87 year old Sam Winstead leads bicycle ride for peace from North Carolina to DC!

May 6, 2013

 

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(photo: Kevin Martin)

That’s Sam on the right, with Korean-American peace activist Jae Lee on the left, on Saturday at Lafayette Park in front of the White House. Sam, his 69 year-old cousin Joe Winstead and “youngster” Ron Scroggs (age 66) biked from Raleigh, NC to our nation’s capital on Sam’s second annual ride for peace, arriving here on a glorious spring day after seven days on their bikes. After a day of rest, Sam, a World War II veteran, will meet with NC legislators here on Capitol Hill to deliver his message of ending U.S. wars, which already got out on the local ABC station’s Saturday evening news broadcasts! Peace Action helped support the event, along with Veterans for Peace, and NC Peace Action director John Heuer, also a VFP member, was the organizer/advance man of the trek. Here’s John’s report from day three of the tour in Virginia:

Day Three, Blackstone to Gum Spring

April 30

Sam, Joe, Ron, Jim and I found the same round table as the night before at the Farmers Café in Blackstone for a hearty breakfast, before launching the Day Three Ride for Peace.  The Blackstone Library was closed early Tuesday morning, so Sam wrote a note to accompany a copy of “When the World Outlawed War” and slipped it in the ‘return box’ at the library entrance.

I drove ahead marking the route as far as Goochland, and stopped at the White Hawk Music Café.  Sam and I had stopped there last spring when we scouted the route for the 2012 Ride for Peace.  The White Hawk offers the World’s Best Coffee Cake, great coffee, friendly service and wifi internet.  Tuesday morning they hosted a couple of tables of women bridge players as well.

When I finished arranging our accommodations for Culpeper and Leesburg, I marked the remainder of the route to the Grayhaven Winery in Gum Spring, and waited by the Parrish Grocery at the corner of Hwy 250 and 522 (downtown Gum Spring).  It turned out to be a long wait, but by 6:00pm Sam and Co. hove into view.  It had been a harrowing ride north of Goochland on Hwy 522, as rush hour traffic backed up behind tail driver Jim on the narrow 2-lane road.  Jim cringed at the thought that impatient drivers were cursing “Sam’s Ride for Peace” the sign prominently displayed on the back of Jim’s Toyota pick-up.  Jim hadn’t joined this ride to piss people off. At one point a VA state trooper pulled Jim off the road and cautioned him about holding up traffic.  A strong headwind and slate start helped put us in jeopardy.  For next year’s ride, we’ll get an earlier start from Blackstone, and dodge the rush into Gum spring.

Our return to the Grayhaven Winery was greeted with a warm welcome.  Last year we missed our host Deon Abrams, who was catering a dinner at the South African Embassy in Washington DC.  The Grayhaven features South African food and wine, and Deon is the caterer of choice for South African functions at the embassy and Ambassador’s home in DC.  He is also a relative newcomer to the Grayhaven Winery.  His wife Max’s parents, Chuck and Lyn Peple established the Grayhaven during the 1970’s, when it was one of just 6 wineries in Virginia.  Now there are 240.  As Deon described it, establishing a winery in Virginia is a popular way for rich people to lose money.  Max and Deon’s son, Azra, now 8 years old, is a full head taller than last year, and sported his own new bicycle.

When we stayed with the Peples /Abrams in 2012, we donated a book to their library.  Former Chapel Hill mayor and UNC Law School Dean Ken Broun had recently published “Saving Nelson Mandela—The Rivonia Trial and the Fate of South Africa.”   Deon believes strongly that Nelson Mandela was the only person who could have led South Africa out of Apartheid and onward toward democracy.

After we sampled a wonderful variety of Grayhaven wines, Max served up a delicious dinner that included a venison pate made by a vegetarian friend.  Chuck and Lyn are both literary folks, and Chuck showed us the newly published “400 Years—The History of Henrico County” of which he is co-author.  Chuck had turned 78 just 4 days earlier, and he is determined to train for Sam’s 2014 Ride for Peace.  Seeing the 87 year-old Sam Winstead on his bicycle has that effect on people.

