Mobilization Brings Eight Million Demands for Nuclear Abolition to U.N.

May 12, 2015

petsPeace Action just completed a series of successful events around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the United Nations.  We helped organize an international conference attended by over 700 nuclear abolition activists, a rally, march and peace festival where Mayor Kazumi Matsui, of Hiroshima, Jackie Cabasso, Joseph Gerson and Kevin Martin, co-conveners of the Peace and Planet Mobilization, and Hiroshi Taka, a Director of the Japan Council against A-& H Bombs, presented the eight million petition signatures to U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane and Ambassador Taous Feroukhi, the President of the NPT Review Conference.

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 The Peace and Planet conference was endorsed by more than 300 organizations in 20 countries. More than a dozen nations sent official delegations, with roughly 1,000 activists traveling from Japan.  The rally included speeches by Yuko Nakamura, a Hiroshima A-bomb survivor; Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, which is suing the nuclear-armed nations in the International Court of Justice; Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower and former senior nuclear war planner; and Rev. Osagyefo Sekou one of the leading clergy for racial justice in Ferguson, Missouri. It was attended by 80 A-bomb survivors from Japan and Korea, members of the German, Japanese and European parliaments, and peace, justice and environmental leaders from across the U.S. and around the world.

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Conference organizer Sofia Wolman (above top), Peace Action of New York State (PANYS) President Jim Anderson (above center), Peace Action Fund of New York State Board Chair, Sally Jones (directly above) and the entire PANYS team did a tremendous job throughout the entire 3 days of events.

 

 


Continuing the Peace and Planet Momentum!

May 7, 2015

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As the NPT Review Conference continues in New York, Peace Action and our allies continue to monitor the debates and proposals by participating governments (the Reaching Critical Will project of the 100 year old Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is a good resource on NPT happenings), but we are also looking to future collaborations under the Peace and Planet banner to connect peace and nuclear disarmament issues to economic, racial and climate justice concerns.

Here is an early proposal for future work, and also a report on our events. Comments welcome as always.

May 1, 2015

PROPOSAL FOR THE CREATION/CONTINUATION OF AN ABOLITON 2000 PEACE & PLANET CAMPAIGN

This is a hastily written proposal urging that the 2015 Abolition 2000 Annual General Meeting authorize the creation/continuation of a Peace & Planet Campaign as a project of Abolition 2000. As described below, the international planning group for the 2015 NPT Review, initiated at the 2014 A-2000 annual general meeting fulfilled its mandate, in the course of which it took important steps in building a more issue-integrated international movement, created expectations, and forged relationships which can be the foundation for longer-term movement building for nuclear weapons abolition and related issues. As the press has reported, “Peace and Planet showed the commitment of international civil society to peace and disarmament, as thousands of people from around the world gathered in New York on the eve of the NPT RevCon,”

The 2014 Mandate

The 2014 A-2000 annual general meeting charged co-conveners Joseph Gerson (AFSC,) Jackie Cabasso (WSLF, UFPJ & Mayors for Peace,) and Judith LeBlanc (Peace Action) who was later replaced by Kevin Martin of Peace Action to- based on criteria established at the A-2000 AGM – create an international coordinating committee to implement the following

a. Organizing an inclusive* international Nuclear Weapons Abolition conference on the eve of the Review Conference

b. Organizing an inclusive 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

c. Organizing an inclusive peace festival at the conclusion of the rally and march

d. Facilitating organizing by the rising generation of young nuclear abolitionists

e. Facilitating delivery of millions of Japanese petition signatures urging negotiations without delay for a nuclear weapons abolition convention

f. Facilitating the organization of an international interfaith service on the eve of the Review Conference

g. Facilitating the visits of Hibakusha and international peace activists to communities in the United States to encourage nuclear weapons abolition organizing.

h. Explore addition nonviolent actions, bold and otherwise, that can reinforce our demand for nuclear disarmament

i. Engage the climate change and other movements, and make outreach to the rising generation of activists a priority.

