US Report – 8th International Women's Network Against Militarism

US Report
8th International Women’s Network Against Militarism meeting
Encuentro/Nets for Genuine Security
February 19-24, Puerto Rico
(report without images)

Slide 1 – National Context IMAGE: National Defense Spending

1. Government estimates of military spending only cover the Department of Defense budget. Money for veterans’ benefits, nuclear weapons and research, interest on the national debt (mostly due to military spending) are itemized under other departments. The War Resisters League estimate for 2012 is $1,372 billion, or 48% of the total U.S. budget ( The United States has increased its military spending by 81% since 2001, and accounts for 43% of the global total, six times its nearest rival, China. Together, the U.S. and NATO allies are responsible for 66% of the world total (

2. Last October, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed ongoing U.S. military presence in the Asia Pacific region: “I want to make very clear that the United States is going to remain a presence in the Pacific for a long time.” U.S. news outlets and public discourse emphasize “the rise of China.” U.S. military policy to “contain” China is partly a response to economic dependence on China for manufactured goods as well as loans to cover the U.S. debt from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Slide 2 – Updates: Bay Area Militarized Sites IMAGES- Glen Cove, Bayview, Alameda
Five years ago when the Network met in the San Francisco Bay Area we visited militarized sites.
1. Recently the Bay Area indigenous community and their supporters staged a 4 month (109 days) sit-in and encampment and were able to partially save a sacred burial ground, “Sogorea Te” (Glen Cove ,Vallejo), from being converted into a public park. They were able to prevent the construction of a parking lot and bathrooms, but the burial site has been leveled.

2. Redevelopment plans for the former military bases around the Bay Area continue to be on hold until sites are cleaned up and approved as safe by state regulatory agencies. Treasure Island Naval Base, which closed in 1997, is still being cleaned of asbestos, plutonium, radium, lead paint, underground petroleum and other toxic substances. At the Hunter’s Point shipyard, which closed in 1973, developers tried to get an early transfer agreement last year, but the California Supreme Court blocked this because it would release the Navy from completing the toxic clean up, leaving the developer to do this.
3. At the former naval air station in Alameda, some land has been turned over to the City of Alameda at no cost. 200 units of former Navy housing now house families and individuals who had been homeless, and land is being used for an urban farm, retail plant nursery and bakery for job training for these families. There remains much argument about further redevelopment plans but the economic recession means that there is no money for this.
SLIDE 3 – Veterans Dealing with the Effects of War
IMAGES: Women vet in helmet; clothesline
1. Women veterans are returning from combat with high rates of PTSD. The film “Poster Girl” shows the experience of one woman with severe PTSD who took 3 years to convince the Veterans Administration that she was not able to work. Members of Iraq Vets Against the War screened this film in San Francisco last fall. One woman vet said: “I was 19. I had no idea what I was getting into. I grew up in Fresno, and there were no jobs. What was I supposed to do?” Many people have criticized the inadequate support for returning vets. The Service Women’s Action Network, founded by women of color, supports military women and veterans (
2. Veterans and active duty soldiers are committing suicide in high numbers. More active duty soldiers killed themselves (468) than died in combat (462) in Iraq and Afghanistan during 2009 and 2010.
3. Military sexual assault continues to rise and affects veterans as well as active duty troops. In 2009, the Pentagon admitted that 80% of military rapes are never reported. The Department of Defense office mandated to oversee investigations into military sexual assault does not appear to do so according to the government auditor ( A bill introduced in Congress in May 2011 would allow victims access to legal services, a chance to transfer jobs away from their attacker, and a promise that their private counseling sessions wouldn’t be used against them in court. The bill failed at the committee stage.
4. Preferential job hiring for vets. The Department of Labor has implemented Priority of Service for veterans and eligible spouses in all qualified job-training programs.
SLIDE 4 – Military Recruitment IMAGE- sign: “College not Combat”
1. The economic recession, lack of good jobs and rising college tuition costs (9% increase this year for California state colleges and universities) are driving many young people to enlist in the military. Army recruiters credit the weak economy for exceeding their recruitment goals and the higher education level of recruits over the last few years. In 2010, 96% of recruits had a high school diploma or better, although the military has expressed concern that high school education is not adequately preparing students for today’s military.

2. In 2009, the San Francisco school board, bowing to pressure from students and parents, reinstated the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (an armed forces program) in San Francisco high schools. They had voted to eliminate it in 2006.

3. Truth in Recruitment efforts, such as the work of Bay Area group, Bay Peace (, continue to provide alternative information and to point out what is missing from the “glamorous” and “exciting” materials that military recruiters use. A free online video in English and Spanish, “,” features straight talk from soldiers, veterans and their family members who provide a vivid picture of the realities of military life, and what to do if you are being pressured to enlist by a recruiter.

SLIDE 5 – Domestic Militarization
IMAGES- U. C. Davis students pepper sprayed on campus, Oakland Police crackdown of Occupy Oakland, Border patrol?

