PINKING UP THE NEVADA DESERT:
READINGS AND BOOK SIGNINGS
Oakland Main Public Library
125 14th Street
Saturday, January 14, 2017 from 3 to 4:30 PM
Book Launch: Cecile Pineda’s Three Tides: Writing at the Edge of Being
Cecile Pineda touches on issues of displacement, personal, environmental and cultural, as she talks about 40 years of the writing life, the breakthroughs, the discouragements, and the daily practice. She will read and sign copies of Three Tides: Writing at the Edge of Being. Time will be set aside for questions and answers. Pineda is widely recognized as the winner of the Gold Medal from the California Commonwealth Club and nominee for the 2015 Neustadt International Prize.
A WEEK OF DRONE RESISTANCE, Part II
The entire plateau surrounding both Indian Springs, site of the notorious drone slaughterhouse known as Creech AFB, and Cactus Springs, home of Code Pink’s drone resistance, consists of hundreds of thousands of hectares of Western Shoshone territory, including the highly polluted Nevada Test Site, from which, despite the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863, the native Shoshone have been displaced. At this time of year, temperatures range from freezing in the nights and pre-dawn mornings to 80 degrees and above in the noonday sun.
At each of the cardinal points, mountains encircle the desert in a vast embrace. Uninterrupted by highways, roads and pathways through the desert are unpaved. The expanse of land is flat except as it rises towards the foothills where it begins to mound, creating shallow desert washes. Vegetation includes mostly desert scrub, the rare palmetto and occasional Joshua tree. The land is home to the desert tortoise (a creature shy of appearances), desert hares, rabbits, hawks, crows, and many other bird species, as well as snakes.
The sweep of sky is vast, normally cloudless. But these days, starting just past dawn, a dense webbing of chemtrails chalk-lattices the sky every day of the week, Sundays included, the only exception being national holidays. For the uninitiated, chemtrails are part of a geo-engineering effort under the pretense of slowing global warming, to spread aluminum salts and dispose of excess coal ash from planes flying at about 33,000 feet — with no accountability or input from tax- and non-tax-paying citizens..
It is an area not devoid of sound pollution, paid for by your tax dollars: five days a week, there is the steady rumble of training drones being flown from Creech AFB Monday through Friday, lasting from 8 AM till 3 PM. Only outside these hours can the profound silence of the desert be fully appreciated.
Before the white man, the desert — and all the Earth — was considered sacred. It did not serve as a place where objects such as beer cans, broken glass, spray bottles, paint cans, aerosol cans, rusted bedsprings, rotting mattresses, and rubber tires could be dumped. Archeologists of the future will speculate those heaps of rusting palm-size cylindrical metal objects, marked by two triangles gouged out on one side must have been devotional objects the original desert inhabitants may have held in their hands as they worshipped.
During a week (Nov. 5–12, 2016) of anti-drone warfare protests under the auspices of Code Pink, some eighteen of us activists camped out or shared sleeping quarters in a double trailer guest house. Taken together, we represent collectively close to 600 years of dogged activism. Among us are elders, one of whom despite her years and state of health, journeys to Palestine twice yearly to insure the safe conduct of Palestinian children as they pass through Israeli check points on their way to school; a Korea war veteran with a fearless penchant for risking arrest; a wilderness experience coach, and activist whose people-to-people journeys have taken her to war zones in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bahrain; a U. S. retired diplomat and co-organizer of The Women’s Boat to Gaza; a corporate CEO; a retired licensed therapist, a novelist, and a university anthropologist and linguist, to identify only a few. Also participating, besides Americans, were nationals from Mexico, Pakistan, the Shoshone Nation, the UK, Spain, France, and Iran-via-Germany.
Nearly every evening we attended presentations by a number of our participants. Notable was the presentation by Col. Ann Wright, a retired US diplomat, who had just returned from two visits to Standing Rock, and who shared with us a fully vetted secure website where donations of much needed funds can be made. She also gave us a full report about The Women’s Boat to Gaza, intercepted in international waters by the IDF, which impounded their boat on the high seas (an act of piracy countermanded by international law). Despite the silence of the complicit US media, The Women’s Boat to Gaza is an internationally effective gesture pointing up the plight of Palestinians under Israeli apartheid, essentially people being held in an open-air prison where their access to power, waste disposal, and water is highly curtailed.
Other presenters spoke of their activism in Palestine, about the essentials of Islam, and the history of Pakistan, about cultural, and environmental population displacement, and about “Gifting” as a way of being-in-the-world in contradistinction to an economy of Exchange such as Capitalism prompts us to take for granted.
Every morning (except Friday — Veterans’ Day) we were awakened at 4:30 AM by native Shoshone drumming summoning us to a prayer circle to greet the dawn. Circling a cedar fire, we joined the dancing and chanting with our own heartfelt invocations for the life-affirming world we want to see. Some of us grabbed a cup of coffee and a bite to tide us over the long hours (6 to 8 AM) of standing on the highway at the Creech AFB gate, in time to greet base personnel as they began arriving — most of them driving single-passenger vehicles from Las Vegas (46 miles) — with our banners (DEMILITARIZE OUR EARTH; DRONES MAKE MORE ENEMIES THAN THEY KILL).