Summary of Implementation

1 . An International Planning Group comprise of representatives from 11 international organizations and 42 organizations based in 12 countries was created. Efforts were made to create a diverse planning group. It issued our Call to Action on Step. 26, 2014, the first International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons urging the 2015 NPT Review Conference to mandate the

commencement of the “good faith” negotiations required by Article VI of the NPT. Recognizing the need overcome the siloing of our and other movements in order to build more issue integrated movement the Call urged “all people who hope to build a fair, democratic, ecologically sustainable and peaceful future to join us. A petition based on the Call to Action was developed (used mainly by groups in the US,)

Numerous in person and conference call meetings of the International Planning Group’s coordinating and advisory committees, subcommittees and working groups were held to plan what became the Peace & Planet Mobilization. Short-term staff were hired by AFSC, UFPJ and Peace Action to help implement the mobilization.

2. A unique dimension of the Peace & Planet mobilization was its engagement with related peace, economic and social justice and environmental movements. To greater and lesser degrees they were represented on the coordinating and advisory committees, gave input into the shape and content of our events, held Peace & Planet events of their own and assisted in outreach and implementation. While the depth of these new relationships should not be overstated, they do provide an additional new foundation for our organizing and campaigning. With care and reciprocity, they can be built on for the longer-term.

3. Early on, both to engage younger activists and for general mobilization, we put a high priority on social media. In addition to creating our Peace & Planet web page and Facebook page, we initiated a “Fact Countdown”, sending out a compelling fact or quotation that addressed each of our five themes (nuclear weapons abolition, peace, moving the money, environmental sustainability and racial justice/opposing police militarization.) A social media subcommittee, comprised almost entirely of young activists helped to build the mobilization via twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The AFSC also created a remarkably 2 ½ minute video which focused on the role of young people in the nuclear disarmament and other movements which was circulated widely via social media.

4. An International Conference for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World was held at the Cooper Union in New York City, April 24-25, with about 600 participants. Plenary speakers included: Angela Kane, Taniguchi Sumiteru, Setsuko Thurlow (Japanese Hibakusha) Daniel Ellsberg, Prof. Zia Mian, Walden Bello, Jo Comerford Manuel Pino, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou (Ferguson) Yoshiko Kira (Diet member from Japan,) Tony de Brum (Marshall Islands Foreign Minister) Mayor Thore Vesby, Mayors for Peace Vice President, Bill Kidd (Scottish Assembly,) Shin Jin Tae, Reiner Braun, Thomas de Toledo, Michael McPherson, Kyoko Nishikawa and Sofia Wolman. The conference also included 44 workshops, organized by the groups that proposed them, held at the Cooper Union, Pace University, and Hunter College. All plenaries were live streamed and recorded, as were two of the workshops. An evaluation will be conducted, but oral feedback was that the conference was exceptional.

5. Mark C. Johnson took the lead in organizing an International Interfaith Convocation, which was held at the Church Center for the United Nations, with standing room only in the 600 seat chapel. Those who participated have talked about how beautiful, compelling and inspiring the convocation was. Nearly all of the convocation participants later participated in the International rally, march and festival.

6. After overcoming considerable resistance from the NYPD and Parks Dept., involving months of negotiations and with the help of the ACLU an international rally was held at Union Square North on April 26. The Square was completely filled, with estimates running between 7,500 (Co-Conveners) and 10,000 (Gensuikyo) participants. The rally included more than 1,000 Japanese activists, including 80 Hibakusha. Speakers and performers included Tetsu Kitagawa, Leslie Cagan Nakamura Yuko (a Hibakusha,) Manny Pino, MEC Jean Lambert, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry Megacith, Reiner Braun, Judith LeBlanc, Walden Bello, Dan Ellsberg, Thomas de Toledo, Mayor Matsui of Hiroshima, Bikers for Peace Thore Naerland.

An emotional and visual highly of the rally was the launching of the Global Peace Wave Action by Rimma Velikanova of the Basel Peace Office and Karipbek Kuyokov, a second generation Kazakh nuclear weapon test victim.

7. The march from Union Square North to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza was led by about eight Hibakusha in wheel chairs, who – along with other Hibakusha – traversed the entire distance. Spirits were high, even as German participants remarked on the heavy police presence which reflected a lack of full democratic rights and freedom.

8. The Festival at Dag Hammarskjold was more impressive than in 2010. We overcame intense opposition from the NY Parks Dept. to hold it. 35 organizations had literature tables. The high point was the presentation of nearly 8 million petition signatures by Gensuikyo, Mayors for Peace and Peace and Planet to High Representative for Disarmament Kane and NPT Review President Ambassador Feroukhi. The presentation was swarmed by media as has been a focal point of media reports about the mobilization. Unlike 2010, great attention was given to arranging Festival musicians and performers, and it carried people’s attention to the end.

