Celebrating the World War I Christmas Truce, 100 Years Ago This Week

December 22, 2014
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Football Not War! A game during the Christmas Truce, 1914.

 

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

In this season where “Peace on Earth” is often invoked, yet not always honored, remembering and celebrating peace history couldn’t be more appropriate. The story of the astonishing outbreak of the Christmas Truce one hundred years ago this week calls out for celebrating and sharing.

During the first winter of “the war to end all wars,” World War I, French, Belgian, Scottish, German, Indian and Algerian troops stalemated and hunkered down in trenches a mere 75 to 100 yards apart in France and Belgium observed a spontaneous Christmas Truce for two days, much to the consternation of the generals on both sides.

Soldiers who had been shooting at each other just the day before ceased fire, gathered and buried the dead in the no man’s land between their respective lines, sang Christmas carols together, exchanged food, drink and gifts, raised small Christmas trees, and even played football (soccer), with the German side reportedly winning most of the games.

The truce was so successful both sides had to bring up reserve troops from the rear who hadn’t participated in the truce in order to re-start the war. Remarkably, no one was court-martialed for voting with their feet and observing the truce.

I never heard of the Christmas Truce in school. I learned of it from folksinger extraordinaire John McCutcheon’s song “Christmas in the Trenches,” which is well worth a listen for inspiration on the real spirit of the holidays.

An outstanding book on the Christmas Truce is Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub. Superbly written and documented, it ably refutes skepticism in some quarters that the truce ever happened. The accounts in newspapers and especially letters to family by troops on both sides are as intimate and touching as you might imagine.

The Christmas Truce was also chronicled in the 2005 film Joyeux Noel.

Unfortunately I missed this film when it played (in September, bad scheduling!) at the AFI Silver Theater two blocks from the Peace Action office here in Silver Spring, but the trailer looks great and I’ll try to find it sometime over the holidays.

As John McCutcheon says, the story of the Christmas Truce needs to be told year round, 365 days a year.

Thank you for your actions for peace, and support of Peace Action.

Peacefully yours,

 

Kevin Martin

Executive Director


Double Your Impact!

December 18, 2014

peace girl

I am pleased to report one of our most steadfast supporters has awarded Peace Action Education Fund a challenge grant of $10,000.

This means every tax-deductible gift we receive up to $10,000 will be automatically matched dollar for dollar starting today.

It’s an opportunity that will allow us to plan a bit bigger as we develop our strategy for 2015.  You know the stakes and you know what we’re up against.  Here’s a chance to double the impact of your end of the year support for Peace Action Education Fund.

There are too many people around the world who will be spending this month under the threat of a bomb – Made in the U.S.A. – falling on their home.  We can’t tell them we will stop the insanity tomorrow, but we can say we will not stop working until it ends.

Time and time again, you’ve stood with us when we needed you most, and as 2014 comes to a close, I need your help once again.

Please take advantage of this matching gift opportunity and and make your tax-deductible, year-end gift to Peace Action Education Fund today. Your impact will be doubled instantly!

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director


The Movement for Global Nuclear Weapons Abolition: On from Vienna to New York City!

December 16, 2014

- Peter Deccy, Development Director

Peace Action and our allies in the global movement for nuclear abolition won a small but significant victory at the Third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons last week in Vienna.  We have been pressing the administration for over a year now demanding greater participation in international fora dealing with nuclear disarmament.  This was the first time the United States was present to address the impact of nuclear weapons and the potential for their use on human health, the environment, agriculture and food security, and the economy.

The U.S. was absent at the first two of these international conferences, a visable reminder to the growing number of nations working for zero nuclear weapons that the U.S. wants to keep nuclear weapons out of their hands but isn’t planning to give up its nukes anytime soon.  The Obama administration needed to demonstrate it is taking their work seriously or risk serious blowback at the next year’s review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT RevCon).

Peace Action’s Field Director, Judith LeBlanc and our chapters in New York and New Jersey are playing a key roll in organizing an international grassroots presence at the NPT review conference, just as we did at the last one in 2010, organizing an international conference and a 15,000 person march to the United Nations.

