On Memorial Day, grateful words of a veteran now working for peace (and for Peace Action!)

May 30, 2011

Check out my letter to the editor on military spending in today’s Washington Post, and then consider this request from a wonderful young man who is a powerful brother in the Peace Action family:

When I left for Iraq, I didn’t know there was such a thing asPeace Action.

I didn’t know that there was an entire community of activists who would have come together to support me if I had spoken out and refused to go to Iraq. Here in New Hampshire, or “way down south up north,” the prospect of living my life with the label coward, convict, or traitor was enough to keep me from resisting.

So I went to Iraq, and for eleven months I did the job of an Infantryman.  I came home, thankfully alive, but tortured.  What I had done to avoid the labels coward, convict and traitor, had driven me to commit an act of cowardice, and betray my conscience; I had become in my own mind, a murderer.

Wracked with guilt, and reeling from the trauma of war, I felt the need to make a difference, but I did not know where to start. Then I found my local chapter of Peace Action.

The director of New Hampshire Peace Action, Anne Miller, was in the process of starting a film series featuring Soldiers of Conscience. The film outlined the stories of four soldiers who had found the courage to resist.  She asked me to tour with the film around New Hampshire, and talk about the war in Iraq.  I did, and little by little, I was able to process what I had done in a new light.

I was able to talk about the experience of war, and how I felt about my experiences.  Little by little, I felt the burden I carried grow lighter.  I felt like what I had done could be used to deliver a message of peace to people who could not hear it in the same way from someone who had not been where I had been, who had not done what I had done.  I now saw that my experience held value, in that I could use it to change this system.

Eventually, I joined the board of directors of New Hampshire Peace Action, and when Anne moved on, I took over as director. Now I am able to come in to work every day, and work for peace.  Nothing could be more healing for me.

Thank you, for being a part of the community that helped me to become whole again.

When you give to Peace Action, you are giving to a group that is working at every level, to educate, advocate, and agitate for a more just and sensible foreign policy, one that could keep situations like the one I found myself in from even happening.  You also work to create a community that is a place where all of us can take our energy and make change happen with structure and direction, a place to come together, and multiply our efforts.

So this Memorial Day, please remember the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, and do your part to make sure they are not unjustly placed in harm’s way, and work to build the community and the culture that makes it okay for them to follow their conscience. Please give generously to Peace Action!

With Gratitude,

Will Hopkins
Director, New Hampshire Peace Action/New Hampshire Peace Action Education Fund
National Board Member, Veterans for Peace.

P.S. Thank you for all you do for peace. Your contribution to Peace Action will help deliver a message of peace to people across the country, grow our community of peace activists, and multiply our work together for peace.

Detroit City Council Honors Peace Action’s Al Fishman

May 27, 2011

By coincidence, I was with Al at two of the three actions he was arrested at mentioned in the City Council resolution.

Al Fishman Presente! – Long-time Peace Activist and Socialist

Memorial service will be held May 27, 2011 at 12:00 noon at Central United Methodist Church, Woodward at Adams in Detroit.

Detroit City Council Memorial Resolution for Mr. Al Fishman, Peace and Human Rights Activist [Adopted unanimously May 24, to be read at May 27 memorial meeting]

WHEREAS, Al Fishman was a leading peace and justice activist since being discharged from the U.S. Army in 1947 after which he organized countless picket lines, marches, rallies, teach-ins, and forums;

and WHEREAS, Al Fishman was involved in opposition to the Korean War, including the defense of Lt Gilbert, an African American officer who was court-martialed for refusing to order his men into a “suicide mission”. He also served as the Michigan coordinator of the Vietnam Moratorium;

and WHEREAS, Mr. Fishman, as a supporter of human rights, participated in protests against the racist murder of Emmett Till; the racist frame-ups of Willie McGee, The Trenton Six and the Martinville Seven; the political frame-up of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He was a member of the National Negro Labor Council and it’s campaigns for jobs and helped force Black representation in trade union leadership. He was a member of the Michigan Congress Against Repression, participating in its activities against police brutality, and in the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression , and the campaigns to free Angela Davis and Rev. Benjamin Chavis;