9. Under the leadership of Alyn Ware, the Global Peace Wave, launched at the NY rally went westward, by time zone, with more than 100 actions around the world, arriving back at the UN 24 hours later for the opening of the NPT Review Conference. The Global Wave provided organizations and activists in more than 20 countries the opportunity focus movement and media attention on the Review Conference and our demand for the Conference to mandate the commencement of negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. These events – such as kite flying for Peace & Planet – in the Philippines and the ringing of the bells in the Bethlehem Christmas church provided a means for local organizations to build their movements.

10. A number of Peace & Planet-related organizations arranged for Hibakusha talks in schools and other venues in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and Nevada, as well as in Peace & Planet events. Thousands of high school students were thus reached with lessons about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the human consequences of nuclear weapons, the continuing dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear war, and the imperative of working for a nuclear-free world.

11. Among the other activities feeding in to the Peace and Planet Mobilization were three walks (from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, New England and California,) a Bike for Peace/Mayors for Peace ride from

Washington, DC to New York, and a Shadows and Ashes civil disobedience action at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. organized by the War Resisters League.

11. Media: See attached initial summary of media coverage of the Peace & Planet activities

Our Proposal

The Review Conference has just completed its first week, so its outcome is anything but certain. Given the resistance of the nuclear powers to fulfilling their Article VI obligations and the new era of confrontation and other forces that are fueling new nuclear arms races, the prospects for the Review Conference are less than rosy, and we do not expect our demand that the Review Conference mandate the commencement of the good faith negotiations will be me. It should come as no surprise that our struggle for nuclear weapons abolition (as well as for peace, justice and environmental sustainability) will be for the long term.

In this context we seek A-2000 approval for the creation of a Peace & Planet Campaign. As with this year’s mobilization, it will work to help build an issue-integrated movement to maximize the power of the nuclear weapons abolition, peace, justice and environmental movements. Among the next steps will be:

1) Collecting and posting documentation of the Peace & Planet Mobilization events, including media report, texts of speeches, photos and videos on the Peace & Planet website

2) Conducting an evaluation of the 2015 Peace & Planet Mobilization

3) Launching “Peace & Planet Summer” covering the period from the end of the NPT Review Conference to the 70th anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

4) Organizing a Peace & Planet workshop at the US Social Forum

5) Continuation of the Peace & Planet social media campaign

6) Continued development of relationships across issue areas, including encouraging reciprocity among our movements

7) Convening a strategy consultation with international partners during the World Conference against A- & H- Bombs in Hiroshima or Nagasaki

8) Organizing a strategy development meeting with coordinating and advisory committee members and key allies in the Fall of 2015

9) Implementation of strategy developed in the Fall of 2015

This is a preliminary outline. We welcome additional ideas coming out of today’s meeting and going forward.

Submitted by Joseph Gerson, AFSC, Kevin Martin, Peace Action, and Jackie Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation.


Connecting Globally, Acting Locally for a More Peaceful and Just Future – Peter Deccy in Nagasaki

August 8, 2013

Our longtime Development Director Peter Deccy (30 years with Sane, Sane/Freeze, Peace Action!) is in Nagasaki, as is our Field Director, Judith Le Blanc. Here is the text of the speech Peter will deliver today at the conference of our sister organization Gensuikin, in the beautiful city of Nagaski.

Connecting Globally, Acting Locally for a More Peaceful and Just Future

Peter Deccy, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund

 

Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN), Nagasaki, August 2013

 

First i would like to thank my hosts for your kindness and generosity and thank all of you as well for keeping alive the history of the terrible atrocity that happened here 68 years ago today.  Across the United States, peace activists take part annual commemorations of this day and we use this act of remembering as an opportunity to reach out to our communities, to educate our neighbors of the great danger we are still living with and invite them to take action for a more peaceful and just future.  In this way, we stand with you.

 

At Peace Action, we view your annual invitation to participate in these commemorations a high honor and part of my work here today is to let you know that Peace Action’s 250,000 members and supporters stand with you in opposition to the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.  We have written Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae at your request to share with him our belief that separating enough plutonium in a single year to build 1000 nuclear warheads would set a dangerous precedent and that the potential security and proliferation risks ought to be considered unacceptable.

