti-ship missiles defense mission.(3)"
But the news that both tests were conducted in Vieques is not the most important fact in this official comunique.What is tryly important,and even "covenient" for the Navy, is that the document says nothing about the projectiles used. The absence of information about munitiions in the official documents, whether by design or by carelessness, is much more important than it appears on first glance.According to the "Navy Fact File" (official publication), the Phalanx cannon is a Gatling M-61A1 Vulcan which shoots 4,500 projectiles per minute in its most advanced model.(4) Its caliber is 20mm and the munitions are MK149 (Depleted Uranium sub-caliber penetrator). Nonetheless, the specifications add that DU was substituted with tungsten in 1988. Well, just like nearly all of the Navy's "official" data, the Tungsten issue should be viewed with some skepticism.
In 1999, Vladimir S. Zajic, Doctor of Nuclear Medicine who worked with radioactive tests for Brookhaven National Laboratory, writes about both mateirals in his essay Review of Radioactivity, Military Use, and Health Effects of Depleted Uranium. In Chapter 3 Dr Zajic writes the following:
"In the early 1970's, the US Army began researching the use of depleted uranium metal in kinetic energy penetrators and tank armor. High density materials such as tungsten were considered, however, DU was ultimately selected due to its availability and pyrophoricity. While 50% of tungsten has to be imported, mainly from China, DU is provided for free to arms manufacturers. Tungsten also has much higher melting point (3410ºC) than uranium (1132ºC) and lacks pyrophoricity. Consequently, a tungsten projectile becomes blunt on impact and is less effective in piercing armor.(5)"
The idea here is
that DU is "cheaper" than tungsten, and we all know that that
word is very much appreciated by the US weapons industrial complex.
If something is "cheaper" in their own territory, who could
believe that they would prefer to buy the raw material from CHINA?
"The development of DU weapons by the US Military began in the 1970's, with Britain starting test firing of DU weapons in 1980. The most important quality of DU is its extreme density. DU is two and a half to three times as heavy as steel. This density allows DU to easily pierce through the armor in tanks and other military vehicles. An additional attraction of DU is its cheapness. The stockpiles of DU built up by the nuclear industry provide cheap material for munitions production, sparing the nuclear industry the headache and expense of long-term storage. Instead they are able to dump their nuclear waste on a third world country.(6)"
However (and please forgive me, cited scientists!) we must honor the truth. The US Defense Department has replaced DU with tungsten in the Phalanx. what has happened is that the replacement is only for a specific model (7). that is to say, for a model that has barely begun to be marketed. This leaves out the 192 US ships that have 372 installed systems, and many ships from 20 other countries, who have 288 systems.(8)
On the other hand, and just as important, there exists (or they try to make us bleieve exists) a problem of inventory excess, and that that is the reasong that they still use DU. For example, the page for the Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, (undated archival notice) says that even though DU for Phalanx was replaced by tungsten, the inventory for DU projectiles in the US arsenal will last until 1996.(9) This is false. DU munitions and projectiles are being made every day in the US. This is proven by General Dynamics, one of the most important weapons industrialists, which states in its Internet page that they have 20,000,000 "rounds" of MK149 munitions for the exclusive use of the U.S. Navy's Phalanx Anti-Ship Missile Defense System.(10)
The following is
copied from the commercial page of General Dynamics:
Now, companies like
General Dynamics generate millions in profits in production of DU projectiles.
In view of this reality, who can believe that this economic benefit
is due only to direct sales to the Defense Department of a few thousand
projectiles for the Phalanx Block System? The answer is NO. DU is one
of the arms and systems components that the US military complex and
its allies use daily in their wars, tests, and exercises. Production
is, of course, constant.
As can be observed upon seeing this missile launch, when the missile is fired the DU particulates are dispersed. even if the objective is not destroyed. the DU particulates remain in the environment. About the particulates The Economist says:
These particles can also be transported over long distances, up to 30 miles, in moderate breezes. There are examples of such transport in the military and civilian literature. Once DU dust has been released it cannot be controlled nor can its subsequent distribution be predicted. It presents a hazard to combatants and non-combatants, military and civilian, friend and foe alike. It will remain a continuing hazard, in the environment, for many years (tens, hundreds, thousands?) to come.(15)
Therefore, friends, we must ask, what is happening here with all of the DU? On one hand the military says that DU will be replaced with something less dangerous, while on the other hand (their corporate allies) continues large-scale production of DU weapons and munitions. Who is deceiving - or trying to deceive - whom? the answer is obvious, friends. All this confusion is nothing more or less than an attempt to silence the voice of international public opinion.