and WHEREAS, Al Fishman, notwithstanding, the corrupt and undemocratic aspects of our electoral system – about which he spoke frequently – was a dedicated participant in the process of advancing peace and social economic justice through electoral politics. He was proud of the fact that he participated in breaking racist barriers in landmark campaigns to advance the political representation of African Americans, including the campaigns of Charles Diggs, William T. Patrick, John Conyers, Richard Austin, Erma Henderson , and Coleman A. Young. He was organizer and State Co-Chair of the New Democratic Coalition, which served as a unifying force for progressives in the Democratic Party. He was an active supporter of George McGovern for President;

and WHEREAS, Al Fishman was part of the campaign, led by the Honorable Erma Henderson, to eliminate redlining. He helped to organize the Michigan Coalition on Utilities and Energy, which opposed unwarranted utility rate increases;

and WHEREAS, In the spirit of the Ghandi-Martin Luther King teachings about non-violent resistance, he risked arrest in a number of peace and justice actions. He was arrested protesting apartheid at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C., for protesting the Indonesian massacre in Dili, East Timor, for protesting the continuing development of nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Nevada, in support of the striking Detroit newspaper workers, and against the then imminent US invasion of Iraq;

and WHEREAS, Detroit’s Al Fishman co-chaired a coalition opposed to the first Persian Gulf War. After the attack on the World Trade Center, he co-convened the twenty organizations of the Detroit Area Peace With Justice Network, which was part of dozens of protests against the war on Iraq; he led annual events to commemorate the horrors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki;

and WHEREAS, Since the early 1980’s, he was a member of Peace Action – at that time called the Nuclear Freeze Campaign. He served Peace Action of Michigan for many years as a Co-Chair and as its representative on the National Board of Directors. He served as a member of the local Board of Directors, writing frequent articles for its quarterly newsletter;

and WHEREAS, Al was a member of the New Jewish Agenda, the first, and for some time the only, Jewish American organization that supported Palestinian statehood. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the Detroit City Council mourns and honors Al Fishman, one of our City’s finest Peace, Civil and Human Rights, and Labor activists, advocates and champions, one of our true Citizens of the World.

Bob Gates vs. Larry Wittner, Maintain the Empire or Militarist Madness – You Make the Call!

May 23, 2011

Secretary of War Robert Gates, in his commencement speech at Notre Dame over the weekend, warned against cuts in the US military budget. Not surprising (even though Gates has gotten some praise for his proposals to trim some of the waste and duplication in the Pentagon budget). Gates (how he escaped jail for his role in the Iran-Contra coverup in the ’80s is beyond me) inadvertantly touched on some of the basic tenets of US Empire (protecting shipping lanes and access to cheap energy sources), but basically he offers no sustainable vision for the U.S.’s role in the world, it’s basically “let’s hang on to as much of our military Empire for as long as we can.”

In contrast, Peace Action board member, professor, scholar and author Larry Wittner offers a much more critical view of U.S. and global militarism, including weapons sales and military spending, in his piece on History News Network. And, he offers a better path forward, a much more sustainable policy of coordinated international intelligence and police work rather than an endless “war on terror,” peaceful, diplomatic engagement with the world, and investment in human needs.

Speaking of making the call, be on the lookout tomorrow from an Action Alert from Peace Action and other organizations to call Congress and demand an end to the war in Afghanistan and a rejection of congressional efforts to expand presidential war-making authority.

Al Fishman, Presente!

May 20, 2011


I just got word Al Fishman, former national Peace Action board member and longtime leader in Peace Action of Michigan and the Detroit peace and justice community, passed away. I don’t know any details yet, just that he went to the hospital yesterday for a knee problem and had a massive heart attack.

I love Al. I’ve known him for close to twenty years, and in all that time he was one of the most indefatigable, consistent voices of conscience for peace, social and economic justice, and solidarity with peoples’ struggles I have ever known. (A colleague reminded me Al’s first arrest was for petitioning for nuclear disarmament in Stockholm, in 1950!)

