Japan’s Peace Movement Will “Never Give Up!”

September 30, 2015

by Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director, New Jersey Peace Action

originally published by The Socialist

On the International Day of Peace 2015 (September 21), I spoke at the First Presbyterian Church of Rockaway, a New Jersey Peace Action recognized Peace Site, about being a local peacemaker and working to create a culture of peace. I welcomed the opportunity, having recently returned from a two-week trip to Japan, representing Peace Action and New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) as a guest of the New Japan Women’s Association (Shinfujin). From August 1st through August 13th, I participated in an International Meeting for Peace, the 60th World Conference for A-Bomb and H-Bomb Survivors and ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I gave my presentation just two days after the Upper House of the Japanese Diet passed extremely controversial and hotly contested “Security Rules” pushed by Prime Minister Abe and supported by President Obama. These rules violate Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, adopted post-World War II, by allowing Japanese soldiers to deploy overseas in support of their American allies, ending Japan’s 70 year commitment to pacifism. I read Article 9 out loud:

(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
(2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.


I emphasized the words that I thought elected officials in the U.S. should hear, describing behaviors the U.S. seems to have abandoned years ago. I praised the Japanese commitment to these words and their ongoing desire to preserve their culture of peace, following Japan’s experiences in World War II as both an imperialist nation and the victim of two atomic bombs.

A Japanese woman activist who attended the program said afterward, “I was devastated when the Diet approved the new rules, but it wasn’t until I heard you, an American, read Article 9 to a multi-faith audience that my tears first began to flow.”

Why would my reading these words have such an effect? Could it be because the history of Japan-American relations since 1940 hasn’t been easy — beginning with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1944 and continuing with U.S. internment camps for Japanese, the U.S. firebombing of 67 Japanese cities and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The U.S. used the military base at Okinawa as a launch pad during the Vietnam War and today wants to expand that base, despite tremendous local opposition. President Obama pressured Prime Minister Abe to abandon a 70-year commitment to pacifism over tremendous objections in order to support the U.S. military agenda in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. To hear an American read Article 9 with such reverence and respect and then talk about how the U.S. could learn from these words must be part of the reason it was so moving and meaningful.

While in Japan, I saw firsthand just how determined the majority of Japanese are to abolish nuclear weapons and put an end to war. At the end of every plenary session at the World Conference in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hundreds of people nearly ran onto the stage carrying colorful banners, some in English, others in Japanese and many in both languages, decrying nuclear weapons, calling for “Peace Not War” and protesting against efforts to undermine their constitution’s Article 9.

On August 30th, in the largest demonstration in decades, approximately 120,000 Japanese gathered at the Diet Building in Tokyo to protest the passage of these new rules. Organizers reported 200 protest rallies held throughout the country.


High school students are leading this effort. I heard several young Japanese people say that they don’t want to fight in an overseas war. They don’t understand why differences can’t be resolved peacefully. I found myself imagining what it would be like to live in a country where for more than three generations, no Japanese man or woman has been killed in a war and no Japanese man or woman has killed anyone in another country during a war. I wished that the same dilemma faced high school students in the U.S., but since the U.S. has been at war for 213 years of our 239-year existence, we have become numb to the prospect of yet another war.

On September 10th, in anticipation of the upcoming vote in the Diet, the Japanese NO WAR Network held a press conference to express its opposition to the “War Rules.” 103 Japanese organizations were joined by 228 foreign NGOs, including New Jersey Peace Action, in criticizing Prime Minister Abe’s proposed rule changes as both unconstitutional and against the interests of peace and security. Many statements implored Japan to remain a pacifist nation and a role model for other nations, instead of succumbing to pressure from the U.S. to become more militaristic.

Unfortunately, in the early morning of September 19th, the Upper House of the Japanese Diet voted to approve Prime Minister Abe’s new “Security Rules” while thousands of people protested outside. Inside, it was chaos, a result of intense differences of opinion about these new rules.

The majority of the population were disappointed but vowed to continue their fight. A newly formed student organization SEALDs is calling on all peace organizations to look ahead to next summer’s elections and work to replace anyone who voted for the rule changes with pro-Article 9 legislators.

I believe we can learn a lot from the Japanese. The leaders of the global anti-war movement and the movement to abolish nuclear weapons come from Japan. The Japanese have apologized for their own imperialism and many have vowed that Japan will never again be that imperialistic nation.