More photos from Saturday’s gathering at Lafayette Park:

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Believe it or not, Congress has your budget – Take Action now to support the Back to Work Budget!

March 14, 2013

That’s right the Congressional Progressive Caucus just released its alternative budget called the Back to Work Budget which cuts Pentagon bloat, makes the wealthy pay their fair share and protects Social Security and Medicare benefits for everyone.  On the other hand, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget would dismember Medicare, slash spending on education and infant nutrition, and repeal ObamaCare.  Which one more represents your values?

These budgets could be voted on soon, so call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to support the “Back to Work Budget” by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The “Back to Work” budget saves money by fully funding troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within a year, significantly reducing the Nuclear Weapons complex, cutting private contractors and wasteful weapons systems all while protecting important veterans benefits.

Additionally, the Back to Work Budget provides a roadmap to economic recovery and progress.  It will create 7 million jobs in the first year, bring in taxes by closing corporate tax loopholes and taxes on those who can afford it, preserve services our people depend on, and balance the budget.

Please call the Congressional Hotline at (202) 224-3121 between 9 AM and 6 PM EDT.  They will connect you to your Representative.  Or you may click here to find the direct line to your Rep. and possibly leave a message after hours.

Now is the time to for your voice to be heard as Rep. Ryan wants to destroy Medicare so the ultra-wealthy can have tax breaks and some Democrats are willing to make weak compromises.  Call now to support the progressive solutions in the Back to Work Budget.

For a more just budget,

Paul Kawika Martin
Political Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Votes are expected soon on the U.S. budget.  Call your Representative now to support the “Back to Work Budget” which cuts wasteful Pentagon spending and protects vital services Americans depend on.


Move the Money Op-Ed in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

March 7, 2013

Great job by Peace Action Wisconsin Program Director Mike Helbick, who got help on this from our friends at the Coalition for Human Needs.

Cuts Threaten Milwaukee, our Economy
By Mike Helbick
March 6, 2013

This year alone, Milwaukee taxpayers will contribute $695 million to the U.S. Department of Defense. That would be enough to provide Milwaukee with 10,700 elementary school teachers, 10,500 police officers or medical care for 96,400 veterans. Instead, Milwaukee’s hard-earned tax dollars are paying for foreign military interventions and ineffective weapons systems at a time when Milwaukee desperately needs these funds here at home.

The implications of this budget choice are even worse when you consider that money spent on domestic priorities such as education, health care, housing and clean energy creates more jobs than military spending. For example, when Congress spends $1 billion on the military, it creates 11,200 jobs, but when it spends the same amount on education, it creates 26,700 jobs.

So it’s easy to see why last September, Milwaukee’s Common Council unanimously adopted a “Move the Money” resolution calling for the United States to redirect federal spending from foreign military interventions to investing in programs to address critical domestic and urban needs. What’s difficult to understand is how last week Congress could make life even harder for Milwaukee residents.

On March 1, Congress allowed indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to go into effect. These cuts are harming thousands of Wisconsin residents. We may not see the results yet, but we will soon. Because of the cuts, people in our state will go without food, lose jobs and income and get pushed toward homelessness. The cuts are dangerous. They are also unnecessary. And they come on top of $1.9 trillion in spending cuts and interest savings that have already happened. Wisconsin has lost 8.3% of its federal funds since 2010. We can’t afford to lose more.

The U.S. Senate considered, but failed to pass, legislation to replace these cuts in February. The Democratic leadership offered a proposal that would prevent cuts to education, public health, nutrition and other vital services by replacing them with more gradual cuts to the Pentagon, ending some farm subsidies, setting a minimum tax for millionaires and closing other tax loopholes. This is a balanced, sensible approach to reducing the deficit that will protect Wisconsin’s economy and residents. It is supported by most Americans.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) voted for this pragmatic approach, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) did not.

