and Martha Hennessey
interviewed by Dennis Bernstein
transcript by Buddy Bell
DENNIS: And you’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. My name is Dennis Bernstein. This is your daily investigative news magazine. Well, the latest All-American shooter was 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Everybody knows that now. The notably disturbed Lanza was armed with a high-powered rifle, 2 handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition when he forcibly entered a Newton, CT elementary school and cut down 20 young students, 6 faculty members. The weapons that were utilized most of the time or the one that was utilized most of the time was a 223 caliber Bushmaster rifle. Lanza also carried and a 9mm Sixhour and a 10mm Glock, both handguns he said, handguns, and one of the handguns, I guess, he didn’t bring it, I don’t know. Anyway, we know now that the shooter shot his mother first. It’s been widely reported that the shooter actually used the guns with his mother to go fun-shooting at the target range. His mother Nancy Lanza owned the weapons. Her murder was also ruled a homicide. She was shot and killed by her son multiple times in the head. And all of mom’s weapons had multiple magazines and ammunition. And each of the magazines had a capacity of approximately 30 rounds. I mean, they, he could have fired thousands of rounds very quickly. Of course, those weapons are like almost toys compared to the weaponry that the US government and its surrogates and supporters, as in Israel, use on civilian populations around the world. We’re going to talk about every aspect of this life in the two-gun world. And we’re going to begin the discussion with Kathy Kelly. She is with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She and Martha Hennessey, of the Catholic Worker who join us from New York City are on their way to Afghanistan and have seen a great deal of the kind of violence that is perpetrated against civilian populations by the US government and its surrogates. Kathy Kelly, there are also, I think it was 10 young girls died at, sort of near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan yesterday.
KATHY: That’s right Dennis, these were young girls who were helping their families by going out to collect firewood for fuel. It’s a, it’s a hard job, and you kind of have to pull the scrub brush out of the mountainsides, and unfortunately they must have come across a landmine. We don’t know for sure exactly what had happened, but the explosive device exploded, and 10 girls were killed, and 2 were wounded. And you know there, there are 6000 known hazardous areas all across Afghanistan, which are deemed hazardous because they are known to have these explosive weapons buried under the ground. It affects over 1,900 communities in Afghanistan, and these were little girls who were, in a sense, not gunned down by the, of the particular warring parties specifically, and certainly there are many instances where airborne attacks have slain children and women collecting fuel on mountainsides, but so many different countries have littered the ground of Afghanistan with their weapons, and actually just in the first six months of this year, 231 children of Afghanistan have died in war-related deaths.
DENNIS: Now these landmines, they could be the US or maybe not.
KATHY: Well, sure, they could be implanted by the Taliban. They could have been implanted by the Soviet Union or in, by resistance groups prior to that, the Pakistanis. There’s a museum in Kabul that we visited before, and it’s a macabre place. It curates all of the various landmines and cluster bombs and weapons that have littered the ground of Afghanistan and has a very neat and uniform index card indicating what country made it, and what the year was, and what its particular explosive capacity is. And there’s almost no country in the world that’s a developed industrial country that hasn’t contributed to that museum’s curated display.
DENNIS: And let me bring you in Martha Hennessey. You’re on your way as well to Afghanistan. You’ve been there before. And let me ask you, and I raise this in the context of sort of, local and global violence. I am deeply troubled by the slaughter in Connecticut and the slaughter and the dying and the girls, the 10 girls that were killed yesterday, and all the killing. Let me ask you to give your context. You saw what happened in Connecticut. You’re on your way to Afghanistan. How do you think about this?
MARTHA: Yes I’m concerned with the violence that we seem to be awash in in both our society here and in the world in general. I’m trained as an occupational therapist. This recent shooting in Connecticut– it’s complex, it’s complicated. This young man was diagnosed with Aspergers. There is some word, and I can’t validate this, that he was on psychotropic meds or was on them, but in most of these shootings that have occurred around the country, I think one aspect of this topic is not coming out is the role of mental illness and the use of psychotropic drugs. And I think we really should pay attention to that role in all of this, with the Big Pharma making quite a profit, and the gun industry making quite a profit. And I, I can’t help but think when we look at the violence that there’s always money to be made, and that’s what’s driving a lot of this. And that’s a perspective that I always keep in the back of my mind with this. But I’m going to Afghanistan. I’ve traveled with Kathy once before, and for me just to meet the people personally makes such a difference in all of these efforts in peacemaking. So that’s my motivation for taking this trip.
DENNIS: And Kathy I want to also have you reflect on the violence here, what happened in Connecticut, what’s been happening wherever you happen to look, if it’s, you know, in Newton, or Oregon, or Wisconsin, or Aurora, or Chicago, or wherever. And I just– I am so troubled by the fact that they were the mom’s automatic advanced weapons and that there are credible reports that what they did together, they used to go shooting target practice together. How does that, how do you put that in the context of the American way?