Peace Action and the American Friends Service Committee have dedicated staff working with an ad hoc committee of nuclear abolition allies formulating plans for the our presence at the NPT review conference which will involve:

•    Organizing an inclusive international Nuclear Weapons Abolition conference on the eve of the NPT RevCon;
•    Organizing a mass rally and march on the eve of the Review Conference to demand nuclear weapons abolition, peace and justice – including reducing military spending and the funding of essential human needs;
•    Organizing an international  peace festival at the conclusion of the rally and march;
•    Facilitating organizing by the rising generation of young nuclear abolitionists;
•    Facilitating delivery of millions of Japanese petition signatures urging negotiations without delay for a nuclear weapons abolition convention;
•    Facilitating the organization of an international interfaith service on the eve of the Review Conference;
•    Facilitating the visits of Hibakusha and international peace activists to communities in the United States to encourage nuclear weapons abolition organizing; and
•    Exploring additional nonviolent actions that can reinforce our demand for nuclear disarmament.

You can expect to see more from us on our NPT actions as plans are finalized early next year.  We certainly hope you will take action in support of our nuclear abolition campaign in the coming months and we promise to provide you with ample opportunities to do so.


Stop Militarizing the Police

August 15, 2014

The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of the Ferguson police is a reminder that the upsurge in violence is not restricted to the Middle East or any one place.  It’s right here in our own communities.

Like the Trayvon Martin killing two years ago, the problems of racism, easy access to firearms, and the assault on our civil rights are all, once again, in the spotlight. I suspect I don’t have to explain why peace activists are taking action, mostly in support of activists of color who are leading the organized response to this latest perversion of justice.  Anti-violence is at the very heart of our struggle.

In this case however there is another element that directly connects to our ongoing work to build a more peaceful and just future – that is – militarism.  It’s time to demilitarize our police.

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ‘wind down’ (though clearly not all the way down) the Pentagon has been offering surplus weapons to local police forces for free.  Tens of thousands of M-16’s, as well as mine-resistant trucks and other battlefield hardware have already been transferred to jurisdictions around the country – but the Pentagon still has lots and lots of free stuff to give away.

A bipartisan chorus has already begun to speak out in Congress against this practice.  Even Tea Party and right wing extremist Ted Cruz is raising alarm.

Tell your Member of Congress where you stand.

How much military hardware has been transferred to local jurisdictions?  It’s not easy to know as the Pentagon makes the trail difficult to track.  Most of the data available comes from local and state officials – like the State of Missouri which CNN reports has received some $17 million worth in transfers from the Pentagon.

I find, and I’m confident you do as well, the images of police in full military gear aiming assault rifles at unarmed protesters upsetting.  We can expect to see more and more of this in the future too, if we don’t do something about the economic terrorism visited upon the poor in our society at the hands of the 1 percent.

We know, for example, the Pentagon has in place plans for dealing with civil disorder brought about by economic or environmental disaster threatening the stablity of the government.  Arming local jurisdictions is a step in the wrong direction.

Since the 1980’s the US government has enabled the militarization of the police force as part of its so-called War on Drugs.  Post 9/11 politics opened the flood gates with grants from the federal government to prepare for the imminent terrorist threat.  Now, as combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, the Pentagon is literally giving battlefield hardware away.

The militarism of policing – both in terms of weaponry and tactics – is a threat to our freedom as great as any coming from outside our borders.  It’s time to put it to a stop.

Write you Member of Congress today!

Please forward this message to your friends.


Action Alert and Press Release on U.S. Bombing in Iraq

August 8, 2014

ACTION: Call the White House at 202.456.1111 before 5:00 eastern time today. The message: “Yes to humanitarian aid, but no bombing, no new Iraq war!”

Just two weeks ago, you helped us send a strong message to policy-makers in Washington when the House of Representatives passed H. Con. Res. 105 stating clearly there is no legal authority for U.S. military involvement in Iraq without express Congressional approval. While a similar measure has not yet passed the Senate, this message from the American people couldn’t be more clear – NO NEW WAR IN IRAQ!

Unfortunately, the spreading, hideously violent civil war in Iraq (flowing from the civil war in Syria, which U.S. weapons and support for opposition forces helped fuel) has President Obama considering military strikes, along with air drops of food, water and medicine to beleaguered Yazidi and other persecuted minorities stranded on a mountain top in northern Iraq, besieged by the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Certainly this rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis – people are dying for lack of food and water — deserves U.S. and international action to deliver badly needed life-saving supplies to civilians fleeing the rampaging ISIS forces. But this gut-wrenching situation must not be used to justify U.S. escalation of the war, entailing certain if unknown disastrous unintended consequences, as we’ve seen before in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Please take action in support of humanitarian relief for people who desperately need it, but against escalating the killing. Call the White House today at 202.456.1111 before 5:00 pm eastern time.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