Because of the controversy
arising last year due to the death of allied soldiers, both the US and
NATO agreed to demonstrate to the world that DU did not have anything
to do with the deaths of these soldiers. (16) As part of their strategy
they conducted "studies", nearly all signed and supported
by "prestigious" scientists and institutions in the US. (17)
Of course, international reaction to their arguments (some as ridiculous
as saying that DUU is 40% less radioactive than natural uranium, which
we live with every day) was complete rejection of this version. (18)
But what does this whole discussion have to do with DU use in Vieques? The answer is that it has much more to do with the the "little girl island (Isla Nena)" than we imagine.
To begin: during my research what grabbed my attention was the fact that the discussion of the use and danger of DU arms and munitions had been limited to the official documents about the cases of the Gulf War and the Balkans. (21) I should state that I recognize the importance of these two cases, in which so many innocent people died or are dying from the effects of this poison. But what about places such as Vieques, which for 60 years has had to put up with test after test of the weapons which get used in the wars? What about Vieques, the place where clients of the Defense Department can "Try before Buy"?(22) Total silence.
Nonetheless, other Internet pages, especially those dedicated to environmental protection, have much valuable information. in one of them I found the article "Depleted Uranium: Radioactive Residue in the Desert", whose author, John J. Miller, Coordinator of the International Clearinghouse on the Military and the Environment, discusses DU contamination "at home." (23) Of course, "at home means the US (the 50 states) and the military bases there. Vieques is not mentioned, but it still is a good point of departure for our cause. Says pero es un buen punto de partida para nuestra causa. Dice John J. Miller:
In the United States, DU shells are regularly used in training and tested after production, threatening the health of not only soldiers, but civilians, livestock and wildlife. According to Geoffrey Sea of In Vivo, a radiation health research group, "Depleted uranium munitions have caused serious contamination problems in every community in which they have been tested."(24)
Later Miller mentions contamination in testing places in the US:
In the U.S., groundwater
contamination has been found near a test site in Minnesota. In Socorro,
New Mexico, at another
Finally, I want to share with you Miller's words that describe the damage that this material causes in the human body, especially in children:
DU is especially dangerous when inhaled, or enters the body through a wound or by swallowing. While U-238's alpha radiation does not travel far (a piece of paper or the skin can stop it), it can cause great a deal of damage once in the body, where it can cause cancer and genetic defects. Unlike an X-ray, which provides a brief exposure, the radiation from uranium continues to assault the body's cells and their nuclei. Children are especially vulnerable, because their cells are dividing rapidly as they grow. In addition to its radioactive dangers, uranium is chemically toxic like lead. The body deals with uranium like calcium. Large doses can cause heavy metal poisoning; lower doses can damage kidneys or the lungs. The uranium is permanently deposited in the bones and can cross the placenta.(26)
I believe - and
this is a very personal opinion - that the time has come to stop playing
the aggressor's game. that we do not permit them to keep deceiving us
with the myth of National Defense and the so-called use of 'inert' bombs.
It's time for analysts, politicians, reporters, religious leaders, environmentalists,
and all people who in one form or other have access to the media and
othe rmeans of communication, to confront the Navy with the evidence
in our hands, and that we should say with one voice that we no longer
believe their lies. Vieques is in danger of dying, friends, and it is
time to stop the rain of Depleted Uranium over the Isla Nena.
Other DU Arms and Munitions LInks
There are several ways. You can also send in poetry or short prose of your own to be considered for IN OUR OWN WORDS, THE EZINE FROM BBBOOKS. We also recommend looking at the Classifieds in Poets and Writers Magazine, visiting our Calls for Submission Page, or entering one of the contests like our "People Before Profits Poetry Prize". Only entires that include a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) will be returned, so be sure to include this with your work. See our editorial philosphy above.