The reasoning behind PMR’s opposition
For two weeks in November 2007, anti-war activists organizing as Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) literally laid their bodies in the street, on the ground, and against the gate in opposition to continued U.S. war and occupation when local government attempted to militarize their port and city streets. PMR is a movement with many affinity groups and individuals who joined in 2007 to resist the militarization of our community in our names.
Now, nearly a decade later, the cash-strapped Port of Olympia is again considering military shipments through the Port and city streets. And once again, PMR is organizing in opposition to complicity in the illegal and immoral war represented by these shipments. Some activists opposing port militarization are focusing on transforming the port’s economy to avoid any future such military shipments.
Regardless of affinity, activists emphasize their resistance is not toward service members, but in opposition to the wars that began in Iraq and Afghanistan and that have evolved under the Obama administration to interventionism across the world. PMR strongly disagrees with any suggestions that the wars are “over.”
As the Port of Olympia again seeks to introduce military shipments through this community with a large population opposed to U.S. global aggression, it would seem to behoove the port commissioners to consider the costs incurred in 2007. News reports noted hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on police actions that abused citizens exercising their free speech and assembly rights. The City of Olympia reported police costs amounting to $112,168 with a $42,000 shortfall to be billed to Department of Defense. The city also incurred significant legal costs associated with civil complaints brought by citizens for civil rights violations.
It is notable that prior to com-mencement of the Iraq War in 2001 and continuing through the Bush Administration, social justice and anti-war activists testified in opposition to U.S. war and occupation, marched in protests and held rallies and vigils. They petitioned their representatives, made calls, and held sit-ins. Yet nearly a decade later, the U.S. has expanded its intervention and occupation while thousands of U.S. military lives and millions of innocent Middle Eastern lives continue to be lost. And absent their consent, citizens and taxpayers are in debt for wars costing untold numbers of lives and trillions of dollars.
In 2007, when activists learned the USNS Brittin would dock in Olympia to unload its cargo, activists rallied as PMR with the goal of ending local complicity in illegal and immoral war. The USNS Brittin arrived at the Port of Olympia on November 5, 2007 carrying military equipment from the Iraq War. The equipment belonged to the 3rd Brigade 2nd Infantry Division and PMR learned it was the same equipment that had been shipped out from the Port of Olympia in May 2006 when the initial resistance occurred. Though PMR had earlier decided not to obstruct the “return” of equipment, upon learning it would be repaired at Fort Lewis and returned to Iraq in a revolving door of war support, activists reconsidered. In November 2007 PMR adopted an equipment “containment” policy to block the revolving-door refurbishment process and based on health concerns related to depleted uranium (DU).
Sadly, the troops from the 3rd Brigade returned to Ft. Lewis in October, 2007 minus 48 soldiers who were killed in Iraq. PMR’s goal was to “end our community’s participation in the illegal occupation of Iraq by stopping the military’s use of the Port of Olympia.” From the outset, PMR sought to educate, through rallies, marches, die-ins, and through acts of peaceful civil disobedience, about the war and how the military’s use of the Port supports the military occupation. In November, 2007, after thirteen days of resistance by more than 500 activists, and despite unprovoked police violence, there was a sense that direct action and civil resistance by committed citizens can make a difference.
Then, when Barack Obama was elected there were high expectations that war would end and U.S. imperialist policy would change, but the devastating reality is that along with many other policy disappointments, war did not end. If anything, we’ve seen expanded U.S. interventionism in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Honduras.
The Obama administration drew-down troop levels, but expanded private security with public funding, and adopted the use of kill lists and drones. The drone program created by the George W. Bush administration carried out ten times more drone assassination attacks under the Obama administration. The Centre for Research on Globalization reported a year ago that, “According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the George W. Bush administration ordered 50 drone attacks while the government of current US President Barack Obama has already launched around 500 such strikes. Obama primarily ordered assassination strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.” While the U.S. claims the CIA-led and non-U.N.-sanctioned drone strikes are to kill militants, casualty figures show innocent women and children are often the targets.