1. The government is using the same military mindset to maintain a system of domination and control of civil society in the United States – as shown in President Obama’s signing of a law that allows indefinite detention of citizens and others without charge or trial.

2. Billions of dollars have been spent to militarize the border with Mexico, the longest border between a rich and a poor country, including a $2.4 billion 700-mile fence. The number of border patrol agents and money spent on border protection and immigration more than doubled between 2000 and 2011, including the purchase of 10 Predator and Guardian unmanned drones. This militarized approach to immigration is responsible for the creation of 350 immigration detention centers that detain and deport 400,000 people per year. Half of the detained immigrants are held in detention centers run by for-profit prison companies, which also benefit from the criminalization of poor, young, people of color. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world: 1 in every 100 adults or 2.3 million people are in prison.

3. City budgets show the same distorted spending priorities as the federal budget. For example in Oakland, the police and fire departments account for 75% of the city’s budget. Fighting “criminals” and “terrorists” is being used as an excuse to criminalize people, violate human rights, and enrich contractors.

SLIDE 6 – California students demonstrate against rising fees — Annie
Maybe use the image: UC Davis students being pepper-sprayed?

SLIDE 7 – Trafficking
In 2011 the United States included an assessment of its own efforts to combat human trafficking in the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). This is the first time this has ever happened. Although the United States believes that its strategies to combat violence against women are effective (in the prosecution of human trafficking, prevention of trafficking in persons awareness and protection of victims of trafficking in human beings) violence continues to be a problem. From 2008 to 2010, Federal anti-trafficking task forces had a total of 2,515 suspected cases of human trafficking ( The Justice Department estimates that 14,500 to 17,000 are trafficked into the U.S. every year. And it is estimated by Shared Hope International that 100,000 American children are trafficked within the United States each year. The numbers show that there are many who are trafficked in the U.S. And, what is clear is that immigration relief is insufficient There is a cap for T-Visas issued – a visa for victims of trafficking receive (5,000 per year). By 2010, only 1,862 were authorized since 2002 ( Advocates are also working very hard in the United States because the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) and TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) reauthorizations are suspended. The debates and divisions in Congress have slowed the process both laws are pending.

SLIDE 8 – Grassroots campaigns to “move the money” IMAGE: We Can’t Feed The Poor

The New Priorities Campaign is a national effort to move money from the military budget to fund local needs ( WGS is affiliated with the Bay Area Campaign for New Priorities, a coalition of peace organizations, labor unions, and community groups. Local residents have taken petitions to their city councils, asking them to sign onto the campaign. Then the city resolutions will go to the state level. A few members of Congress are working on this, including Representative Barbara Lee (Oakland). Groups will participate in the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, April 17.

SLIDE 9 Joining Hands for Peace on the Golden Gate Bridge, September 11, 2011
IMAGES: Debbie and Margo with WGS banner, line of people on the bridge; woman with peace sign
Initiated by Code Pink Bay Area, WGS co-sponsored this event to commemorate the anniversary of 9-11 by protesting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. People gathered at each end of the bridge. The two lines of marchers met in the middle at noon. We faced east towards the Bay, as if addressing the nation, and said, “These are not our wars.” Then everyone turned toward the ocean, addressing the world: “The people declare peace.”

SLIDE 10 Occupy Everywhere
IMAGE: Map from Occupy Everywhere

+ OCCUPY photos send by Diana?

1. Last October, Occupy Wall Street was sparked by the Canadian magazine Adbusters and a New Media activist group called Anonymous to protest corporate greed, bank bailouts, housing foreclosures, homelessness, and unemployment, while there is a bloated military budget. In this Occupy Everywhere map, most of the action seems to be happening in the United States and Europe. Of course, these are not the only places where struggle and movement building is going on. Rather, the intensive documentation in Northern, urban countries reflects their media and technology privilege.

2. Many people in the United States felt that the Occupy movement reflected their concerns—though some criticized the term “occupy. ” In Oakland, for example, there have been several attempts to have Occupy Oakland renamed “Decolonize and Liberate Oakland”. The Occupy movement has raised issues regarding gender, race and class. Women have reported being disrespected and marginalized. Many homeless, low-income, people of color felt their contributions in General Assembly meetings were unappreciated and silenced because they were seen as being divisive (

3. Incidences of police brutality against Occupy protesters hit the headlines. In the Bay Area Debbie Lee notes:
“An Operation Urban Shield exercise at University of California-Berkeley brought together militarized police forces from cities across the U.S. to share the latest urban repression methods. Weeks before, the Oakland Police Department violated its own policies, and took part in international training next to Bahrain military and Israeli border units.”

4. Many indigenous people in North America and people with Puerto Rican heritage or from other nations colonized and occupied by the United States do not relate to the name “Occupy” or to the goals of the movement: to redistribute wealth within this economic and political system (

Different Occupy actions continue as people raise various Occupy philosophies within institutions they work, volunteer and live in. Is this a movement that the women’s Network could connect to? It would provide a great opportunity to connect with people actively involved in movement building. But, how do we think critically about it so that relations and strategies can deepen and strengthen?