###

For Immediate Release:  August 8, 2014

Contacts:    Kevin Martin, Executive Director, 301.537.8244 cell, kmartin@peace-action.org
Paul Kawika Martin, Political and Policy Director, Peace Action, 951-217-7285 cell, pmartin@peace-action.org (Note: Paul Kawika Martin is currently in Nagasaki participating in events around the 69th anniversary of the atomic bomb dropping and is 13 hours ahead of Washington, DC)

Iraq: Drop Humanitarian Aid not Bombs

Washington, DC — August 8, 2014 — In response to President Obama’s announcement that he approved the possibility of air strikes in Iraq, Peace Action, the largest peace group in the U.S. reaffirmed its continued opposition to military intervention in Iraq.

“This gut-wrenching situation in Iraq does not justify the U.S. escalation of the civil war, entailing certain if unknown disastrous unintended consequences, as we’ve seen before in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere,” stated Peace Action’s executive director, Kevin Martin.

The group reacted to Obama’s statement on the rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis where people in Iraq are dying from lack of food and water.  They agree the situation deserves U.S. and international action to deliver badly needed life-saving supplies to civilians fleeing the rampaging Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces.

The spread of the violent civil war in Iraq (flowing from the civil war in Syria, which U.S. weapons and support for opposition forces helped fuel) has President Obama considering military strikes, along with air drops of food, water and medicine to beleaguered Yazidi and other persecuted minorities stranded on a mountain top in northern Iraq, besieged by the ISIS fighters.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed H. Con. Res. 105 stating clearly there is no legal authority for U.S. military involvement in Iraq without express Congressional approval.  While a similar measure has not yet passed the Senate, polls still show Americans opposing a new war in Iraq.

Leading Paul Kawika Martin (no relation to Kevin Martin), the political and policy director of Peace Action to observe, “We applauded President Obama for doing what he said on his first presidential campaign trail, bringing the troops home from Iraq.  It’s time to remember how he got elected to the White House; his opposition to the Iraq War.  Americans want the Iraq War finished, not started anew.”

Opposing the Iraq War from the start, Peace Action participated in the February 2003 protest where tens of millions from around the world voiced their opposition.  Afterwards, Peace Action continued to help organize several large demonstrations and was a key group focusing opposition on Congress.

The group noted that the U.S. will continue to pay the costs of the war with debt and honoring our commitments to our veterans bringing the total cost of the Iraq War to over $3 trillion.

“Dropping humanitarian aid is a wise investment in humanity.  But we cannot afford the likely bad consequences of bombing Iraq again,” concluded Paul Kawika Martin.

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Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze), the United States’ largest peace and disarmament organization, with over 100,000 paid members and nearly 100 chapters in 36 states, works to abolish nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs, encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights and support nonmilitary solutions to the conflicts with Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. The public may learn more and take action at http://www.Peace-Action.org. For more up-to-date peace insider information, follow Peace Action’s political director on Twitter. http://twitter.com/PaulKawika

Editors Note:

H. Con. Res. 105 (https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-concurrent-resolution/105)


Interview on Iraq on Radio New Zealand

June 30, 2014

Our executive director Kevin Martin was interviewed about the situation in Iraq by Radio New Zealand on Saturday, give it a listen, it’s the second link on this page. Kevin’s interview follows an excellent commentary by Wayne Brittenden at about 4:50 minutes in.

 

 


Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

June 13, 2014

by Kevin Martin

Tell President Obama “Don’t Try to Put Out the Fire in Iraq With Gasoline!”

Believe it or not, some are responding to the escalating violence in Iraq with calls for U.S. military intervention. Have they learned nothing?

Please take action: Tell President Obama not to try putting out the fire with gasoline – no U.S. military intervention in Iraq, invest in diplomacy and international cooperation instead.

The advance of the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is no doubt alarming, but not a complete surprise in the context of deep social, ethnic, religious and political divisions in Iraq and the wider region. Our former Executive Director, David Cortright, has a sensible, concise post on this issue you might find illuminating.

Contact the president and send this alert to friends, family and colleagues you believe would want to take this action. The people of Iraq and the region need peace, reconciliation and development, not more war and definitely not U.S. bombs or troops.

Please take action to let the president know more war is not the answer.

To learn more about the situation in Iraq, here are a few recent articles you might find illuminating.

New York Times article on the current situation and consideration of U.S. military intervention

The Guardian on the collapse of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army as ISIS advanced on Mosul

The Guardian again on the spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria


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