The Japanese have also suffered the worst of war – the tremendous devastation from the U.S. firebombing of 67 cities and the dropping of two atomic bombs. Many military experts determined that dropping the atomic bombs was not necessary to force the Japanese to surrender, since it appeared likely that the Emperor of Japan was ready to surrender, if only the U.S. would allow him to “save face.” However, the U.S. military wanted to show off its new prize, the atomic bomb, both to Russia and to the rest of the world. For the U.S., the loss of 210,000 lives was a small price to pay for the opportunity to “flex its muscle.”

Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have emotional, psychological and physical scars to prove the dangers of war and nuclear weapons. The average age of the Hibakusha is now over 80, making it more important than ever for youth to become involved, both in the effort to prevent war and to hear and learn the stories of those who survived the atomic bombs.

One such Hibakusha, Taniguchi Sumiteru, is 87-years-old. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki burned his back so badly that he spent the next 45 months lying on his stomach in a hospital bed. Years later when he met his surgeon, Taniguchi Sumiteru didn’t recognize him because he was never physically able to look him in the eyes. His surgeon said that he couldn’t believe Taniguchi Sumiteru survived so long. What moved me most of all was Taniguchi Sumiteru apologizing to the thousands gathered at the conferences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for not doing enough to abolish nuclear weapons. Burned and mangled though he had been, he still expected more of himself.

He wasn’t the only Hibakusha to apologize and expect more from himself. I met another survivor, aged 81, who said he walks five miles every day and eats the most healthy food he can find because he owes it to his children to speak out for as long as possible against nuclear weapons and war.

The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the most extreme and dangerous example of the logic of war. In order to wage war, one side has to demonize and dehumanize the other. Once that fatal step has been taken, the magnitude of destruction no longer becomes an issue. What does it matter whether the military uses a conventional weapon, a nuclear weapon or an atomic bomb?

The Japanese are also in the forefront of the movement against nuclear power, due to the catastrophic effects of the radiation leaks at Fukushima. Today, three years later, 100,000 evacuees are still unable to return to their homes in Fukushima, due to excessive levels of radiation.

It is my fervent hope that Abe’s “War Rules” won’t remain in effect for very long. Grass roots activism is spreading throughout Japan and is the best way to fight back against increased militarism.

We need to spend as much time thinking about creating a culture of peace as we do on waging war, in order to tame the military-industrial complex and change our nation’s and then the world’s spending priorities. We have to resist letting fear and greed dominate our thinking about resolving disputes between nations. It is tragic that the grassroots peace movement in the U.S. had to work so hard to protect a diplomatic agreement negotiated over 22 months between the P5+1 and Iran. The rhetoric of opponents and even many proponents of the deal showed how deeply the “culture of war” is engrained in the U.S.

The motto of the Japanese activists I met was “Never Give Up!” And those of us here in the U.S. who promote and value a culture of peace, won’t give up either.


About the Author:  has been the Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action and the NJ Peace Action Education Fund since August 2000. Prior to being hired by NJPA, Madelyn was the Director of the Grass Roots Environmental Organization, Inc. of New Jersey from 1983 until 1998. She worked with over 200 citizens’ groups from every part of New Jersey around issues of toxic chemical pollution affecting their communities. Before holding that position, Madelyn was a community organizer for the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, working with senior citizens living in public housing projects and with residents concerned about toxic chemical pollution in the neighborhood.

Diane Nash, George W. Bush, Selma and Our Understanding of Nonviolence

March 11, 2015

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

In case you missed it, civil rights heroine Diane Nash, one of the relatively few women in leadership positions in the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s (she was a key aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC) boycotted the 50th anniversary commemorative march in Selma, Alabama last weekend, not wanting to march with George W. Bush. (She was at the event, but her conscience wouldn’t let her be seen marching with Bush).

Nash said, “”I think the Selma Movement was about nonviolence and peace and democracy and George Bush stands for just the opposite—for violence and war and stolen elections,” also noting that his administration conducted torture. “George Bush’s presence is an insult to me and to people who really do believe in nonviolence,” Nash continued, voicing concern that the nonviolent legacy of the Selma Movement would now be “confused.”

I love the following part of Nash’s interview the most:

“Back in the 1960’s we did not know if nonviolence would work,” Nash told NewsOne. “Now we know that it does.” Nash said that she thought the Selma March anniversary “should have been a celebration of nonviolence,” which she added, was “definitely one of the most significant social inventions of the 20th century.”