While the March 1 cuts affect a broad range of services touching the lives of most Americans, many reductions will hit low-income people particularly hard. For example, according to a new report by the Coalition on Human Needs, 8,100 low-income young children and mothers in Wisconsin will lose access to nutritious food. An estimated 1,377 low-income families will lose rental housing vouchers – for most, that probably means they will lose their homes. Nationally, nearly 5 million people have been out of work at least six months, but unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed will be cut 9.4%. In Wisconsin, 900 children will lose their place in Head Start and 500 will lose the help they need to pay for quality child care. These cuts will slash education, meals for low-income seniors, mental health treatment, environmental cleanup, food safety protections and much more.

The cuts also will harm our fragile economy, eliminating 700,000 jobs nationwide just when the economy is finally beginning to recover.

Milwaukee will be hit even harder than the rest of Wisconsin. Because nearly one out of three Milwaukee residents lives below the poverty line ($23,550 for a family of four), Milwaukee has more residents in need of help with basic needs such as nutrition and housing, and less local funds to help meet their needs.

Pushing more families and seniors into poverty and reducing our investment in education even further is simply not necessary. Instead of this self-inflicted wound, we should reduce bloated, wasteful Pentagon spending and move the money we save to job creation, education, health care and other priorities.

We should ask millionaires and top corporations to pay more of their share. A 5.6% surtax on income over $1 million could raise more than $450 billion over 10 years, which would replace most of the next decade’s domestic cuts. Options to tax offshore profits of corporations would raise hundreds of billions more.

When the Common Council passed the “Move the Money” resolution, it called for our nation to change its priorities and put domestic challenges first. Congress needs to give the balanced approach a second chance, in order to prevent real harm to Wisconsin’s people and economy.

Mike Helbick is program director with Peace Action-Wisconsin. Email Mike@peaceactionwi.org


The Endless War Machine’s Toll On Our Troops – Suicides Exceeded Combat Deaths Last Year

January 15, 2013

The Associated Press reported yesterday the Pentagon’s internal statistics show more U.S. troops committed suicide last year than died in combat in Afghanistan. The Pentagon noted the rate of suicides in the military is below the civilian population – is that supposed to be somehow comforting?

In addition to ending the war now, leaving no residual troops in Afghanistan, not starting any new wars against Iran or anyone else and ceasing drone strikes in countries we are not at war with, the troops need real support, not the platitudes one hears constantly on NFL telecasts. Our sisters and brothers at Iraq Veterans Against the War are providing leadership with their “Right to Heal” Operation Recovery campaign, to stop sending troops on repeated combat tours and get them the treatment and support they need and deserve. Help IVAW out, and spread the word to those you think really want to support the troops.

 


Afghanistan – The “Who Cares?” War

September 18, 2012

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Last week, veteran AP reporter Robert Burns wrote an interesting article on the 9/11 anniversary  titled “War Weary US is Numbed to Drumbeat of Troop Deaths.” Burns told moving stories of a few troops who recently died in Afghanistan, and interviewed some military brass about the supposed problem of the public “not caring” about the war. He quoted think tanker Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations calling Afghanistan the “Who Cares?” war.

The article got me to thinkin’, which was good, but I was troubled by some ironies and contradictions in this so-called problem of Americans “not caring” about the war. So I wrote a letter to Burns (he didn’t reply) raising some issues and questions that went beyond the scope of his article. Here it is, and I’m working on shaping this into an op-ed.

Dear Mr. Burns,

Thank you for your article about the “Who Cares?” war, as you quoted Max Boot on his moniker for it. I’ve enjoyed your reporting for some time now. I appreciate your focus on the cost of war in the human lives of our soldiers, but of course the toll for the people of Afghanistan is much, much worse.