 

It is worth noting the US has its own history with the commercial reprocessing of nuclear fuel.  The West Valley reprocessing plant in the state of New York opened in 1966 and closed in 1972, having accumulated over 600.000 gallons of high level radioactive waste in just 6 years.  It was not until 2002 – 30 years after the plant closed – that the process for decommissioning the plant could safely begin and US taxpayers are still paying to this day to clean up the mess.

 

Our vision is for a just and peaceful future.  It is a global vision and our movement is a global movement.  The communication revolution has given our movement the capacity for planning and coordination we could barely imagine 20 years ago.  The next generation of organizers to lead this global movement – and I see many of you in the audience today – will possess the skills and tools to take us forward and hopefully achieve the success we have long dreamed of.

 

In June, US President Barak Obama renewed his promise to lead the world to a future free of nuclear weapons. He proposed that a new agreement might be negotiated with Russia that would reduce our deployed nuclear arsenals by 30%. But within a couple weeks of his speech, US military planners had presented their ‘nuclear employment strategy’, a blueprint for how nuclear weapons will in fact remain a key element of US national security policy and it made clear the threat of nuclear war remains with us now and for the foreseeable future.

 

Instead of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and completing a treaty to ban the production of fissile materials, the US government plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in a nuclear weapons forever program upgrading and expanding the US capacity for building and delivering nuclear annihilation.

 

In the US, peace activists have gained some leverage in the past two years by demanding money spent on nuclear overkill, robotic and cyber warfare – every conceivable form of weaponry – be spent instead on creating green jobs and meeting the needs of our communities.  We have built common cause with those activists who fight poverty and injustice and those working to protect the environment, educate our children, and care for the sick and dispossessed and with organized labor.  We are building the power to confront our nation’s addiction to militarism together.

Our movement has long made the connections between energy policy and resource war, between war and the destruction of the global environment and between militarism and the cost to our economic well being.  This past April we joined with you and peace activists on every continent in a Global Day of Action Against Military Spending.  Our message must go viral.

 

It is in this spirit that Peace Action and our allies are pressing for greater US leadership in multi-lateral nuclear disarmament initiatives.  The September 26 High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament is a good place for the US to begin.  We are asking President Obama to travel to New York on that day to address the General Assembly.  We also want greater US participation in the conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons to be held next year in Mexico and we want the US to vigorously advocate for the convening of the conference on a Middle East Zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  The US should be taking part in UN’s open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament, with all of this leading up to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2015.  A true leader, committed to a world free of nuclear weapons does not watch these important initiatives from the sidelines.

 

In Berlin, President Obama said “so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.” Our question is ‘what are you prepared to do about it?’  Greater participation in these important multi-lateral initiatives would be an appropriate answer.

 

For 68 years our movement has worked to insure nuclear weapons will never be used in war again.  We work for peace so war will have no place to take root.  So the wealth of nations is directed to creating a better world for its citizens and not spent on preparations for its destruction.

 

That’s why we are never idle in the face of reckless and dangerous preparations for war and we will not be idle as the Asia Pacific becomes the next theatre for war planners, the next venue for an arms race and fruitless confrontation.

 

The challenges we face – economic, environmental, the threat of war and mass destruction – have combined and grown in size and complexity.  We can no longer confront them issue by issue or country by country.  At the same time, we are growing closer to each other and our connection to one another can define the future.  We know we are stronger when we stand together.  As an organizer in the US, I have come to believe it will take a global wave to carry our demands forward.

 

Our movement must offer the world a vision of a time when the human race is no longer preparing to do battle over what is left of the world’s resources and when diplomacy, partnership and multi lateral cooperation are the foundation of a new, collective security that will allow us to work together to meet the urgent global human needs that challenge all of us.

 

As our ability to connect and join with one another in common cause grows, as information spreads instantly to every corner of the world I look forward to the day when the Hundredth Monkey moves from forgotten theory to legend.  Let us be the spark that lights that future.

 

We work together, as one, in organizing a global movement for peace and freedom from the threat of mass destruction.  In this way, we would all be as the honored Hibakusha, having survived the nuclear age, building a more just and peaceful future.


The De-Mythologized History of the United States

January 7, 2013

Review of the Showtime television series “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States”

(Note, this review was written after five of the ten episodes in the series had aired. Tonight’s episode, at 8 pm eastern time on Showtime is the 9th in the series.)