A longtime respected colleague of mine voiced some mixed emotions about Ms. Nash’s position, stating he understood her but also that we need to welcome former adversaries when they join us.

I agree, and that certainly is in the spirit of nonviolence, if the former adversary is in fact transforming into an ally and “joining” us. If I thought that were true in George W. Bush’s case, I’d welcome him to the side of peace, social and economic justice, civil rights and nonviolence, though I’d be highly skeptical and would demand some accountability or at least repentance from him for his egregious actions as president. I see no evidence Bush is anywhere close to such a transformation.

What Bush’s appearance at the Selma commemoration does show is hard-earned mainstream respect for the courageous civil rights heroines and heroes and the social progress they sweated, bled and died for. But that has nothing to do with war criminals like Bush. Sister Nash was right, but that’s not really the point. From her comments I think it’s pretty clear that on a gut level her conscience just wouldn’t let her be at the same event as Bush, so it was much more a personal than political statement.

And of course Barack Obama, aka President DroneStrike, is no advocate of nonviolence, Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding. We need to push him not just to conclude a peace deal with Iran, but also to end drone strikes and give up the madness of a new war in Iraq and Syria.

Thanks to Common Dreams and NewsOne for their reporting on Diane Nash’s powerful statement of conscience.

Two Peace Movement Book Events Next Week in DC with Authors Michael Heaney and Vincent Intondi

February 27, 2015

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Our good friends at Busboys and Poets are hosting two very interesting book events in Washington, DC next week, well worth your time if you are free Monday and/or Tuesday evenings.

Our good friends at Busboys and Poets are hosting two very interesting book events in Washington, DC next week, well worth your time if you are free Monday and/or Tuesday evenings.

Event #1: Monday, March 2, 6:30-8:00 pm at the 14th and V Sts, NW Busboys and Poets, sponsored by Teaching for Change

Author Michael Heaney, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, will speak about his book (written with Fabio Rojas) Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11.  Michael, Fabio and their assistants did a phenomenal job interviewing anti-war activists and attendees at all the major antiwar rallies of the 2000s, and their findings are very compelling. Click here for more information.

Event #2: Tuesday, March 3,  6:30 pm at the Busboys and Poets Brookland location, 625 Monroe St, NE, Washington, DC 20017, sponsored by Politics and Prose

Vincent Intondi, professor at Montgomery College and American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute, will speak on his book African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism and the Black Freedom Movement. Vincent’s book is groundbreaking in raising up a forgotten history of people of color movements against nuclear weapons, in the context of broader liberation and justice struggles. Click here for more information.

Please Join a Dozen Organizations in Telling Congress to Reject Endless War

February 19, 2015




The U.S. Congress is considering another “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” — a broad approval for more war.

Click here to oppose any new AUMF.

This is the last thing we need. These wars are not making us safer but generating enemies. They are not surgical operations, but mass killings, as well as assaults on the natural environment and the public budget — not to mention excuses for curtailing civil liberties.

Please click here to sign the following statement for delivery to the media and Congress:

We oppose any new authorization for the use of military force and call for the immediate repeal of the authorizations passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002.

This petition will be a powerful tool as it is being jointly promoted by Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Iraq Veterans Against the War, KnowDrones.com, Military Families Speak Out, Peace Action, Peace Action Montgomery, RootsAction.org, United National Antiwar Coalition, Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones, U.S. Labor Against the War, and World Beyond War.

After signing the petition, please forward this message to your friends. You can also share it from the webpage after taking the action yourself.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action


Peace Action’s Paul Kawika Martin on MSNBC.com — Is there an alternative to war with ISIS?

February 17, 2015

By Paul Kawika Martin

The world has been pouring fuel on the Middle East inferno, yet expect something other than a larger blaze. On Tuesday, President Obama submitted language to Congress for an Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. More gas on the fire.

For six months now, Congress has ignored its constitutional duty to declare war by letting the Obama administration continue its military campaign against ISIS using the thinnest legal thread of past AUMFs over a dozen years old. It’s about time that Congress fully debate the U.S. war being waged in the Middle East.

