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Home About Us Prisoners of Conscience 2006 - SOA 16 Joshua Harris
Joshua Harris PDF Print E-mail
Joshua was released from TAFT CI on Friday, May 18 after serving a 60 day sentence for crossing the line onto Ft. Benning during the 2007 November Vigil to Close the SOA/WHINSEC.

Biography:

Josh first learned about the SOA in 2003 while hearing the Prince Myshkins perform their SOA-related song "Mimi LaValley and 100 Nuns." At the time, Josh was an undergraduate at California State University San Marcos studying Sociology and Women's Studies with an emphasis in feminist and queer theory. His studies inspired his involvement with social justice issues, and since then, he has been active with anti-war movements and an advocate for immigrant and queer/transgender rights.

Before returning to school to continue his education, Josh worked for Amtrak as a Train Attendant on long-distance passenger trains. Now he is a student at Claremont Graduate University working on a Masters in Religion. He is also the Graduate Advisor at the Queer Resource Center for the Claremont Colleges. Josh enjoys accordion music, documentary films, and Peppermint Patties. He lives in Claremont, California.

SOA/WHINSEC institute spokesperson, Lee Rials, was recently quoted as saying: "While it is true that there are people who committed crimes after attending a course [at WHINSEC], no cause-effect relationship has ever been found." I'm here today because I believe there is a cause-effect relationship between the training that takes place at Ft. Benning and the human rights violations that continue to occur in Central and South America, even if the Pentagon does not recognize a cause-effect relationship. Of course, it makes sense that this opinion can be expressed by military officials because there has never been an investigation into the history and the actions of the graduates to prove otherwise. In short, there's no connection because the SOA says there's no connection.

I'm also here today to continue my witness. I'm here for those who cannot be here -- for those who have been abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered. And not just for the victims of the aforementioned atrocities, but also for the survivors, family and friends; those who are left behind, those who escape imprisonment and death, but must flee their villages and countries, or worse, return to these locales to find chaos, destruction and empty homes.

These concepts: chaos, destruction, torture, war -- are foreign concepts to most of us. In that respect, we're privileged. I've never had to live in the fear of attack by para-military forces. I've never had to beg for my life in front of a death squad. But I'm here today because my country supports, funds, and trains such groups. Fortunately for you and I, we send these soldiers to other places, to kill and torture other people.

When it comes to opposing this perverse form of diplomacy, I tend to agree with the opinion of those who are the victims of empire, that being, that the only people who can stop the empire are the people within it, its citizens, people like you and I. And that is why I stepped through a hole in a fence onto Ft. Benning last November.

Now, in the eyes of the law, why I crossed is of no significance, only consequence. In this court, the only thing of importance is that I broke a law. I trespassed. However, I will continue to stress that the reasons and motivations for why I trespassed are everything. My actions have no meaning outside of their context. The histories, circumstances, and testimonials presented are not insignificant details, but rather, real people, real lives. While it might be easier to hide behind the law by emphasizing my criminal act rather than my political motivations and social responsibility, it is hypocritical and cowardly to do so.

Let me also add that while I am being tried by the United States of America, I am here to tell you that the United States of America is not against me. The country that has taken me to court is made of people. It is nothing without its residents. And its residents are against war, torture, and abuse. I direct this statement to those who have put me on trial in the name of Americans.

In a minute my sentence will be handed down. As far as I can deduce, it would appear the formula is to punish, with the utmost severity, those who commit misdemeanors in an attempt to bring attention to the injustices of US foreign policy; meanwhile, do not persecute those who commit atrocities in an attempt to conceal the truth of US foreign policy. I am not blaming you (Judge Faircloth) for this, just making an observation.

Taxpayer funds go to the SOA, and they will also pay for me to sit in prison because I oppose the SOA. Ironically, in both cases, I wholeheartedly believe that if people knew what they were funding, they would not support it. I want to make it clear that I think it is absurd and preposterous that I am facing a jail sentence for a peaceful, nonviolent action. My actions do NOT warrant incarceration. That being said, I have no desire to avoid the consequences. People in the past have gone to jail for their commitments and so will I.

So many times in our life we are not true to our convictions because we fear punishment, retaliation, and disruption. Part of my crossing was to confront that fear: to not let the possibility of incarceration restrict my social responsibility. We should not let fear stop us from doing what we feel is right and just, even when that fear includes speaking our truth to a judge who decides our fate.

In closing, let me reiterate, I do not feel I am guilty of a crime. I am guilty of standing up for human rights, I am guilty of opposing war, and I am guilty of seeking closure of the SOA. My hope is that our military apparatus will be held accountable for their violations of law in the same way that I am being held accountable for my violation of law. If we could follow this simple precedent, the SOA would be put on trial in the same way that I am on trial before you today.

Thank you.

 

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