–Kevin Martin

What if, in the summer of 1945, former progressive prairie populist Vice President Henry Wallace had been president instead of Harry Truman?  Wallace likely would have continued as Vice President, and thus succeeded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt upon his death, if not for some serious chicanery by party bosses, taking advantage of the gravely ill Roosevelt’s absence, at the Democratic Convention in Chicago which installed Truman as the Vice Presidential candidate over the incumbent Wallace.

Would Wallace, a noted “dove” and advocate of global governance and peaceful policies, have ordered the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had he been president?  Maybe so, as there was so much investment and momentum behind the Manhattan Project.  But perhaps President Roosevelt, who held Wallace in higher regard than he did Truman, would have told Wallace about the Bomb sooner, as opposed to the way Truman was kept in the dark about the existence of the Manhattan Project (he knew nothing of it until he became president after Roosevelt’s death). Regardless, Wallace, as president, might have rallied support from the scientists and generals who did not support dropping the Bomb on Japan. Wallace might have been more patient about the clear but halting signals that Japan was about to surrender, and would likely have rejected the idea of “demonstrating” the Bomb’s unprecedented lethality in order to impress our Soviet ally of our military superiority, which many historians agree was the “real reason” behind the bombings.

Is this idle parlor game historical “what-ifing?” Oliver Stone doesn’t think so. The three-time Oscar winner wants you to think about these paths not taken, while also revealing some little known or underemphasized paths that were taken as he deconstructs U.S. post-War mythology in his ten part television series on Showtime, “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.” The series, narrated by Stone, airs one hour episodes on Monday nights at 8:00 pm eastern, with several rebroadcasts on Showtime channels during the week. The first five episodes have taken us from World War II through the early Cold War period of the fifties and early sixties, with five more shows to go. The next episode will focus on John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

The Showtime series is accompanied by a 750 page book co-authored by Stone and American University Professor of History Peter Kuznick, who also shares a writing credit on the TV series with Stone and Matt Graham. (Disclosure – Peter Kuznick, who also founded and directs the University’s Nuclear Studies Institute, is a colleague and friend of this reviewer.)

While it is certainly interesting and stimulating, Oliver Stone is not primarily interested in thought experiments about history. He’s a great story teller, and he aims to peel back the fascinating layers of history from a perspective that deconstructs or refutes many American myths. Such a project will no doubt challenge some viewers (and I’m sure it’s meant to!).

Take for instance the Soviet peoples’ role in defeating Nazi Germany, in which the over 20 million people died. Why is this undisputed fact so neglected in the West in favor of mostly uncritical worship of Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and MacArthur? Neither Soviet dictator Jozef Stalin’s atrocities nor the Cold War that ensued can diminish the centrality of the Soviet peoples’ sacrifice and heroism in absorbing, outlasting and ultimately defeating Adolf Hitler’s relentless, massive assault. This is especially true as the Western allies did so little throughout most of the war to help the Soviet Union.

Or the decision to drop the Bomb (that and the ensuing, mad nuclear arms race receive a lot of attention in the series). Why is this issue still so divisive and why does it provoke such defensiveness when the historical record is clear? The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were unnecessary; an exhausted and thoroughly fire-bombed Japan, fearing imminent Soviet entry into the Pacific war, would have surrendered under terms nearly identical to those obtained after the bombs were dropped. If the U.S. had been more patient and more interested in diplomacy rather than intimidating Stalin with this horrific new weapon, the atomic threshold needn’t have been crossed and over 200,000 Japanese lives would have been spared.

The most recent episode of “Untold History,” covering Dwight D. Eisenhower’s two terms in the White House, was quite the whirlwind. Despite the image of the 1950s as ho hum, a lot was going on! The civil rights movement, the assault on the Bill of Rights by J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy and friends, the U.S. support of or participation in overthrowing the governments of Iran, Guatemala and Congo (and later Indonesia), the rise of the Non-Aligned Movement and the targeting of many of its leaders by the CIA, and the absurd build-up of nuclear weapons in “peacetime” all rocked the 50s and early 60s. The episode reminded me of books I’ve read on many of these events, and stimulated me to go deeper into some I dimly recall or know very little about.