He had a particularly keen understanding that the peace movement needed to work with and be in solidarity with people of color organizations and labor unions, as our struggles are inextricably linked. I disagreed with Al on politics once in awhile (Al, wherever you are, we can still argue next year about whether Peace Action should endorse Obama, in fact I’m counting on it!), but I never lost respect or affection for him personally, and never for a second doubted his opinions came from a place of integrity, sincerity, commitment and love.

My only regret is I didn’t get to say goodbye to this wonderful man. I’m sure our national board co-chair, Helen Weber, and other Peace Action of Michigan folks will let us know how we can properly honor and celebrate Al’s life.

Rest in peace my brother, you’ve certainly earned it.

Alvin Fishman, Presente!


Zoning Out on Nukes in the Middle East

May 20, 2011

My essay on the prospects for a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East, in which I also take a whack at one of my favorite pinatas, deterrence theory. Thanks to Foreign Policy in Focus and its terrific co-director, John Feffer, for his editing and for publishing the article. (Be sure to click the link which takes you to a report by our Japanese friends Peace Boat, who did a citizen diplomacy boat tour in the Middle East in March to promote the idea of a nuclear-free zone).

Deterrence is the officially stated reason that the United States maintains a nuclear arsenal of over 9,000 total warheads. The other nuclear weapons states have more or less adopted deterrence theory as their own. The basic tenet of deterrence theory is that no rational leader would threaten the United States with a nuclear attack for fear that the United States would retaliate by obliterating its attacker.

Although the headlines coming out of the Middle East are about revolutions and repressions, nuclear weapons remain a key problem in the region. The nuclear issue that has gotten the most attention has been Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran shouldn’t have nuclear weapons any more than the current nuclear weapons states should. But military threats against Iran’s nuclear sites should be abandoned for a host of reasons (starting yet another war in the Middle East and killing more innocent civilians and further disrupting the world economy, just for starters).

However, Israel and the United States have consistently left open the threat of military action against Iran to stop its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapons capacity. But if deterrence theory applies,

Israel’s nuclear arsenal of at least 200 weapons, not to mention the much larger U.S. arsenal, should dissuade Iran from launching any nuclear attacks of its own.

The only reason that deterrence theory might not apply is that Iran’s ruling mullahs are somehow irrational and therefore can’t be deterred like the “rational” rulers of other countries. That’s just plain wrong. They, along with other allegedly “crazy” regimes such as those in Libya, Burma, and North Korea) act rationally to maintain their power. We may not like the decisions they make, but they are quite rational actors of self-preservation.

Zoning Out Nukes

The point is not to somehow shore up deterrence theory but to make it obsolete by pursuing the global elimination of nuclear weapons. In the Middle East context, a 2012 conference will be under the auspices of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to establish a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the region (similar zones are already in force in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and Antarctica). South and Southwest Asia are the only portions of the Global South not currently part of a NWFZ.

Perhaps ironically given the current situation and the fact its nuclear program at the time was receiving U.S. assistance, Iran was the first country to call for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in 1974. It still advocates for one, as do all the other countries in the region except Israel. But Israel’s position is not entirely fixed. In September 2009, Israel supported an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution calling for such a zone. And rumors have arisen that Israel might participate in the conference, if only not to be seen as obstructionist. A WMD-Free Zone would surely benefit Israel, as it doesn’t want to see a nuclear arms buildup in the region.

The problem of nuclear weapons in the Middle East extends beyond just Israel and Iran. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and perhaps other countries in the region could go nuclear as well. A Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone, which appears unrealistic given Israel’s refusal to even officially acknowledge its nuclear arsenal and the U.S. support for this stance, would be much better than an unfettered nuclear arms race in the region. The new, more democratic governments that emerge from the current Arab Spring, to the extent that they are more transparent and accountable to their citizens than their predecessors, could help to address the challenging regional security issues.

Washington and the Zone

It’s unlikely that the United States, in a presidential election year, will engage the issue of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East in a frank manner. Indeed, the United States might set low expectations or provide leadership in convening the conference only to protect Israel. Still, international civil society groups and peace activists, including many from the region, are working to mobilize public support — either at the official conference or at a separate meeting — for establishing such a zone.