The winter darkness, illuminated by headlights, gave way to the dawning light, and as the temperatures rose, we shed some layers, allowing us to stand in the hot sun. We repeated this action each afternoon from 3 to 5 PM as base personnel left to return to Las Vegas (another 46 miles). For the most part, the drivers chose to keep stony faces attempting to ignore us; but occasionally a driver might wave, or even give us the thumbs up. From time to time, big rigs roaring past us on the highway blared their horns in doppler effect support. We activists, depending on our own cars, added to the carbon release caused by heavy base personnel traffic.
Following our routine morning action, we staged a direct action planned first by those willing to risk arrest (four of us originally, with one last-minute addition). The five principle actors held a 20 by 4 foot banner, lined up and marched slowly and ceremonially into the base gate, making for the white line (the line where crossing is forbidden to non-base personnel); a speaker held the bullhorn and read the words of our proclamation to the base personnel:
As global citizens we are part of the International Peace Patrol. Creech AFB, through its participation in the U.S. drone assassination program, is in direct violation of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, articles 3, 7 and 10. As an active member of the U.S. Air Force, your duties indirectly support the illegal activities taking place on this base. Therefore you are complicit in the crimes against humanity being committed here.
As global citizens, we order you to disperse immediately and to stop helping the illegal drone program to continue. If you fail to comply with the order to disperse, you will be trespassing against the human rights of the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and Somalia who are victimized by U.S. drones. Therefore I order you to disperse.
(After repeated readings of the above statement while counting down, the final statement was added): Since you have all failed to disperse, we are compelled to make a citizen’s arrest of the commander in charge of Creech AFB. At the top of the chain of command, Colonel Case Cunningham has the highest responsibility to ensure that all international laws are being upheld. We call on all personnel at Creech AFB to either stand down, or to assist us, in making this arrest to protect the global community.
Following the first reading of this text, one of us reported how as a veteran of the Korean war, witness to corrupt military behavior, he attempted to report to his superiors and to his congressman. Base personnel listened to this reportage with noticeable interest. A recent drone massacre of 15 Afghani men who slept peacefully in their beds alluded to the 15 faceless men cutouts we had placed at the barriers in commemoration of their now-forgotten names.
A supporting cast of those of us behind the exclusion barrier carried the cut-outs, lining some of them up along the barrier. We witnessed our colleagues being placed under arrest, one of them visibly roughed up to cries of “The Whole World Is Watching.”
Skillful melding of three elements: a text which coopted the official language of police and military personnel; the supporting “chorus” of the 15 faceless cardboard cutouts; and especially by the ceremonial aspect of the slow procession by the five willing to risk arrest, carrying the formal banner, as they processed toward the trespass line made for a spectacularly successful action.
Our colleagues in Las Vegas at Veterans for Peace and the Nevada Desert Experience went to great trouble to register us, allowing us to participate in the Veterans’ Day Parade. The parade fee was waved, contrary to media reports.
As the last group to be registered, we had to wait in the hot sun for nearly two hours as the military display formed up past us and entered the parade route. At last it came our turn. We proceeded onto the parade route with our peace banners held aloft. In short order we were forcibly cut off from the rest of the parade and two of us were detained. The pretext given was “No political messages allowed in the parade.” Yet wasn’t all that military display “political messaging?” Wasn’t it yet another commercial for endless war, and endless war profiteering? Undeterred, we continued walking, some of us forced to the sidewalk, some of us fielding such objections to our presence as: “They served,” implying that we had not served.
And yet there were five veterans amongst us, two of them young vets from recent wars, one had served in Korea, the same one who proceeded undaunted, only to be handcuffed by irate police. Another participant was tackled from behind. Unable to see that he carried a cop on his back, his impulse at first was to resist. Comrades loudly cautioned him not to offer resistance. Our videographer was also temporarily handcuffed. Both men were released without charges.
Despite these setbacks, overall our action was successful. People watching on the sidelines got a full picture of our First Amendment Rights being trampled; they saw the unfairness of excluding vets whose deeply informed inclinations against the horrors of war must also be honored. And many bystanders engaged in meaningful conversations as we proceeded.
As of this writing, the feasibility of a lawsuit against the Las Vegas municipal police for improper and unsanctioned behavior is being explored.
1. Resist. The time to sit on the sidelines waiting for “Joe to do it” is past. We are all Joe now.
2. Join up with organizations protecting the environment, protecting the homeless, advocating for low income housing, advocating for the safety of people of color and LGBT in the streets of our nation, advocating for election protection so that yet another election can’t be stolen, advocating for demilitarization of our society at home and abroad, advocating for an end to the prison/corporate complex.
3.. Educate yourself and your children about what fascism looks like.
4. If you can’t stand with the Native Americans at Standing Rock, here is a secure and fully vetted donation site where you can donate. Funds are much more urgently needed than supplies.
Everett J. Iron Eye
P.O. Box 298
Cannonball, SD 58528
5. Thank you!
For PART I please go to “Where Were You?”