The intersectionality of U.S. military imperialism with the social, human rights, and planetary costs of war must be understood to identify the widespread and multiple forms of opposition to it in Olympia and beyond.
First and foremost, the U.S. military is the primary coercive institution utilized to ensure U.S. political and economic dominance throughout the world. This dominance is thoroughly racialized as the non-white victims of U.S. imperialism are dehumanized in some way or another.
Over the last decade and a half, the U.S. military has wreaked havoc on the Middle East as it killed hundreds of thousands of people, annihilated civilian infrastructures, and bred political extremism in response in the region.
Climate justice and anti-militarism resistance is also crucial to addressing climate change as the Department of Defense is the largest institutional carbon emitter in the world.
Another intersection in U.S. militarism and imperialism is integral for expressing solidarity with Palestinian liberation and exposing the cozy relationship between the U.S. and the Israel Defense Forces.
Participating in the anti-war movement is to challenge the internally violent nature of the military, where rates of gendered violence and assault are astronomically high.
Finally, and especially egregious, the inverse of high and ever-increasing military expenditure for death and destruction abroad is austerity and draconian reductions in social spending at home. Funding for bombing homes in Iraq or providing Israel with resources to shell UN schools in Gaza, comes at the direct expense of funding for affordable housing, universal healthcare, education and schools, transportation and utilities infrastructure, alternative energy, and caring for social safety-net programs in the U.S.
According to National Priorities, U.S. taxpayers are paying $8.36 million every hour for Total Cost of Wars since 2001. And for the Department of Defense, Thurston County taxpayers are paying $320.12 million annually, not including the cost of war.
Here’s what those tax dollars could have paid for instead:
- 3,802 Elementary School Teachers for 1 Year, or
- 4,321 Clean Energy Jobs Created for 1 Year, or
- 5,762 Infrastructure Jobs Created for 1 Year, or
- 3,201 Jobs with Supports Created in High Poverty Communities for 1 Year, or
- 31,736 Head Start Slots for Children for 1 Year, or
- 32,560 Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for 1 Year, or
- 8,782 Scholarships for University Students for 4 Years, or
- 13,762 Students Receiving Pell Grants of $5,815 for 4 Years, or
- 166,211 Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for 1 Year, or
- 314,820 Households with Wind Power for 1 Year, or
- 91,032 Adults Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for 1 Year, or
- 194,462 Households with Solar Electricity for 1 Year
Today’s U.S. military aggression with its secret kill-list targeted drone assassinations eclipses the illegal and immoral Iraq and Afghanistan wars PMR resisted in 2006 and 2007. Therefore, consistent with the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles that prohibits acts of military aggression and requires citizens of a democracy to hold their government accountable, PMR will again resist militarizing our port and streets. PMR refuses to be complicit in illegal and immoral war, and activists are prepared to protest, disrupt, and engage in non-violent direct action if the Port of Olympia renews military shipments.
As activists again take to the streets, people of conscience are asked to join the resistance to U.S. imperialism and interventionism. People of conscience are asked to stand up to prevent military and economic power structures to divide and deter us from resisting illegal and immoral occupation in our names.
Some ways to get involved in PMR include attending organizing meetings and forums, testify to the port commission and city council about your opposition to military shipments, contact the Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and Department of Defense, write or call your congressional representative, write a letter to the editor, report on social media, and join PMR marches and rallies. A newly created Facebook page—Port Militarization Resistance-Olympia—will share information about opportunities to testify to local governmental bodies, and when and where to march, rally, and protest, among other organizing activities. One thing is certain—any attempt to militarize the local community for war profiteers will again be met with non-violent civil resistance.
Again, PMR is not an organization, it is a resistance movement, so there are not formal organizational structures. However, those interested can feel free to reach out to the authors of this article via email.
Kyle Taylor Lucas is an American Indian freelance writer and Indigenous, social, economic, environmental, and human rights activist based in Olympia. KyleTaylorLucas@msn.com
Robert Gorrill is a political activist based in Olympia. BobbyGorrill@gmail.com