As the relative decline of U.S. power and the rise of other regional powers continue to shape a more multi-polar world, the United States and Israel cannot expect to continue to ignore the other countries in the region — and not just on this issue. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and regional security mechanisms must be strengthened, but not merely on U.S. and Israeli terms, as is now the case.

The establishment of a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East might have ripple effects for regional peace. The zone could provide a regional security confidence boost for Israel via increased transparency (and perhaps a decreased sense of isolation on Israel’s part). It would also bolster the effort to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide. This month, the Obama administration submitted two protocols establishing similar zones in Africa and the South Pacific to the Senate. Now it’s time to turn to the Middle East, where a WMD-Free Zone could help avert awful alternatives — a potential Israel-Iran conflict, a regional arms race, or a catastrophic world war.

Kevin Martin is executive director of Peace Action and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze) is the largest U.S. peace and disarmament organization.

Let Them Eat Tanks, and an update on Mazin Qumsiyeh’s detention in Israel

May 16, 2011

The June issue of Sojourners has a cover story about the Pentagon budget titled “Let Them Eat Tanks: How the Pentagon’s binge spending is starving the rest of us.” It’s an interview, with some good charts on military spending, between Sojourners founder Jim Wallis and Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fame. Ben has long campaigned for cutting military spending through his Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. (To read the article online you need to sign up for Sojourners email action alerts, which are very good.)

You may have heard about the deaths and arrests over the weekend relating to protests around the anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, dating to the founding of Israel. Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian-American peace activist and advocate of nonviolence, and a former Peace Action Education Fund board member, was detained by Israeli authorities. Here is an update on his status, as well as videos from the region:

PNN journalist Ghassan Bannoureh took the following video which documented


’s arrest yesterday:



The latest from the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem (USCG) is that Mazin

is being held in Ofer prison as a detainee, and a hearing is scheduled on 19

May 2011. They are aware of the many calls people made calling for Mazin’s

release. They said at this moment, any additional calls would not change

Mazin’s status. Regardless of that statement, I urge people to continue to

file complaint to President Obama and to the US State Department of the

ongoing discrimination against US citizens of Palestinian decent. Two other

US citizens were also detained with Mazin at Al-Walaja but were released at

1 a.m. this morning, while Mazin is continued being held. Let’s also

demand our government to stop supporting Apartheid Israel in our names and

demand justice for all Palestinian nonviolent protesters being detained.

The following compilation of videos, pictures and some articles on Nakba

Demonstration yesterday was forwarded from a friend and I include them here

for your information:




– – video of the morning and early afternoon by Haitham Khatib


– – video by I. Putterman:


– – video by The Al3ned


– – video by cnn:





– – interview w journalist Joe Elmer by Electronic Intifada:





– – pictures on <http://www.flickr.com/activestills&gt;



– – video by RT:



– – video by al Jazeera English w Matt Cassel:



– – video by rnnnews1



graphic video of protestor shot in the stomach by Midan al Tahrir


– – video and article by AJE:



– – video of protestors showing US made tear-gas projectile by 3arabawy:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-Xx_bv6CG4&feature=player_embedded – video

of ambulance transferring injured by 3arabawy:


– – video of ambulances by 3arabawy:

– – video of Protesters during clashes with army and police outside

Israeli embassy in Cairo by 3arabawy:


– – video of clashes by moftasa:



picture by <http://3arabawy.org&gt; 3arabawy.org (more pics and posts on his





– – by Klashenkoof1



– – by baladeenet


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekgkuAaTjPg&feature=player_embedded – other

video by baladeenet:



– – article by Ali Abunimah on ei:






eight Palestinians were arrested yesterday, four early on, four later when

during clashes and while the army searched each house and had sealed off

the village; six or seven internationals were arrested; the internationals

were reportedly released at 1 a.m., a Palestinian with Jerusalem ID

released at 4am, 12 year-old twins released at one point last night, so

that the remaining detainees are: Basel al ‘Araj (26 yo), Ahmad al ‘Araj (24

yo), Ahmad

Abu Khiyera (22 or 23 yo), Mohammad al ‘Araj and Mazin Qumsiyeh

video by English PNN:



Video by Mazin Qumsiyeh prior to his arrest:



(I still don’t know if and how many people were killed, last I heard, around

60 were injured, 15 seriously, and friends reported that army shot to

kill; also, I am not sure what the situation is now, I had heard that people

were staying in the buffer zone and that Israel had threatened with some

military action if they didn’t move.