Stone certainly wants to tell an alternative, “peoples history” in the proud tradition of Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel, but he doesn’t completely abjure the “great man” theory of history. The series paints rich portraits of some of the era’s seminal and neglected figures, such as Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Wallace, Truman, Eisenhower and George C. Marshall. Stone and Kuznick were particularly interested in fleshing out Ike, exploring much more complex contradictions than the aloof, reluctant politician caricature which is too often the norm in his biographical treatments.

While the ’50s are remembered by many (and here I believe this refers to the dominant, white, Anglo-Saxon cultural view) as a time of peace and prosperity, with the huge expansion of the American middle class, the seemingly immovable foundations of the cancerous U.S. national security state were laid, or certainly cemented. Stone notes the irony of Ike’s “military industrial complex” warning in his farewell address, as he had done more than anyone to enable the growth of the MIC and the spying on Americans. Eisenhower himself said he left a “legacy of ashes” to his successor.

Under Ike, the nuclear weapons enterprise expanded from 1000 to 22,000 nuclear warheads (most far more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb) as well as the “triad” of delivery systems (bombers, land-based missiles and submarine-based missiles) and a sprawling, secretive, environmentally devastating nuclear weapons production complex. He also made it common US policy to  threaten nuclear attacks (on at least four occasions in his presidency, over Korea, the Formosa Straits, the Suez Crisis and the escalation of tensions over the Chinese islands of Quemoy/Matsu).

All Ike’s successors have considered or threatened to use nuclear weapons (including our Nobel Peace Prize winning incumbent, who continues to insist “all options are on the table” regarding concerns over Iran’s nuclear program).  Further, Eisenhower delegated authority to launch nukes to field commanders, who in turn did so to lower level officers, resulting in dozens of “fingers on the trigger.” Ike authorized a the development of a plan to nuke China and the USSR, which would have killed an estimated 600 million people and initiated a nuclear winter that might have ended life on the planet.

Again in the “roads not taken” department, Stone persuasively argues Ike could have put the world on a different path, as his popularity and military bona fides were so strong that nobody could have questioned his patriotism or devotion to national security, and the Soviet leadership was undergoing reforms and was ready, even eager, for a more peaceful relationship with the U.S. and the West. While Eisenhower is credited with avoiding war with the Soviet Union, he put the world on a dangerous path to possible annihilation, and presided over the “most gargantuan expansion of military power in human history.”

The series and the book, coming as they do at an important time politically (in the short run, Obama’s second term, in the broader view, the beginning of the end of the American Empire), also stimulate thinking as to what might be the “Future Untold History of the United States.” Fortunately, independent media now dig up a lot of dirt on the national security state, but we really don’t know what we don’t know, do we, regarding military actions being carried out in secret (but with our tax dollars)?  And then there’s the reality that most Americans pay scant attention to military and foreign policy.  

Of course, what we do know about the continuing accumulation of imperial presidential power under the allegedly “liberal” Barack Obama (drone strikes, kill lists, spying on U.S. citizens and other threats to our civil liberties under the guise of “national security”) is bad enough.

My guess is Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick and company will be glad if their book and series stimulate critical thinking, and action, about the present, putting to good use lessons learned (at least partly thanks to their work) from our past.

Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide. www.peace-action.org


Thanks to Veterans Who Struggle for Peace – Please Add Your Favorite Veterans to This List

November 9, 2012

 

Veterans Day, also Remembrance Day and Armistice Day, is this Sunday, with the Monday holiday observance. The mainstream message we usually hear is thanks to veterans and to troops serving now for “protecting our freedoms” or something along those lines, which as a peace activist gives me pause. Of course I respect and honor the sacrifice of those who serve in the military, but “protecting our freedoms” is, and has often been, more honestly “projecting U.S. power abroad” or “overthrowing governments we don’t like in favor of corporate interests” or “killing an awful lot of people for absolutely no good reason.”

 

So, when I think of the veterans I cherish and respect, it is mostly those who have dedicated themselves to the struggle for peace and social justice because they’ve seen firsthand the horror, futility, waste and stupidity of war. Here are some of my favorite vets, please add yours to the list:

 

My Dad, Paul Martin (Air Force, radio technician, lucky for him and for me, he served in between the Korean and Vietnam Wars)

 

My Uncle, Randall Quinn, who just passed away two weeks ago. His time as a pilot in the Air Force led to his career as a commercial airline pilot and a lifelong love of flying. Neither my Dad nor my Uncle ever romanticized their time in the service, and they never tried to recruit my brothers or me to the military, for which I was and am grateful.