I do think there are some ironies and contradictions re the Afghanistan war that go beyond the scope of your article, which I may well write about, and that I assume you have some views on.

I’m a peace activist, invariably opposed to this country’s many, many wars, but I care about the troops and returning vets (my brother is a psychologist at the VA hospital in the Bronx, meaning unfortunately he has a job for life dealing with the trauma our wars inflict on those who fight them), as do all the peace activists I know. I knew a wonderful young man, a Marine reservist named Gregory McDonald who died in Iraq. He was opposed to the war, but felt he had to go, that he couldn’t have claimed conscientious objector status (as I and others counseled him, and I believe he had a pretty good case). He felt he couldn’t let the others in his unit down, though he vehemently opposed the war. The military counts on that type of coercion or guilt to keep troops in line.

In terms of nobody “caring about the war,” there are many dynamics at play there. Polls show a solid majority of the US populace is now against the war, but there are no widespread or large protests (although I was proud to march in Chicago last May at the NATO protest with GWOT vets returning their medals to protest the wars). Certainly there is some partisan politics at play here, liberals not wanting to criticize Obama, or being “okay” with his promise to end the war by the end of 2014 (though a Foreign Policy article today speculates up to 25K troops may remain for a decade as part of an agreement with the Afghan govt.).

Additionally, it seems to me the Pentagon can’t have it both ways – they don’t want a draft, understandably, as they don’t want to deal with the hassles from soldiers who don’t want to be in the service. The poverty draft, especially in a week economy, suits them just fine. They get an endless supply of our tax dollars to fight their wars and maintain the largest military in human history. They want us to “care” more? Even with multiple “support the troops” programs and manifestations all over society (Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are constantly stressing this, as do many others)? (Which is not to disparage such efforts, we do need to support the troops, and the best way would be to get them home to their families ASAP and provide them the absolute best care we can).

And if there were a draft, the war would be over in a month, the public wouldn’t stand for it, because this war fails the definition of a just war miserably (the horse sense definition, not the Catholic Church’s official Just War theory). The real definition of a just war is one you’d send your kid to.

Thanks and Peace,

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

Peace Action

 


Scenes from an Empire in Decline, from Afghanistan, Yemen and the U.S.

June 1, 2012

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Norwegian philosopher and peace studies pioneer Johan Galtung has a very useful analytic framework for peace and justice activists in our current times, “the Decline of the U.S. Empire and the flowering of the U.S. Republic.” While Professor Galtung writes very convincingly about the nature of U.S. empire and how it can be transformed into a republic truly worthy of our national mythology and wonderful people, it’s a fairly self-explanatory concept, namely that as the U.S. Empire inexorably declines, as all empires have, there should be space and resources freed up to help the U.S. Republic really blossom. (And Peace Action’s “Move the Money” campaign to slash military spending in order to invest in human needs and environmental restoration embodies this concept in a concrete way.)

I’ll return to this theme often in the future, but for now I won’t attempt a comprehensive description of the U.S. Empire, nor the signs of its decline (which won’t necessarily be quick, or pretty). Instead, here are a few snapshots.

Reuters has an article today by Peter Apps that lays out the complexities of the political and military situation in Yemen, and what appears to be an inevitable slide into further entanglement by the U.S. and its allies, which raises serious war powers concerns. Peace movement veteran Tom Hayden’s article in The Nation puts the conflict in Yemen, including U.S. drone strikes, into the context of “The Long War” that many military analysts say could be measured in decades.

Turning to Afghanistan, the country in which the U.S. is waging its longest war (eleven years and counting, and President Obama’s agreement with President Hamid Karzai might keep U.S. troops there for another dozen years), Ian Pounds, a volunteer teacher of orphans in Afghanistan, has one of the most comprehensive, damning condemnations of the failure of U.S. policy in that country I have ever read, published by CounterPunch. It’s long-ish, but worth a read. Here’s an excerpt from near the end of the piece:

“The U.S. government pays no attention to law anymore. It murders American citizens without trial (yes, the President signed into his powers the ability to have an American citizen assassinated if he or any future president deems that person a threat to security). America tortures, still. It invades privacy without a warrant. It invades countries illegally and under false pretenses. And America doggedly refuses to take responsibility for any of its multiple failures in this war, or any war.”

So where is the “Flowering of the U.S. Republic” in this blog post, you may well ask?

People in this country and around the world working for peace and justice  are contributing to the turn from Empire to Republic, but many U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are doing more than their share in this regard. Read Iraq War vet Zach LaPorte’s moving account of returning his war medals at the terrific NATO protest in Chicago two weeks ago, published on Michael Moore’s website, and view the terrific slideshow and video of the protest on the Iraq Veterans Against the War website.

We all have a role to play in determining how the Empire ends and what comes after, and I hope we build a country worthy of the example of these vets who have sacrificed so much, and who now testify so eloquently that war is not the answer.


PA & IVAW At Hofstra: The Final Debate

November 10, 2008

As reported here and in our Action Alerts Peace Action has been on the front lines for Democracy with Iraq Veterans Against the War.  After the success at the Democratic National Convention members of IVAW and Peace Action New York State attempted to ask their questions about Veteran’s benefits during the debate.  At this peaceful protest Nick Morgan, a returning Veteran from Iraq, was trampled by a police horse.  His jaw was shattered and he may have damage to his eye.  He received medical care and is currently struggling in recovery.   Take action for these Vets, here. Below you’ll see video from DemocracyNow from that night.


Soldiers of Conscience

October 14, 2008

Their country asked them to kill. Their hearts asked them to stop.

view trailer
Soldiers of Conscience
is a dramatic window on the dilemma of individual U.S. soldiers in the current Iraq War – when their finger is on the trigger and another human being is in their gun-sight. Made with cooperation from the U.S. Army and narrated by Peter Coyote, the film profiles eight American soldiers, including four who decide not to kill, and become conscientious objectors; and four who believe in their duty to kill if necessary. The film reveals all of them wrestling with the morality of killing in war, not as a philosophical problem, but as soldiers experience it – a split-second decision in combat that can never be forgotten or undone.

Soldiers of Conscience is not a film that tells an audience what to think, nor is it about the situation in Iraq today. Instead, it tells a bigger story about human nature and war. The film begins with a little-known fact – after World War II, the Army’s own studies revealed that as many as 75 percent of combat soldiers, given a chance to fire on the enemy, failed to do so. The studies showed that soldiers, despite training, propaganda and social sanction, retained a surprising inhibition when it came to taking human life. The statistics surprised and alarmed America’s generals, who developed training techniques to overcome the reluctance to kill. But if the military found a solution to its problem, the moral contradiction for the individual soldier remained. The mental and emotional burdens carried by soldiers who have killed ripple across America’s families and communities after each of its recent wars. As this film shows, every soldier is inescapably a “soldier of conscience.”

Have a comment about the film?

Chat live with filmmakers Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan on Friday, October 17th at 1pm EDT.
Submit your question here >>

Join the discussion on the Soldiers of Conscience Blog


Iraq Toll

December 19, 2007
Those who died in Iraq from Dec 9 to 15:
Spc Randy Pickering  31  Bovey MN
Spc Johnathan Lahmann  21  Richmond IN
CPO Mark Carter  27  Fallbrook CA
Pvt Stephen Ferguson  31  Lanarkshire UK
Spc Brynn Naylor  21  Roswell NM
Sgt Samuel Kelsey  24  Troup TX
Pvt Daren Smith  19  Helena MT
Sgt Jonathan Lowery  38  Houlton ME
Sgt Austin Pratt  22  Cadet MO
12 were seriously wounded and maimed.
20 were returned to kill fields.
272  Iraqi sisters and brothers were killed.
Cf:   www.icasualties.org

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