– – video by <http://vik2gaza.org&gt; vik2gaza.org:



– – pictures by vik2gaza.org <http://lockerz.com/s/101878010&gt;


– – pictures by Shady Alassar


more videos and pics to follow, I think, on vik2gaza.org


apparently 6 got arrested, there will be a demo today to demand their



– – video by Nooly1 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP-c_TfO2Qo&gt;

– –






– – video by Tom Vee



– – (Golan Hights and West Bank) by RT:


– – pictures by AJE:





“A Monster Born of Hypocrisy, Fed on Falsehood, Fattened by Humbug…” – Recommended Reading

May 9, 2011
We’re Peace Action, not Peace Book Club or Peace Magazine Reader, but sometimes it’s good to share books or articles that raise our issues and provoke analytical thinking or inspiration.
Two such articles are in the May issue of Harper’s Magazine  (well three actually, there’s one on the phenomenal people’s mobilization in Wisconsin). Unfortunately I don’t think you can read these articles online unless you subscribe to the magazine, but you can get the magazine at a newsstand or library.
“Owned By the Army: Has the president lost control of his generals?” by Jonathan Stevenson, a professor of strategic studies at the US Naval War College, raises troubling concerns about the expansion of the uniformed military into strategic decision-making, a function supposedly still under civilian control. We may soon see a practical manifestation of how influential the military is in setting strategy, as the president will soon decide on an initial withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, scheduled to begin in July. The people must be the biggest influence on the president, not the military. 
“Why I’m A Pacifist: The dangerous myth of the Good War” by Nicholson Baker is, to me, even more interesting.
Peace Action is not an explicitly pacifist organization, as some of our colleague organizations are. On the other hand, I don’t believe we’ve ever supported a US war or military intervention in our organization’s 54-year history, dating to the founding of Sane in 1957.
Baker’s article tackles the hardest argument for pacifists, the consensus that World War II was “the Good War” and that there was no choice but to fight it. He builds a strong case that the era’s pacifists were actually the most practical, and the most genuinely concerned people regarding the plight of the Jews and others being targeted by the Nazis in Europe. Pacifists argued for negotiating with the German government for the release of Jews and other prisoners, which unfortunately was never seriously considered by the US and Britain. It would not have hurt to try, and if Germany had refused, things would have been no better or worse off than they were. Meantime, the Allies didn’t fully engage in the battle to free Europe from Nazi control until the Normandy invasion in 1944, when much was known about the ongoing Holocaust and much of Hitler’s “final solution” was already carried out or was in place.
A British pacifist and parliamentarian of the time, Arthur Ponsonby, called war “a monster born of hypocrisy, fed on falsehood, fattened on humbug, kept alive by superstition, directed to the death and torture of millions, succeeding in no high purpose, degrading to humanity, endangering civilization and bringing forth in its travail a hideous brood of strife, conflict and war, more war.”
Hard to argue with that, even if one thinks World War II was necessary. And one can agree, as many WW II veterans do, that it was necessary, but than none of our wars since have been, and that our gargantuan national security state apparatus is blight on our democracy and on world peace.
(My two teenage children think the US is always at war, and why wouldn’t they? It’s certainly been true for as long as they can remember, as it has been for most of our country’s history.)
Personally, I have not decided whether I am an “absolute pacifist” or not, and I don’t know if it is necessary to figure that question out, absolutely. I do believe nonviolence works better than war (and this is currently being played out in the Middle East every day).
What do you believe? And what are you reading related to peace?


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