At the end of the debate, I hope Congress comes to the same conclusion the president has proclaimed but refuses to act on: there is no military solution to ISIS. With that finding, Congress should oppose any new AUMF, repeal both outdated AUMFs and support political solutions and other actions to weaken ISIS.

“We need to prevent extremism in the first place by supporting education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation, civil liberties and freedom.”

If Congress fails to see that the current military strategy is not degrading ISIS and feels it must pass a military authorization, then I encourage them to push for tighter restrictions in an AUMF than what President Obama proposed. Limitations could include a one-year sunset clause; geographic limitations; definitively no combat troops on the ground; repealing both former AUMFs, not just one; restricting combatants to ISIS; and robust reporting requirements including civilian deaths.The president’s proposed AUMF does one good thing: it repeals the outdated and ill-advised Iraq AUMF. It fails, however, to repeal the 2001 AUMF, which has been used as a blanket “war on terrorism.” Unfortunately, it uses the legally ambiguous language of no “enduring offensive ground operations” rather than expressly forbidding combat troops which is supported by a majority of Americans.

As it stands, it doesn’t seem that the current military strategy is working against ISIS. According to government reports, ISIS recruitment continues to keep pace or possibly outpace those killed in battle with foreign fighters coming in from 40 to 50 countries. ISIS continues to control the same amount of territory. And extremism continues to grow in Central Asia, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. There are alternative solutions.

RELATED: Majority wants Congress to back Obama’s AUMF against ISIS

Reducing civilian deaths, casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure while increasing humanitarian aid and refugee support will decrease the recruiting of financial support and foreign fighters for ISIS.

Decrease its income by cracking down on oil sales and working with local communities to stop allowing its use of pipelines. Lower profits from illegal antiquities sales and the sex trade with more policing. Freeze ISIS assets and those connected to them. Diminish military resources by starving the regions of weapons and making travel more difficult for foreign fighters.

“In the end, preventing extremism is only way to keep groups like ISIS from forming in the first place.”

Support political solutions to the Syrian civil war and Iraqi ethnic tensions, two of the structural root causes of ISIS.Looking long term, we need to prevent extremism in the first place with international support for education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation and civil liberties and freedom.

The above alternatives come at a much lower cost than the over $300,000 an hour for a total of nearly $2 billion the U.S. taxpayer has already paid for our lackluster military strategy. Add the long term costs of veterans care, interest on debt and opportunity costs and alternatives look like a bargain.

Also, these alternatives are far less likely to cause blowback or bad unintended consequences. One must ponder that the Iraq war created al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, and they are now using arms and training provided by the U.S. and its allies. Similarly, the U.S. armed and funded the Afghan mujahideen to stop Soviet expansion not knowing that these rebels would one day become al Qaeda.

RELATED VIDEO: Is war against ISIS the answer?

Congress is likely to hold hearings regarding the AUMF over the next several weeks. This provides time for constituents to contact their senators and representative and voice their view. In 2013, when President Obama asked for an AUMF to bomb Syria, the war-weary public responded by contacting Congress ten-to-one against. Congress felt the pressure and an AUMF didn’t even get a vote.

While the president wants to continue a failed, expensive military strategy against ISIS, Congress can now debate and direct the White House to take alternative actions more likely to produce results. If Congress decides to follow the Obama administration, then a narrower AUMF is warranted. In the end, preventing extremism is only way to keep groups like ISIS from forming in the first place. It’s time to stop fanning the flames.

Paul Kawika Martin is the policy and political director for Peace Action, the United States’ largest grassroots peace organization and can be contacted on Twitter @PaulKawika.

Take Action to Stop Endless War

February 11, 2015


After six months of Congress and the Administration ignoring their constitutional duty, today President Obama sent language to Capitol Hill to authorize war for the next three years (an Authorization for the Use of Military Force or AUMF) against ISIS.  During the last six months of this military strategy, many argue little progress against ISIS has been made.

Take a quick moment and write Congress demanding a vote against an ISIS AUMF and to support political and other alternative solutions rather than war. 

It’s about time that Congress fully debated the U.S. war being waged in the Middle East.  We agree with past statements of the president that there is no military solution and we oppose any AUMF.  That said, if one passes it should be much narrower than what President Obama proposes and include limitations such as:

*A one-year sunset clause
*Geographic limitations
*Definitively no combat troops on the ground
*Repealing both former AUMFs not just one
*Robust reporting requirements including civilian deaths

Act now by sending a brief letter to Congress asking for a full debate on war in the Middle East, and to oppose a new AUMF and support long-term solutions.