 

My Cousin, Ted Lyon, US Army (luckily he never saw combat)

 

Howard Zinn, WW II

 

Kurt Vonnegut, WW II

 

Lester Schlossberg, WW II, decorated in the European theater and devout opponent of war thereafter

 

Bob Cleland, WW II, decorated in Pacific theater. Bob was on a troop ship to Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He didn’t take the position that “the A-Bomb saved his life,” he dedicated his life to peace and nuclear disarmament.

 

Lane Evans, former US Congress Member from Illinois and one of the most pro-peace members of Congress when he served from 1983-2007. Vietnam era vet (never saw combat, was a Marine supply sergeant in the Pacific)

 

David Cortright, Vietnam era vet and rabble rouser – his book, Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance in the Vietnam War is a must read regarding the anti-war movement of soldiers in the ‘60s, which he helped lead

 

Barry Romo, Vietnam vet and leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a smart and tireless advocate for peace and for veterans, and an awfully sweet man

 

Ray Parrish, Vietnam vet who dedicated himself to “counter-recruitment” and counseling vets and prospective recruits on conscientious objection and other issues

 

Admiral Eugene Carroll, one of the nicest men one could ever hope to meet, and a terrific analyst of US military policy

 

General Robert Gard, one of the best retired military leaders we have today in terms of advocating more peaceful and sane policies

 

Eric Swanson, our Database Manager here at Peace Action since the mid-90’s

 

Gregory McDonald, Iraq vet (Marine) who volunteered at Peace Action in 2002 before the war started. He was against the war but thought he had to go, that he couldn’t let down the others in his unit. He wanted to learn Arabic, gain some experience in the region, and help bring peace to the Middle East. I and others tried to counsel him to declare conscientious objector status, but he couldn’t see his way clear to do that. He died in Iraq in a vehicle accident.

 

Michael McPhearson, first Iraq War, formerly of Veterans for Peace, now with United for Peace and Justice, a steadfast, patient, wise and gentle leader, a healer, a builder

 

Erik Gustafson, first Iraq War, tireless advocate for peace and reconciliation with and for the people of Iraq

 

Will Hopkins, Iraq vet, Director of New Hampshire Peace Action, who speaks so clearly and convincingly of the horrors he saw and participated in in Fallujah, Iraq, and how peace activism became his calling and his home

 

John Heuer of North Carolina Peace Action, a great movement builder

 

Maggie Martin, Iraq vet, a leader of Veterans for Peace and for the movement on the right to heal for returning soldiers

 

Aaron Hughes, Iraq vet, a strong leader in Iraq Veterans Against the War, one of the main organizers of the moving and powerful veterans demonstration at last May’s NATO Summit in Chicago, where dozens of veterans of the “Global War on Terror” threw away their service medals

 

Ellen Barfield, a veteran with a tireless commitment to nonviolence and alliance building

 

Matt Southworth, Iraq vet, now with the Friends Committee on National Legislation

 

Bradley Manning, in prison for trying to help tell the truth about our awful wars

 

And lastly, a non-veteran but someone who works to help heal veterans, my brother, Kris Martin, a psychologist at the VA hospital in the Bronx (meaning unfortunately he has a job for life, with all of the psychological trauma we’ve inflicted on our veterans from our endless war-making)

 

I’m sure I’ve left some folks out, for which I’m sorry.

 

Who are your favorite veterans you are thankful for? We’ll need to do another list of those who went to jail to resist war, won’t we? They deserve our thanks every bit as much.


Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Declarations by UN Sec-Gen and the two cities’ mayors

August 14, 2012

I have had the privilege of attending the August 6th and 9th Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations three times as a guest of our sister organization Gensuikin, and our Organizing and Policy Director, Paul Kawika Martin, was just there for the third time as well. The occasions never fail to inspire and amaze, as the two cities come alive with an infectious spirit of peace-building, even as the commemorations are appropriately somber in recalling the horror of the U.S. atomic bombings of those two cities, now 67 years ago.

Here are links to the remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, and Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue. The last has a cool feature, you can click to indicate your support for the Nagasaki Peace Declaration.


Greetings from Hiroshima! By Alicia Godsberg, Executive Director Peace Action NYS

August 6, 2011

This picture was taken with some of the others in the Gensuikin conference in front of the atomic dome, which was one of the only burned out things left standing 66 years ago today after the first atomic bomb ever was detonated in war over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m.