KATHY: Well, we certainly, Dennis, have generations of people in this country glorifying and being more than willing to develop and store and sell and use weapons. It’s not considered exceptional in our society. You know, since Columbine, Dennis, there have been, worldwide, 14 other school shootings that happened, I’m talking about all around the world, but in the United States, since Columbine, there have been 41 school shootings. So we need to look in the mirror I think, I mean, we talk about a military-industrial complex and what are the predictable results. Well, when our, you know, major sources of industry have so much to do with blowing people up and ripping people apart and killing people and ending life, ending human life, well then it’s, I suppose, almost formulaic that there will be persecution of and attacks against innocent civilians. And then of course Martha has mentioned mental illness and the tremendous traumas that people sustain and our unwillingness to put our resources into serious healthcare that can really bring about the kinds of changes that would make our society… I mean, we could be living in paradise with the resources and the funding that we could make available if we took it out of spending it on military and on huge industries such as the pharmaceutical industry or I’ll also mention the prison industry. And there’s so much greed. People just want to make more and more and more money. It’s almost like it’s a reflexive reaction. I mean, just to consider Dec. 12, after 35 Gazan children had been killed by weapons that the United States sold or gave to Israel (and they were among the much higher number– 170 people had been killed, about 1200 were wounded), on Dec. 12, the US congress voted to replenish Israel’s missiles, gave $647 million to Israel, 7000 joint “defense ammunition kits” were to be purchased and 10,000 bombs, mostly bunker busters. We’re a society that’s known worldwide for our menacing arsenal, and so I would imagine people in other parts of the world think, well, what would they expect if they don’t have gun control, and they have such a predisposition toward developing and storing and selling and using weapons, those weapons are going to be used against their own people as well.
DENNIS: And Martha Hennessey, again, it’s really hard to reconcile that this mom, who I’m sure was incredibly concerned about her child, knew he was disturbed. I mean, it’s just something so deep in the culture that’s hard to reconcile, that they, that this would be the way that they would get it out of, you know, she would work with him to get it out of his system. It’s hard to understand what was going on, but it really is endemic about the way we live, and, you know, people, honestly, they, they drive their cars like weapons. I mean, it’s a 2000 pound weapon. And, I mean, honestly, so it’s, you get bigger power tools to express what? I’m at a loss.
KATHY: Well of course, you have a history of having taught young people yourself, and I think across this country there are people who, by and large, love children, adore children, want to take care of the children, don’t want to aim weapons at them, don’t want to see these kinds of crazed rulings that allow a relatively smaller group, I’m thinking of the National Rifle Association, to push through the ability of people– sometimes people who are mentally ill, sometimes people who have a history of violence to obtain these kinds of weapons. Now this can be solved, this is soluble, but unfortunately the gun lobby is very, very, very strong, and President Obama may not…
DENNIS: And I want to, and just to let people know, in a moment we’re going to be talking with Lisa Graves of PR Watch, and we’re going to be talking about the American Legislative Exchange Council and the fact that essentially the NRA is just a corporate, a flack for corporations that want to sell a lot of weapons, and we’ll talk more about that. But, I guess, again, because we’re moving sort of fast, let me interrupt here, bring you back, Martha Hennessey, and ask you what makes it important for you to go onto the ground in Afghanistan where this country is at war with advanced weaponry, with drones, with whatever you can imagine.
MARTHA: Well I’m very intrigued with the country Afghanistan. It has an amazing history, amazing people, and with my one trip there, I just felt in my bones that I needed to come back and see these people again. And the question of, you know, who the enemy is– I do come from a faith-based slant on this, and I just want to meet the so-called enemy. And my brother fought in Vietnam when I was 14 years old, and so war to me has been a very personal experience, and I’ve also worked with a veteran population in my therapy training. And so, for me it’s so important to not condemn everyone and anyone and to just go into desperation and isolation. For me, I have to reach out. I have to go and meet the people and work with people, and for me this is very important, and I have great hope. I know, you paint quite a picture of our culture in, awash in such greed and violence, but I, I hold out hope, and we have to just keep forward with this effort. It’s so important.
KATHY: Dennis, I might be able to offer you a small word of hope. You know, sixteen thousand children die every day of hunger all around the world. And the women that we know best in Afghanistan are women who have literally wept because they can’t feed their children. But the project that we’re helping with right now involves these very women making duvets– the heavy blankets that are so needed for warmth in Afghanistan– and giving them away for free, and they can do that because people here are making it possible out of their generosity. So I, there are seeds of hope everywhere.
DENNIS: Alright, and so we’re gonna really want to catch up with you, either when you’re there or as soon as you both get back. We are very interested in being represented by people who are not carrying weapons, or flying drone, or shooting missiles, or setting up mines. Too often we’re represented by weaponry instead of human beings. So, this is why, Kathy Kelly, I always come back to you, and Martha Hennessey, nice to hear your voice, and I do look forward to hearing what happens, what you see, and more about the people on the ground. Thank you both.
KATHY: Well thanks so much Dennis, if you get a chance, check out Mairead Maguire’s speech in Kabul last week. It was great. Thank you
MARTHA: Thank you.
DENNIS: Well thank you very much. Both of you be careful. You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. We’re going to take a short music break, and we’ll be back with the next guest. Stay with us.