The president’s proposed AUMF does one good thing: it repeals the outdated and ill-advised Iraq AUMF.  It fails, however, to repeal the 2001 AUMF which has been used as a blanket “war on terrorism.”  Additionally, it uses the legally ambiguous language of no “enduring offensive ground operations.”  It’s not clear that this actually excludes combat troops.

As it stands, it doesn’t seem that the current military strategy is working.  Instead the international community should:

*Reduce civilian deaths, casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure that tends to recruit financial support and foreign fighters for ISIS.
*Weaken ISIS by reducing its income (oil, antiquities, sex trade), freezing assets, reducing military resources (weapons, training and foreign fighters).
*Support political solutions to the Syrian civil war and Iraqi ethnic tensions.
*Increase humanitarian aid and refugee support.
*Support actions that will help prevent extremism in the first place: education, religious tolerance, poverty alleviation and justice.

Congress has not voted on a war authorization regarding terrorism since 2001.  It’s time for a full debate in Congress on ISIS.  Make sure your voice is heard now.


Humbly for Peace,


Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Today’s presidential proposal of the use of force (AUMF) against ISIS won’t work.  Write Congress now to oppose war and support activities that create a long-lasting peace.

Let’s Give Diplomacy a Chance in Ukraine

February 8, 2015

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Ukraine, or Ukrainian-Russian social, historical and economic ties. I do recall after the break-up of the Soviet Union there was consternation in Ukraine, a country about the size and population of France in what Ukrainians consider to be the heart of Europe (it’s not “Eastern Europe,” that’s the westernmost part of Russia), that all anyone seemed to care about was the disposition of Soviet nuclear weapons there. Ukraine wisely gave up the nukes, returning them to Russia, but I recall a justifiably angry quote by a Ukrainian that the attitude of most of the world was “Give us your nukes and go to hell.” And of course Ukrainians still deal with the awful legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster nearly 30 years ago.

As the current situation in Ukraine devolves into an increasingly horrible war, we see an urgent diplomatic initiative led by Germany and France contrasted by contradictory “tough talk” by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and some in Congress advocating increased U.S. weapons sales to Ukraine while admitting there is no military solution.

So let’s just skip the field day for the weapons dealers and focus on diplomacy.

Here is a radio interview I did yesterday on the status of diplomacy and pressure for increased U.S. weapons sales to Ukraine on KPFA Pacifica radio. One part they didn’t use was my question about how anyone can justify the loss of life in this increasingly horrible war when the likely outcome is known now — some sort of de facto autonomous region for the Russian population of Eastern Ukraine, with assurances to Russia by the U.S., NATO, European Union and Ukraine that the country will not become the eastern-most outpost of U.S./Western European military/strategic/political economic neo-imperialism — whether it becomes a reality in a week, a month, or a year from now. How is this situation worth anyone dying over? (Host David Rosenberg replied that could be said of most wars, I wish they had aired that part of our exchange!)

And here is a letter to the editor I sent to the New York Times last week, unpublished.

February 3, 2015

To the editor:

Sending U.S. weaponry to Ukraine as the conflict there escalates is a horrible idea (“U.S. considers supplying arms to Ukraine forces, officials say,” February 1) unless the objective is to increase overall death and destruction there. Any moves that inflame the situation in Ukraine should be avoided. Apart from the situation in Ukraine itself, U.S. and NATO triumphalist policies since the end of the Cold War have needlessly and unwisely isolated Russia, at a time when the U.S. and Russia need better relations, not worse, for cooperation on a host of issues including nuclear weapons reductions, bringing peace, stability and security to the broader Middle East region and addressing violent extremism and global climate change.

U.S. arms transfers into regions of conflict are short-sighted and have a spectacularly bad record of blowback and unintended consequences against our country and our allies (in Iraq and Afghanistan, to note only two bitter and current examples). It’s hard to recall many instances where such transfers brought about peace and stability instead of worsening armed conflict. Let’s give renewed diplomacy involving the various actors in the region a chance instead.


Kevin Martin

Executive Director

Peace Action

I’d be interested to know what readers of this blog think we, as U.S. peace activists, should advocate regarding Ukraine and specifically U.S. government policies toward the conflict.


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