The conference has been amazing so far, and tomorrow we are leaving for Nagasaki for the second of three stages of the conference. Today, the anniversary of the bombing, there was a ceremony attended by at least 20,000 people in the Peace Park, near the atomic dome. Prime Minister Kan spoke, and I was surprised to hear him say that he “regretted believing in the myth of the safety of nuclear power.” The ongoing disaster at Fukushima resonates heavily here, with the fears of radiation exposure renewed.

The Prime Minister also stated that Japan was going to review its energy policy from scratch, with the hope of ending reliance on nuclear power. Most speakers I’ve heard so far have related the accident at Fukushima’s nuclear power plants to the August 6 commemorations, and in fact I was asked to give my speech about nuclear power for this reason.

Also of note is the fact that many speakers have criticized the recent sub-critical nuclear tests conducted by the U.S., which is something not too many American anti-nuclear organizations talk about. Sub-critical nuclear experiments enable scientists to conduct nuclear reactions in the lab that do not go “critical,” or achieve a sustaining chain nuclear reaction. They are part of the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) of the Department of Energy, which is the fancy name given to the life extension programs for nuclear weapons at the national labs. The SSP was started under the Clinton administration to appease members of Congress so that they would feel confident in the robust character of our nuclear stockpile under a self-imposed nuclear test ban.

The U.S. has stated that even under the CTBT sub-critical nuclear tests would be permitted, although this is something Russia and many other states are concerned about (even though Russia also conducts these tests). The value of sub-critical nuclear tests to the nuclear weapon states is questionable at best, but they would be valuable experiments for would-be nuclear weapon states, and that’s why they should be banned under the CTBT and stopped immediately by the U.S. and Russia.

I’m guessing so many people in Japan are concerned about these tests because it is part of a means of keeping nuclear weapons in perpetuity, studying the affects of aging on the weapons’ nuclear material to make sure it remains “good” into the indefinite future. People in the U.S. should be concerned not only because this program poses a huge international security risk if it were to be tolerated under a CTBT, but also because billions of dollars are funneled into the national labs for these tests, which are not of critical national security significance.

But I am digressing… I’m writing about Japan! I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of 8:15 a.m. this morning, when bells solemnly rang to commemorate the moment when the bomb detonated over this very city, destroying everything and most living creatures. Hearing the stories of the Hibakusha themselves on this day was a painful reminder of the terrible consequences of this awful event, which is really too awful for our minds to fully comprehend.

I think the inconceivable nature of the destruction, damage, pain, and suffering from the use of nuclear weapons is one of the main reasons people don’t focus on them as an immediate danger that needs to be eliminated, and eliminated now. If Mayor Bloomberg were in Hiroshima today, I would defy him to remain against becoming a Mayor for Peace.

It is impossible to be unmoved by being here on this day, especially as an American, but mostly as a human being. Hearing school children deliver a speech saying “each one of us is important” and that “we should not kill each other” brought tears to my eyes. It makes me sad for all my friends at Iraq Veterans Against the War and for all the people suffering from the useless wars in which our country is now engaged.

Seeing the atomic dome in person is also quite moving. As someone who has studied nuclear weapons and has worked for their elimination for some time, I have read about Hiroshima and seen pictures of this dome in countless books and articles. Seeing it in front of me in its ruinous state and imagining that moment when the bomb exploded and everything turned black was a very emotional moment for me. After the picture above was taken, a few hundred people held hands and surrounded the dome, raising our arms each time as we said “No More Hiroshima, No More Nagasaki, No More Hibakusha, No More Fukushima!” This is another moment I will never forget.

Tonight was the lantern lighting ceremony, where people write their own message of peace and float their lanterns down one of this city’s many rivers. I went with an Australian friend of mine who is here for the other big anti-nuclear conference in Hiroshima – his name is Tim and he works for the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which is an Australian NGO that is working on getting support for a nuclear weapon convention. A lot of young people are involved in ICAN, and Tim and I had a great discussion about bringing more young people into Peace Action and about the importance of board members having different skills so that they can help not only grow the organization financially, but also bring their contacts to help in other fields, such as media outreach.

We sent our lanterns off together into the river with so many others and with them our message for peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons -not sometime in the unknown future, but now, and for good.

Alicia can be reached at alicia@panys.org


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