'Stop the Merchants of Death' Conference
The conference started on Friday 29th of September at the University of St. Thomas, St Paul Minesota, with the screening of the film “Iraq for Sale” directed by Robert Greenwals with the attendance of about 150 people. The film is mostly about “Private Security Firms”, CACI, Titan, Black Water, Etc. and the so called “reconstruction” corporations Halliburton & KBR, with a focus on US loss of life, and how people were “duped” into trusting the corporations.
After the film we started to create a time line of the history of war profiteering and another one of the resistance to it. Then we had a panel discussion with:
- Frida Berrigan: Arms Trade Resource Center
- Eddy MacGregor: Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and WILPF
- Loring Wirbel: Citizens for Peace in Space
- David Meiran: Uprise Tour
On Saturday, we started with a panel on case studies:
- Carol Urner told us her experience building a women anti-war movement in the state of Oregon.
- Brian Payne shared with us the campaign against Taco Bell, and how by using a diversity of tactics they managed to make Taco Bell change their trade policies with farmworkers. And how now they are campaigning strongly against McDonald.
- Marv Davidov, co- funder of the Honeywell Project, a movement campaigning against Honeywell, a corporation that produced cluster bombs. He mentioned the successes of their campaign which made the corporate role in war visible in the US. But he also addressed that today we face maybe even greater challenges for stopping these corporations, and the need of a strong movement to stop them.
During the Saturday afternoon we worked in different interest groups: Youth organiser meeting, Stop Caterpillar, People Power and Profiteering, Peace in Space and Colombia. Most of these groups of interest, also met on Sunday. They were a good opportunity to learn from movements and campaigns and to come up with proposals on how we could work more coordinated between all of us. The idea of supporting each others' work, by having a system for sharing information and resources was presented, as well as the idea of having a national day of action against war profiteers.
All these ideas were further discussed in a closing session called “Weaving the Web” a session on strategies and needs for building a network and working coordinating strategies against war profiteers.
We divided in four groups: resources, networking, shareholders and counter-recruitment.
The reports back :
- Counter- recruitment: the group proposed to link the work against military recruitment to the recruitment of corporations, especially at universities.
- Resources: there are many good sources for resources, with Arms Trade Resource Center and Corpwatch as two key ones. There was the idea to keep sharing information on the email list firstname.lastname@example.org, and create a web page for the network. Pratap Chaterjee from Corpwatch said that they are working on setting up a Wiki on their website, were people will be able to add and edit information on war profiteers.
- Shareholders: Joe Carr from the campaign against Caterpillar explained the work they do on shareholders and mentioned some of the different tactics that they used to be as effective as possible. He mentioned that at their last AGM it was impossible for the CEO of Caterpillar to avoid the subject of what their company is doing in Palestine.
- Networking: This group looked into what is needed for a better networking of groups working against war profiteers and to build a national network. Some of the ideas proposed were:
- Build a team to train groups who want to work against war profiteering
- Form a steering committee to follow up the proposals from the conference
- Do merchants of death tours
- Write a tool-kit on how to tackle war profiteers
- Have a joint calendar of what is happening around war profiteers
On Sunday evening we had a Concert & Rally with almost a full auditorium at the St. Catherine College. It was an energetic evening with great music and key speakers that included Winona LaDuke, former candidate for Vicepresident, Frida Berrigan, ATRC, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, Paul Krassner, comedian, Tom Battolome and Pepper Wolf from Alliant Tech Action and Marv Davidov as speakers and Utah Phillips and The Prince Mishkins for the music.
On Monday morning we had an action at the Headquarters of Alliant Tech, where more that 70 people got arrested, for trying to deliver a message to the managers of Alliant Tech to stop the production of cluster bombs.
It is still to early to see if a US national network is born from this weekend of work, but it was clearly a good step forward. People involved in different areas of work - some coming more from a research background, some more from a campaigning one - got together to share experiences and challenges, in our commitment to work against the war profiteers and ultimately against war and the causes of war.
For more information contact War Resisters League at: