Category Archives: Peace Activism

If You Oppose US Imperialism, This Is The Place To Be

We are still writing to you from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC where we are here as the Embassy Protection Collective with the full permission of the Venezuelan government. We have the grave responsibility to hold this space from takeover by the opposition, which would happen with the assistance of US law enforcement, until the Venezuelan government can complete negotiations with the United States over the status of their respective embassies.

What hangs in the balance is the possibility of a peaceful and orderly resolution to the end of diplomatic relations, and perhaps an entry to further negotiations, or, an escalation of aggression between the United States and Venezuela that could spiral into greater global conflict. Every moment, we are doing what we can to maintain a strong physical presence at the embassy, create a positive image of our collective and counter opposition tactics.

Support the Embassy Protection Collective by signing the Declaration, volunteering to participate, and/or donating money or supplies. You can contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni.

Serving as interim protectors

The Embassy Protectors are here with permission from the elected Venezuelan government, which is the government in power. On Wednesday, Carlos Ron, the Vice Foreign Minister, sent us a video message of support. Thursday, we held a virtual event with the Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, and the United Nations Representative Samuel Moncado, who were in New York City. They also expressed their full support. The next day, Arreaza was sanctioned by the United States. On Friday, we received a message of solidarity from President Nicolas Maduro.

We are making it clear to the State Department that we are in the embassy with the full knowledge and support of the Venezuelan government. If they or the opposition enter the building, they will be trespassing in violation of the law. Further, as we have been living and working from the embassy for more than two weeks, we have established tenancy. In Washington, DC, building owners are not allowed to evict tenants without due process.

Although we are on the lawful side of this situation, we recognize that doesn’t necessarily matter to the US ruling class. We are one impediment to their plans to install a puppet government and plunder the rich assets of Venezuela. We know how that turns out. Look at the Congo or Afghanistan, among other targets of US imperialism. We are training regularly in nonviolence and have pledged to stay here peacefully to hold this space until the Venezuelan government finds a permanent protectorate for the building.

Front door of the Venezuelan embassy (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

What’s at stake?

The United States and Venezuela ended diplomatic relations because of persistent US interference in Venezuela. The US has been working overtime to replace the government that supports the Bolivarian Process and both end that as a possible example of what it looks like when a country prioritizes the needs of the poor and to gain access to Venezuela’s reserves of oil, gold, diamonds and more.

When US efforts to de-legitimize the 2018 presidential election failed, the US government attempted to assassinate President Maduro and failed. The US then led a coup effort starting in January of this year, which also failed. However, the US government, and its proxies such as the Organization of American States (OAS), refuse to acknowledge their failure and are recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president. The US has given Guaido access to Venezuela’s financial assets that are in the US and turned over the Venezuelan consulate in New York and two military attaché offices in Washington, DC. The opposition now has its eyes set on the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC.

If the Venezuelan embassy in Washington is taken over by the opposition, it will have disastrous results. The Venezuelan government declared that if this happens, they will take the US embassy in Caracas. The US will view this as an act of aggression, and because it is already looking for an excuse to do so, could attack Venezuela. Because Russia and China are close allies of Venezuela, this could spark a global conflict.

On the other hand, there is a path of peace. The US negotiated an agreement with Switzerland to serve as a protectorate for the US embassy in Caracas, but this requires approval by the Venezuelan government. Venezuela is in negotiations to find a country willing to serve as a protectorate for its embassy. If that occurs, the two countries could reach a mutual agreement.

This might start a process to further negotiations to end the coercive measures and threats of military attacks by the US against Venezuela. We are serving as interim protectorates until negotiations are complete. We hope we can hold this space until that occurs, but the threat of the Secret Service coming into the embassy, arresting us and turning it over to the opposition looms over us.

From The Georgetowner by Robert Devaney

Our response

We began the Embassy Protection Collective with CODEPINK and the ANSWER Coalition, on April 10, the day after the OAS changed its rules and recognized Juan Guaido as the ‘president’ of Venezuela. Guaido wants to place Gustavo Tarre as the OAS diplomat in the embassy, a man who served in the Venezuelan Congress in the 1970s to 1990s, the period before the Bolivarian revolution, and a long time player in the Washington Consensus.

For our first week in the embassy, we spoke to many lawyers about possible legal options to prevent the takeover of the embassy. It became clear, though, there are none because of a doctrine of non-judiciability, which basically means this is a political question, not a judicial one.

After that we turned to a strategy of bringing as many Embassy Protectors and as much attention to the embassy as possible. The response has been tremendous with large groups of people working and living here. But, the reality is that we have to hold this space for weeks or possibly months, cooking, cleaning, creating media and providing our own security.

The top need we have is for more volunteers. If you are interested, fill out the contact form here and we will be in touch. Some people come here to work during the day. Others sleep here and go to work or school in the morning. We also hold public events every evening – speakers and cultural events. The more people that are here, the better. And all ages are welcome. On Saturday, people from three months to 106 years joined us.

This is a historic moment. We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to prevent our government from the illegal seizure of the Venezuelan embassy, an act that would violate the 1961 Vienna Convention and set a dangerous precedent for further violations. It doesn’t matter what you think of President Maduro, although personally we have great respect for him; what matters is that we as people in the US must demand our government respect the sovereignty and self-determination of other peoples to choose their leaders and decide their fates.

What you can do:

  1. Sign up to be an Embassy Protector.
  2. Follow us on social media and share that. Our Facebook page is Embassy Protection Collective and our hashtag on Twitter is @ColectivosPorLaPaz.
  3. Attend the public events in person or watch the live streams on the Popular Resistance Facebook page.
  4. Donate by ordering food to be delivered to 1099 30th St., NW in Washington, DC or make a monetary donation to Popular Resistance here.

The Venezuelan Embassy (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

In the Small Canadian City of Regina, Resistance is Brewing

Ed Lehman is a Canadian Communist, and a comrade of mine. I don’t say such things often or lightly, especially about Westerners. But he became my comrade, and we struggled shoulder to shoulder, for five days. Not in the South American wilderness, not in Afghanistan or Syria, but in Regina, a small Canadian city, the capital of the province of Saskatchewan.

I admit, before being invited there, I knew close to nothing about Regina. I did not even know how to pronounce it, correctly. But one day, an email arrived, and I was invited to become a keynote speaker at the Peace Conference there – in Regina. Spontaneously, I accepted.

The peace conference was called “Yes to Peace and Progress – No to NATO and War!”

I usually do not speak at peace conferences. I have always believed that oppressed and colonized countries have to fight for their independence and freedom, and that peace as it is propagated in the West is something that basically upholds the status quo. It is, as I mentioned in Canada, “when the bombs are not falling on Paris or Toronto”. It is when the wretched of the earth are dying quietly and obediently, far away from camera lenses, in their looted countries and continents.

Actually, many peace movements in the West annoy me to the extreme. Their lack of sensitivity, as well as ignorance, are maddening. The desire of their members to ‘do good’ and ‘feel good’, is often self-serving, and has absolutely nothing to do with the struggle for justice in dozens of colonized, and plundered ‘client’ states.

But there was something very different in what I detected while reading the invitation from Regina. The organizers were actually talking about justice, not just about stopping conflict. They were full-heartedly defending Venezuela. And their main goal was to dismantle NATO, or ‘at least’ to convince Canadians that their country should not participate in the bloodstained ‘adventures’ which are ruining the lives of hundreds of millions of people all over the world. I felt that I was being approached by the real and solid Left. And therefore, without much hesitation, I accepted.

*****

The program was mildly insane. In two Canadian cities – Regina and Winnipeg – I literally had to speak day and night, addressing the Peace Conference, a rally (called “No to NATO! No to “Regime Change Politics!” in downtown Regina in Victoria Park at the Cenotaph to the fallen soldiers of World War 1 and 2, Korea, and Afghanistan), as well as to students and professors at three universities and one high school. Simultaneously, I had to give interviews to both the printed media and radio stations. I was asked to show to the public two of my documentary films; one about North Korea (DPRK), and one about the devastating poverty and AIDS epidemic in the region of the African Great Lakes.

Why am I writing this; why do I give this detailed list of events? For one simple reason: it appeared to me that Canada is actually very different from the United States, despite its geographical proximity, and despite the fact it elected its embarrassingly right-wing government.

Author addressing students and professors at University of Winnipeg

First of all, Canadians do listen. They may not always agree with Communist, revolutionary thinkers like me, but they do sit down, concentrate and listen to you. They want to know; to understand. That is already very impressive, in a world which is brainwashed by the Western propaganda.

But there is more that I noticed while there: unlike in such places like California, no one here says to me: “Thank you for coming, but please do not show us too much blood and too much suffering. We won’t be able to take it” (precisely the comments that I once received in the US, when I was going to show some video clips from my film “Rwanda Gambit”).

If you tell a Canadian audience: “Look, you are participating in several massacres committed by NATO, and I will show you what people in these countries have to endure,” many Canadians will not say ‘no’; they will sit there and listen to you, and if necessary, they will watch what you want to share with them.

And I am grateful for this, and I am also impressed. It is ‘much more’ than what I have encountered in many parts of the West.

Demo in the park against NATO, Regina

Another impressive fact is that Winnipeg is not a large city, and Regina only has some 200,000 inhabitants. Yet both cities have a truly vibrant intellectual life. They have highly educated and informed individuals who clearly oppose the Western regime and global dictates. They have people who struggle against the regime.

And what I also noticed: our conference, organized by the Regina Peace Council (of which Ed Lehman is President),was covered by the local ‘mainstream’ media, by the Regina Leader Post, for instance, which offered a sympathetic account in an article “Group of Reginans protest Canada’s involvement in NATO”. The newspaper had no problems disseminating my ideas, either. The same goes for the local community radio station. And Erin Weir, an independent Member of Parliament, who represents the Regina-Lewvan constituency – personally brought sincere greetings to the conference.

 

I often speak at universities, worldwide. But in Regina I was even invited to address a class of high school students, who were able to formulate and ask very relevant questions.

I don’t want to say that in Canada ‘I participated in mainstream events’, but in both Regina and Winnipeg, I was ‘allowed’ to interact with, and to influence various professors, students, and through media outlets, even the local public.

*****

Anti-war activists here have their Saskatchewan Peace News publication, which is now in its 26th year of existence. As well as reporting on local peace events, it exposes ideas that cripple the peace movement; the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” and “humanitarian interventionism”, as Dave Gehl in his speech said “A 21st century version of “The White Man’s Burden”; and is used as an organizer of peace events.

For Ed Lehman, ‘peace’ is not just a pretty word or a slogan, and he is not the only one in Regina, who think this way. He believes that:

Today’s progressives need to unite the fight for peace with the fight for social and economic advance with the fight against climate crisis and the battle against racism. Deep transformation of the economic and social system is required in North America for justice to prevail; we saw in the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties that even in the belly of the beast, victories can be won.

Justice and racism… Unfortunately, racism is not just an ugly word here in Saskatchewan and in Canada in general. It is a reality, a shame. Many of the First Nation people, or call them original inhabitants of Canada, are still living in appalling misery, suffering from discrimination, as I was told by Julie Peebles, a young woman with a great concern for the life-situation facing Canada’s aboriginal population, who noted the similarities between AIDS as depicted in my film on Kenya and the situation in Saskatchewan. Here, indigenous people are facing social conditions similar to those in the poorest countries on earth.

Destitute life of First Nations’ citizens of Regina, Saskatchewan

I suggested, first jokingly, that I should return to Regina, later this year, in order to make a short documentary depicting the plight of the First Nation: “Wouldn’t that be embarrassing: a Russian travelling here, and doing precisely what should be an obligation to any decent Canadian filmmaker?” It was not taken lightly: the people of Regina full-heartedly welcomed my proposition, offering help, support; both moral and practical (like lodging me, driving me around, identifying important locations for my film). And now, I am seriously determined to come back and to help.

*****

After the event, and after my departure, many public figures praised the dedicated work and struggle of the Regina Peace Council. One of the letters stated:

RPC once again has demonstrated to the entire peace movement the possibilities that exist and can be realized from careful and thoughtful organizing and mobilizing of public peace action efforts and in particular by inviting the new generation of peace activists and dedicated anti-imperialist voices to the platform.

The Regina event coincides with other international efforts underway and under-reported by the corporately owned and controlled mass media.

NATO, promoted by the corrupt finance capitalist, political media cabal, as a defensive alliance, is gradually being exposed for what it truly is, the imperialist gendarme and provocateur of US inspired wars, including its most terrible form, nuclear war. Canada has no future and certainly no security so along as our country continues to be part of US-led NATO.

Ed Lehman himself proved that he is not only a dedicated fighter, but also a constructive optimist. After I departed, he wrote to me:

The left has had a tremendous impact in Canada in the last hundred years. Without the struggles of the working class, militant farmers, progressive intellectuals, the indigenous population, and others, our country would not have the social programs and rights that so many here are taking for granted today. Now more and more there is a crisis of everyday living facing the nation as the result of the impacts of neo-liberalism and neo-globalism on our country. The left, and in the first place the Communists, have the task of giving strong leadership in the struggles against climate catastrophe, for a Canadian foreign policy based on peace and disarmament, and for socialism as the solution to the problems faced by Canadians. With a socialist vision and optimism, the working people of Canada will chart a new course for our country.

*****

In Winnipeg, I publicly confronted the former Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela, Ben Rowswell, (watch here), a man who has already caused great damage to various non-Western countries, and who is still continuing with his destructive labor.

I also delivered a speech at Winnipeg University (you can watch my speech: “NATO, Canada and Western Imperialism”here).

Are Canada and its peace movements in Regina and Winnipeg, those proverbial mice which roared?

I am not sure, but what I encountered there filled me with optimism and hope, even convincing me that not ‘everything in the West is lost, yet’.

It also made me think: one assumes that the centers of resistance are located in such metropolises as New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. But, in reality, the Canadian opposition often gathers in small cities and towns: Radio Pacifica deep in British Columbia, Christopher Black well outside Toronto, and Ed Lehman in Regina.

RPC has already hosted such outstanding Canadian individuals as Michel Chossudovsky, a great thinker and the publisher of Global Research, Eva Bartlett, one of the bravest war correspondents on earth, and soon, Christopher Black, my friend, a Communist international lawyer, an author and a poet. It also hosted me, a revolutionary writer and, or as they call me in Latin America, a militant internationalist. And the people of Regina were not scared by what I had to say; they treated me with kindness and warmth, which I shall never forget.

I felt much more at home in Regina than I ever felt in Toronto or Montreal.

*****

During a demonstration against NATO, in Regina; right in the middle of the city, two police officers, one man and one woman, were watching us from the distance. They did not try to interfere. Sometimes they smiled, but mostly they just listened.

When demonstrators formed a circle, two law enforcement officers were invited to join, to participate. Without one moment of hesitation, they did join. That is when I thought: “No, this is nothing like the United States. This is Canada”.

And I was certain that soon, I will be back.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Tackling the “Impossible”: Ending Violence

Whenever, in ordinary circumstances, the subject of violence comes up, most people throw up their hands in horror and comment along the lines that it is ‘in our genes’, ‘nothing can be done about it’ or other words that reflect the powerlessness that most people feel around violence.

It is true that violence is virtually ubiquitous, has a near-infinite variety of manifestations and, at its most grotesque (as nuclear war or run-away climate catastrophe), even threatens human extinction in the near-term.

Nevertheless, anyone who pays attention to the subject of violence in any detail soon discovers that plenty of people are interested in tackling this problem, even if it is ‘impossible’. Moreover, of course, at least some people recognize that while we must tackle each manifestation of violence, understanding the cause of violence is imperative if we are to successfully tackle its many manifestations at their source. To do all of this effectively, however, is a team effort. And hopefully, one day, this team will include all of us.

In the meantime, let me start by telling you a little about some of the people who are already working to end violence by tackling one or more of its many manifestations. These individuals are part of a worldwide network set up to focus on ending violence – ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ – and they have signed a pledge to do so.

Concerned about US government threats to Iran and Venezuela, several Charter signatories were part of one or both recent peace delegations to Iran and Venezuela respectively. These delegations were designed to open more lines of communication and to demonstrate solidarity with those who do not submit to US hegemony.

The 28-member US peace delegation to Iran from 25 February to 6 March 2019 included long-term nonviolent activists Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and David Hartsough. Unfortunately for David, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist and director of Peaceworkers, his trip didn’t go as planned. If you would like to read a compelling account of his time in Iran with some wonderful Iranians, while learning something about what it means to be on the wrong end of US sanctions, you will find it in ‘An American Casualty of U.S. Economic Sanctions on Iran’. Glad you got the lifesaving medical treatment from our Iranian friends that you needed, David, despite the sanctions! And it is a tragedy that Iran has recently suffered even more, as a result of the devastating floods that have hit the country, with the sanctions cruelly denying them vital emergency assistance.

In relation to Venezuela, a 13-member peace and solidarity delegation from North America landed in Caracas, Venezuela on the weekend of 9-10 March 2019. The delegation included leaders of antiwar groups from the US and Canada and, once again, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of ‘Popular Resistance’ and ‘Clearing the Fog’ podcasts. You can read an account of this delegation’s findings in Kevin and Margaret’s highly informative report.

Another initiative to support Venezuelans was outlined in the article ‘A Nonviolent Strategy to Defeat a US Military Invasion of Venezuela’.

Traveling widely to witness and demonstrate solidarity with those on the receiving end of US military violence, another long-term nonviolent activist, Kathy Kelly, recently wrote an article pointing out that ‘Every War Is a War against Children’ in which she evocatively documented examples of what this means for those children living in the war zones we call Yemen and Afghanistan. In an earlier article, Kathy questioned the morality of those corporations – such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon – that profit from the killing their weapons inflict.

Environmental journalist Robert Hunziker continues to fearlessly research and truthfully document the ongoing assaults that humans are inflicting on Earth’s biosphere. In his most recent article ‘The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems‘, Robert straightforwardly explains the content of a recent interview of Dr. Peter Wadhams, the world’s leading Arctic scientist. Robert notes that ‘Currently, the Arctic is heating up about 4 times faster than the rest of the planet… the temp difference between the Arctic and the tropics is dropping precipitously… thus, driving the jet streams less… creating meandering jet streams… in turn, producing extreme weather events throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in mid-latitudes where most of the world’s food is grown.’ Robert also notes that the study of ancient ice cores by a team from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Cambridge and University of Birmingham found ‘major reductions in sea ice in the Arctic’ which will crank up (via temperature amplification as a result of no Arctic sea ice) Greenland regional temperatures ‘by 16°C in less than a decade’ with horrific implications for life on Earth. Thank you, Robert, for reporting what the corporate media won’t touch and even many activists find too terrifying to seriously contemplate.

In Chile, Pía Figueroa continues her heavy involvement in efforts to network those committed to peace and nonviolence and to develop media channels that report the truth. Pía reports that ‘Pressenza International Press Agency’, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last November ‘in more than 40 places of the world’, continues to advance its contribution ‘with a journalism focused on peace and nonviolence, to a world in which all human beings have a place and their rights are fully respected, in a framework of disarmed and demilitarized societies, capable of re-establishing the ecological balance through governments of real and participatory democracy.’

Since attending the Media Forum organized in the city of Chongqing, China, by CCTV+ and CGTN, in October last year, Pía has been busy organizing the upcoming Latin American Humanist Forum in Santiago with the objective of ‘Building Convergences’, as its slogan points out. It will be held on 10-12 May with the participation of many grassroots and social organizations involved in more than twenty networks of nonviolent action and inspired by the European Humanist Forum that took place in Madrid, Spain, in May 2018.

Anwar A. Khan was born into ‘a liberal Muslim family in Bangladesh’. As a 16 year old college student, he participated in the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which resulted in horrendous loss of life, genocide against Bangladesh’s intelligentsia and systematic rapes.’ This experience taught him the nature of the US establishment as he was ‘on the battle field along with so many friends of mine and Indian soldiers to fight back the obnoxious nexus of the Pakistani military regime and the Whitehouse establishment’ to create Bangladesh. Khan Bhai went on to complete a post-graduate education, before embarking on a 43-year (so far) business career, involving many different levels of corporate engagement and which took him to many countries of the world, including Venezuela in 2010 where he met both Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro.

He also writes regularly in his spare time and recently wrote an article highlighting the adverse impact of the lack of infrastructure under which many impoverished countries suffer, given the way in which the global economy functions to exploit them. In the article, he describes an inferno that started on the night of 20 February 2019 in a building at Chawkbazar, a 300-year-old Dhaka neighbourhood, ‘where chemicals for making deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored’. The fire ‘quickly spread to four nearby buildings where many people were trapped. Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the scene but traffic jams in the narrow streets held them up. It took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control….’ The horrific inferno claimed about 100 lives and more were injured.

Commenting on the current project that she is organizing with friends, Lori Lightning outlines the rationale behind ‘Bear Bones Parenting’:

There’s no course or exam to pass to become a parent, and most try to figure this out once a parent, and usually in an exhausted overwhelmed state. Bedtimes, meals, chores, and healthy open communication all become a task without a trusted framework in place.

Based on 51 years of combined wisdom as educators, counselors, health practitioners, moms, step moms and foster moms, Bear Bones Parenting offers an intuitive formula to demystify the basics of parenting and a workbook with tools for reflection and wellness practices to take you actively through day to day living no matter where you are at in your life. You dedicate 15 minutes a day and in trade stop being overwhelmed. A “do it yourself” workbook filled with tools to turn life into what you envision for yourself and your family.

Our cast of puppets help to inspire playful reflection on our children’s temperaments and our own. Eventual creation of short videos will be easily accessible for busy parents and provide some examples of how things typically play out with temperaments and inspiration of the Bear way, which is curious, intuitive, firm and loving.

We hope that BBP can help reduce parental stress and frustration so there is time to connect in joy and curiosity with our children and foster their independence.

For more information, you can contact Lori at this email address: moc.liamgnull@gnitneraPsenoBraeB

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh is volunteer Director of The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) but he is also actively engaged in the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation. As he evocatively noted in a recent Easter reflection:

This is the tenth Easter I celebrate after returning to Palestine in 2008. When we native Christian Palestinians have a few moments to meditate and reflect in this season, we reflect that some 2.5 billion human beings believe in a message that originated with a Palestinian baby born in a manger here and was crucified for being the first revolutionary Palestinian to push for caring for the sick and the poor.

We reflect on the real message of Jesus, a message of love and coexistence. The harsh reality on the ground reminds us of our responsibility to shape a better future.

We are hopeful because we take a long view of history. Some 150,000 years ago, humans migrated from Africa using Palestine as the passage way to Western Asia and then the rest of the world. 12,000 years ago, this area became the center of development for agriculture (the Fertile Crescent). This was where we humans first domesticated animals like goats and donkeys and plants like wheat, barley, chickpeas, and lentils. This transformation allowed our ancestors time to evolve what we now call “civilization”. Hence, the first writings, the first music, and art, and the first thoughts of deities. From our Aramaic alphabet came the Latin, Arabic, Syriac, and Hebrew alphabets. Aramaic was the language of Jesus and much of our current Palestinian Arabic is still Aramaic words.

Mazin continues to travel regularly, lecturing about initiatives of the museum but also about the political reality in Palestine. If you would like to volunteer to assist the museum’s projects, or to donate money, books, natural history items or anything else that would be useful, you are welcome to contact Mazin and his colleagues at gro.erutanenitselapnull@ofni

Finally, we are deeply saddened to report the passing of Tom Shea, a long-time stalwart in the struggle for a better world and one of the original team of individuals who launched ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ on 11 November 2011. We include below the testament of his great friend and fellow nonviolent activist, Leonard Eiger:

For Tom Shea, Peace WAS the Way

My dear friend and fellow Ground Zero member Tom Shea passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of April 3rd surrounded by his family.

Earlier in his life Tom had been a Jesuit, a high school teacher, and had started an alternative high school and Jesuit Volunteer Corp: Midwest. He had also been involved in social justice issues on the national level with the Jesuits. Ground Zero member Bernie Meyer remembers Tom with great fondness, from being a student at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland where Tom was teaching, to resisting together at Ground Zero many years later.

Tom was 47 when he left Cleveland for Traverse City, Michigan in 1977. There he met his partner Darylene, and they were inseparable from then on. Together, they participated in the Nuclear Freeze movement, and were part of the Michigan Peace Team. They traveled to New York for the second Conference on Disarmament in 1982. They protested both the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq. They also engaged in war tax resistance.

At Darylene’s suggestion, they attended a course in conflict mediation in the early ‘80s at a time when there was little written on the subject. That experience led them to a course taught by Quakers at Swarthmore College in 1986. In 1990 Tom and Darylene founded the five-county Conflict Resolution Service in Northern Michigan and trained the first group of volunteer mediators. Their mission was to promote peace and civility in the community through the use of mediator guided dialogue. In the early days of the program, volunteers met in church basements and around kitchen tables to train, role play and share experiences. They would travel to the homes of people needing mediation, focusing on resolving family and neighborhood conflicts.

Tom and Darylene moved to Snoqualmie, Washington in 2007 to spend more time with Darylene’s children. Tom got involved in community issues and continued his war tax resistance work. You could find him every April 15th, in front of the local post office, offering tax resistance information.

I was still leading a social justice ministry at the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church when one day Tom called the church office and asked who was doing social justice work in the area. We connected immediately due to common work and friends. Soon, Tom and I were making the pilgrimage together across the water to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and the rest (as they say) is history.

I have spent countless hours with Tom and Darylene, discussing world affairs and working together on strategies and tactics for our work with Ground Zero. Tom and Darylene have been inseparable as both life partners and co-conspirators for peace. Tom once said that Darylene is like a Jesuit herself: “Jesuits are taken as very scholarly people and she’s very scholarly.”

In addition to working on media and communications for Ground Zero, and planning vigils and nonviolent direct actions at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base, Tom put himself on the line many times, often entering the roadway blocking traffic, both on the County and Federal sides, symbolically closing the base and risking arrest. Tom also created street theatre scripts that have been used during vigils at the submarine base to entertain and educate people.

Robert Burrowes, who cofounded ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’, said that “Tom was one of the true legends in my life. A long-standing symbol of, and nonviolent fighter for, everything that could be in our world.” When all is said and done, Tom’s life can be summed up by A.J Muste: “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

We will be scattering some of Tom’s ashes (per his wishes) at Ground Zero Center during our August Hiroshima-Nagasaki weekend of remembrance and action.

I invite you to honor Tom’s memory by supporting the work of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. There are many ways we can engage in war tax resistance in the context of a broad range of nonviolent strategies for social change.

While diminished by the passing of Tom, the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action continues ‘to explore the meaning and practice of nonviolence from a perspective of deep spiritual reflection, providing a means for witnessing to and resisting all nuclear weapons, especially Trident. We seek to go to the root of violence and injustice in our world and experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action.’ You can read about their ongoing efforts on their website, Ground Zero, which also features a ‘Current Action Alert: Stop the “Low-Yield” Trident Warhead!

Each of the individuals mentioned above is part of the ongoing and steadily expanding effort to end the violence in our world. They refuse to accept that violence cannot be ended, and each has chosen to focus on working to end one or more manifestations of violence, according to their particular interests. If you would like to join these people, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

If your own interest is campaigning on a peace, climate, environment or social justice issue, consider doing it strategically.

If your focus is a defense or liberation struggle being undertaken by a national group, consider enhancing its strategic impact.

If your preference is addressing the climate and environmental catastrophes systematically, consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

If you would like to tackle violence at its source, consider revising your parenting in accordance with ‘My Promise to Children‘. If you want the evidence to understand why this is so crucial, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

If you are aware enough to know that you are not dealing effectively with our deepening crisis, consider doing the personal healing necessary to do so.

It may be that ending human violence is impossible, as many believe. But there are a great number of people around the world who do not accept this and who are struggling, relentlessly, to end violence before it ends us. What about you?

No To NATO: Time To End Aggressive Militarism

“No to NATO” Protest Washington DC, March 30, 2019 (Photo from UNAC)

This week, the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries met in Washington, DC. NATO was greeted with bi-partisan support from Congress and by protesters who held actions and events from Saturday, March 30 through their meeting at the US Department of State on April 4.

US foreign policy is not the fabled “good cop” bringing peace to the world, but rather a policy of domination using military, economic and political power to accomplish aims for US transnational corporations and US empire. From the Iraq, Libyan, Syrian, Afghanistan and Yemeni wars (in particular) people understand the US uses its power in destructive ways that create chaos, suffering, refugees and death throughout the globe. But, few people understand the role of NATO.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, April 4, 2019 (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

The mythical NATO is an organization that keeps the peace in the world, but, in reality, it has always been an aggressive military force to protect western capitalism and provide cover for illegal interventions. When the US is unable to get the United Nations Security Council to approve military action, NATO provides a multi-national approach to wars as occurred in Serbia and Afghanistan among others. When Congress will not grant authority for US military action, as in Syria, NATO participation becomes the legal cover for massive military attacks by the United States.

While NATO provides a veneer of legality, in reality, it does not have any international legal authority to go to war any more than the United States has. Even NATO military attacks require either (1) UN authorization through the Security Council, or (2) a direct military attack and a self-defense response. The NATO wars are illegal under international law, just as unilateral wars by the United States are illegal.

Yves Engler writes that NATO was created not to stem Soviet aggression, which was the public justification, but to prevent the growing political left from succeeding in taking power after World War II. It was also an alliance to maintain unity among the historic colonial powers in the midst of former colonies gaining their independence from western domination.

At the time NATO was founded in 1949, there was little possibility of aggression by the Soviet Union after a war that killed 25 million Soviets. The Soviet Union and Russia were never a threat to the United States as historian Peter Kuznick explains. We discussed the history of NATO and its current role in global militarism with Engler on our podcast, Clearing the FOG, which airs on April 8, 2019.

This dynamic continues today. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Warsaw Pact, NATO has become “imperialism’s global strike force,” according to Danny Haiphong. Any country that dares to assert its sovereignty and use its resources to meet its people’s needs becomes a NATO target.

Yet, there are liberal politicians who continue to fall for the lies about NATO. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the NATO Support Act. All 208 Democrats who voted (26 didn’t), voted for it, including many progressives such as Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.

Black Alliance for Peace, (left to right) Paul Pumphrey, Ajamu Baraka, YahNé Ndgo and Asantewaa Mawusi Nkrumah-Ture at No 2 NATO in Washington, D.C.

NATO In Washington, DC

NATO foreign ministers came to Washington, DC this week for a series of events culminating with a meeting in commemoration of its 70th-anniversary on April 4, which was also the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 and the anniversary of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech in 1967 where he connected the triple evils of racism, militarism and the extreme consumerism of capitalism. The primary focus of the week was how NATO can combat Russia.

The protests began on March 30 when hundreds of people met across from the White House to call for an end to NATO as well as opposition to the economic war and threats of military attack against Venezuela. People described the vicious NATO attack on Yugoslavia that included an aerial bombardment from March 24 to June 10, 1999, involving 1,000 aircraft flying 38,000 combat missions, despite the UN Security Council voting against the attack as did the US House of Representatives. The bombing included attacks on civilian infrastructure as well as military targets, destroyed the country, killed thousands and created a mass exodus of 850,000 refugees.

Protesters also described the expansion of NATO from 12 to 29 countries with a particular focus on nations bordering Russia. This occurred despite US promises to the Soviet Union that NATO would not seek to expand after they disintegrated. The collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989–1991 removed the de facto main adversary of NATO, which should have led to its dissolution but instead has led to its reorganization and expansion. Now, NATO seeks to expand to Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine as well as spreading into Latin America with Colombia joining as a partner and Brazil considering participation (not coincidentally, these two nations border Venezuela).

On Wednesday, when seven NATO foreign ministers, a US senator and a member of Congress, among others spoke at the Center for European Policy Analysis’ “NATO at 70” conference, they were confronted by multiple protesters who were able to get into the highly-restricted conference. Dozens more demonstrated outside. Protesters described NATO as a war-making alliance that should be abolished.

During the week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had a friendly meeting with President Donald Trump where they talked about expanding NATO and having NATO members spend more money on militarism.  When Stoltenberg spoke before a joint session of Congress, he was given repeated bi-partisan standing ovations. In his speech, he called for more funding and applauded Trump’s efforts to increase funding for NATO.

The next day when NATO foreign ministers met at the State Department, hundreds of protesters were outside showing opposition to NATO. A coalition of peace groups came together for this protest and events throughout the week calling for disbanding NATO. Breaking from the bi-partisan support for NATO, Howie Hawkins, who announced an exploratory committee for Green Party presidential nomination, joined the protests calling for an end to NATO and dramatic cuts to the military budget.

Following the State Department protest, activists marched through DC to the memorial of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on the anniversary of him being killed by the government in 1968. People talked about King’s legacy as an opponent of war being denigrated by the NATO meetings. They also echoed King’s call for a ‘Revolution of Values’ that puts the necessities of the people and the planet before the profits of big business interests that are protected by NATO.

Outside the State Dept (Photo by CODEPINK)

Ending NATO and Moving Beyond Militarism

Our task of educating the public about the real purpose of NATO was highlighted by a conversation we had with a Park Police officer at the King Memorial. We were protesting without a permit and he was telling us we had to leave. We explained that King protested without permits and we were echoing King’s message of nonviolence and an end to war. The officer responded, “you are stretching King’s message by protesting NATO.”

His comment crystallized our task. People do not realize what NATO really is. Our first task is to educate the public about the real role of NATO as a military alliance that has waged war around the world. This includes Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria among others. Once the public understands the true role of NATO, we must make our demands clear — end NATO.

The world needs to move beyond militarism to mature and legal forms of dispute resolution by creating courts that prosecute war crimes and the crimes against humanity of all countries, including members of the UN Security Council, and putting in place agreements that end the threat of nuclear war, the most destructive form of war.

Call of Duty: Resisting War in Venezuela

Every war is a war against children.

— Egalntyne Jebb, founder Save the Children a century ago.

Responding to the British post-war blockade of Germany and Eastern Europe, Jebb participated in a group attempting to deliver food and medical supplies to children who were starving.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, she distributed a leaflet showing the emaciated children and declaring:

Our blockade has caused this, – millions of children are starving to death.

She was arrested, tried, convicted, and fined. But the judge in the case was moved by her commitment to children and paid her fine. His generosity was Save the Children’s first donation. Source: Kathy Kelly

****

This vet for peace has made a life duty to a simple call to action —  Hands Off Venezuela. Imagine the same call in 1960 —  Hands Off Vietnam; or in 1970 —  Hands Off Chile; or in 1991 —  Hands Off Haiti; Hands Off Puerto Rico 140 years ago.

Those ham-fisted, Imperial-seeped and Monroe Doctrine-primed hands are ours, Uncle Sam’s.

There are resisters to this global hyper power disease that we have been infected with in America that professes a USA-rules-the-world mentality. Dan Shea is that Vietnam Veteran for Peace. He puts his actions where his mouth is.

Rewind the tape 13 years, and we see Dan as a Veterans for Peace organizer  working on the city of Portland becoming a sanctuary city for soldiers AWOL from the armed services who were inserted into Iraq and Afghanistan illegally.

“This is an opportunity for the citizens of Portland and the City Council to support the soldiers who are coming back and their right to speak out,” said Dan Shea of Veterans for Peace, who first proposed the idea.

Shea told an interviewer in 2006 he had enlisted with the Marines and spent most of 1968 in Vietnam, where he was exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange. That resulted in his diabetes, he said.

Shea professes he never supported the Vietnam War, yet like many boys and men (girls and women) back then – especially high school drop-outs — he felt obligated to serve. However, when he came home, he felt betrayed by the country, saying the initial reasons for going to war were nothing but lies. The same thing is going on today, he said.

Over the years of our illegal incursion into Iraq, destroying the country and killing a million or more, and then our longest war, Afghanistan, Shea has talked to veterans who can no longer support the war because of what they participated in or witnessed. “These are people of conscience,” he said. “They served for what is the best of our country — the ability to speak out — and now they are being persecuted for that.”

Shea has had a long history with Central America, and Latin America in general. He went to Venezuela in 2006 and met Hugo Chavez. He also has been to Nicaragua to meet with the revolutionary government and actors in that country which overthrew a despotic dictator, Somoza, who was a puppet of the United States.

Fast-forward to the current debacle of the US and its vassal states and even the supposedly “independent” EU countries  pushing for a violent overthrow of the Chavismo Nicolas Maduro. Shea has just returned from Venezuela on a fact-finding trip that included embracing the Venezuelan people.

Dan and I talked about how that arc of social justice and the golden rule, if indeed true, would have “saved” the world from war and injustice a long time ago. Unfortunately, the boomerang of the capitalists and lords of war continues to cut down movements and countries wanting no more of the insanity of “the endless war on terror” mentality Bush and his neocons (supported by Obama) promulgated.

How can we ever forget Mark Twain’s anti-imperial words in regard to his time and historically the crime of war:

There has never been a just [war], never an honorable one–on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful–as usual–will shout for the war. The pulpit will–warily and cautiously–object–at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, ‘It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.’ Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers–as earlier–but do not dare say so.

And now the whole nation–pulpit and all–will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

― Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories

For 70-year-old Shea, that grotesque self-deception is what now emanates from the very pores of Trump’s regime, from the profiteers of war, from the elite who want Venezuela for their profits, and from the Democrats – the supposed opposition party – who believe America is the great white hope that should be meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.

That moniker, Vietnam vet for peace, speaks to Daniel Shea’s persuasive and holistic approach to life, and he’s  not easily dissuaded by the long arm of capitalism’s systems of oppression which create mayhem through social and cultural injustice he’s experienced in his 70 years on planet earth. He’s a former Marine who had been deployed to Vietnam in 1968.

He did not see himself engaging in the tradition of military service so many in this country seem compelled by — especially civilians like Donald Trump, who not only actively got out of military service during the Vietnam War, but also has been quoted many times deriding vets who went to war, calling them “losers.”

That call of duty, Shea told me, was predicated on being stuck in a hard labor job in Portland, Oregon, and the reality that his draft number would be called up anyway.

He wasn’t a supporter of the war, but he said he just went in to “just get it over with.”

“I did not support the war,” he told me. “I knew the minute I stepped into boot camp that it (military life) was not for me.”

Heck, he went AWOL before being sent to Vietnam – “We went out drinking, and we ended up showing up late to our duty station.” Hard drinking because he and his band of brothers didn’t know if they were going to live or die once in-country. For their human sanity wanting to drown out the reality of possible pending early grisly deaths – it’s a normal emotion and psychological state to resist death, one’s own death – Shea and the others were thrown into the brig.

This story begins in reverse, with Venezuela March 2019, but without a narrative context, few would know why the Portland, Oregon chapter president of Veterans for Peace just returned from Venezuela as part of a big delegation to meet with the people of that country, the people in the streets, in government, in the media and just the regular Jose and Josefina in an effort by this peace delegation to carry forth on some real ground truthing.

“We were on a mission, to listen, to observe, and to attempt to assess the root causes of opposition grievances and whether there might be avenues for talks to address their concerns and find compromises and produce a peace to the advantage of all concerned,” Shea told me. Obviously, the delegation was not blinded by the media lies and the Trump Administration’s propaganda war and the opposition party’s back-stepping.

The right for Venezuelans to determine their futures was always at the forefront of Shea’s and the others’ minds during this delegation. Nicolas Maduro was elected as the leader of the country, and this largely unknown puppet – hand-picked by the Trump people and his same old usual suspects of neocons, going way back, gleaned from the dirty wars of Central America and international felons (like Elliot Abrams) — Juan Guaido is as legitimate to Venezuelans to lead their country as is Donald Duck or Elvis Presley.

“Our main mission was to express our Solidarity with COSI – Venezuela — Committee of International Solidarity and Struggle for Peace.” Shea went with folks like Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Co-chairs of Popular Resistance.

Other heavy hitters included Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace and 2016 VP running mate of Jill Stein; Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC); Gerry Condon, President of VFP; Sarah Martin, Anti-War Committee; Miguel Figueroa, President Canadian Peace Congress; Eva Bartlett, fearless Canadian freelance journalist; and others.

Dan and I cleared the air early on in our interview: I asked him what makes 2019 and Venezuela different than all the other times US presidents/ administrations have taken that which was not theirs to take, who murdered those who resisted and, then who set forth imperial overreach to subjugate people and societies through generation after generation.

“Same old story, nothing has changed – Capitalism is at the root cause of targeting Venezuela. The country’s oil is the price, and the US Corporate Masters will use any means necessary including war,” Shea told me. “They are willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people in order to secure oil for the United States. This was pretty much publicly stated by John Bolton to FOX News in which he said that United States would benefit economically from access to Venezuelan oil.”

Yet we are in an era of cognitive dissonance, distraction and delusional thinking, where the corporate mass media drive a false narrative that supports regime change and resource plunder while the uninitiated public is bombarded with the meaningless of social media feeds and popular lobotomizing culture. Or as Twain describes the US public’s myopic masses as that “great, big, dull bulk of the nation.”

The trip this past March was righteous and part of Shea’s vow of non-violence and weeding out the lies of the very country he went to war for. The trauma of combat was real for him as an 18-year-old in Indochina, but he made it clear to me that it was “the moral injury of realizing I was part of a killing machine that resulted in four to six million people killed and still many more effected by the health effects of Agent Orange.”

He tells me that when he first returned from “his war,” via the Philippines, he like many Vietnam vets was reluctant to self-examine with friends, family or the public: “I just didn’t want to talk war, about Vietnam, or anything associated with the military.”

He slogged ahead, used the GI Bill to enroll in community college in Portland. He got married with his first child on the way. He and his wife were living in an apartment, and got their first house soon thereafter.  Shea began his political development – or we could call it a series of enlightenments — during this period. Then his wife Arlene became pregnant. “This news was received with great joy as I always wanted to have children. We began a series of healthcare classes for pregnant women studying natural birth alternatives, and regular visits to the doctor to make sure Arlene was getting all the nutrients she needed during her pregnancy.”

Lamaze classes, and then the birth of Casey in 1977.  When Arlene’s water broke, the couple was extremely excited. It was a tough labor,  “I think it was about 10 hours and our doctor was a longtime family doctor by the name of Doctor Miracle . . .  how could you go wrong with a doctor named miracle?”

Shea was present at the birth and vividly recalls the doctors rushing his son to the side and then the medical team whispering, eventually stating there were some health concerns with Casey.

“Casey had a seizure and had to be rushed up to the NICU at Doernbecher Neonatal Unit Children’s Hospital. We learned our son had been born with a cleft palate, congenital heart disease and other abnormalities.”

Lots of tears, but Shea and his family were able to celebrate the miracle child, and then a year later, they had a second child, Harmony. Shea learned that the birth anomalies of his son were related to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. In 1981, their son at the age of three passed away, after seven weeks in a coma from a failed heart surgery.

I’ve worked with veterans who have a grief so painful and so deep tied to the trauma of Vietnam and the battle scars and the inhumanity of napalm dousing villages and carpet-bombing cities. However, the other story to the trauma is both tied to their own failing health and especially all the birth defects of offspring.  “I didn’t even want to live but the love of my wife and my daughter kept me grounded. Additionally, I came to see that my story — my loss — was just one out of millions of lives and all those children in Vietnam who would have been exposed to Agent Orange or who had been killed by our bullets and bombs.”

Out of the personal and historical pain, Shea began to “take a strong and deliberate opposition” to all wars and all military interventions. He dug deep into what the idea of how War and Peace had been so at odds in this Indian-killing country. He was attempting to understand how both civilians and military leaders could see it as “honorable to send their children to foreign shores to kill other children.”

I too have questioned our militarism with a military father who was in uniform for 32 years. Shea has wondered what mechanisms are in place and what sorts of psychological blind-spots would possess working class folks to be part of a deliberate military invasion of another nation to kill other working class families, including innocent men, women, children and even infants.

I still remember Muhammad Ali’s words when I was 10 years old and my father was a regular army officer in Vietnam:

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? (February, 17, 1966)

I continually remind people that Trump is a bad hombre in the sense he has a cadre of lawyers and some in criminal enterprises working for him and for whom he works. Bad hombre in the sense Trump has narcissistic personality disorder and believes he is the right hand of god even as he lives, breathes and dreams the way of Satan in the Bible he so publicly reveres.  Bad hombre in the sense Trump is a physically inept bully who encourages racism, white nationalism, misanthropy and blind allegiance to the red white blue and Benjamin’s.

I’ve been around real bad hombres, literally, people who slit the throats of their enemies, people who have no compunction fighting mano y mano to the death, yet these people in the drug dealing world and others I have met as a journalist and then some who I worked with as incarcerated folk have more humanity in their pinky fingers than a Trump and his Klan could ever hope for.

Yet, this country has gone downhill since its first slave holder president, George Washington, who stole from his own soldiers, relished killing the Mohawks for land they wouldn’t sell, and proceeded to break every treaty with the First Nations people.

Things have only gotten worse since Cherry-tree Cutting George took the helm.

Dan Shea: “You’re right this began before Trump. The same faces we saw involved in Central America in the 1980s are now pushing Trump to continue on this path. Those faces of course are John Bolton and Elliott Abrams as well as probably a number of other right-wing Republican capitalist anti-communist propagandists. Besides wanting other countries’ resources, they cannot stand to have examples in the world where socialism trumps Capitalism. This just might give people ideas . . .  and that’s dangerous for those in power who are raping the Earth of its resources polluting, our oceans.”

Mini Q & A:

Paul Haeder: What did the people of Venezuela leave you with?

Dan Shea:  Funny you should ask that question because after visiting with President Maduro, there was a press conference held outside the Presidential Palace and I said it’s my turn to speak. Told them I was born in the United States, but my father was from Panama as well as my grandmother so I have roots one foot in the US and one foot in Panama as well as Central America, but my heart is in Venezuela —  with all of you.

You might ask why I feel that way and I would answer because I have seen the tenacity of a people to stand up against one of the most powerful nations on Earth. Venezuelans have refused to accept United States in their bulling attempts and threats to overthrow their elected president and surrender their oil. This is basically the real interest of the United States and their corporate masters — OIL!

PH: What do you suggest people in the US — who do not want to interfere with the Venezuelan elections and people’s right to their own self-determination and the current legitimate government’s right to move forward — DO to affect change?

DS: Organize, organize, organize. Join any number of groups opposed to war, opposed to interventions. Be involved in mass demonstrations in Washington DC, say no to NATO, say no to war and racism, and demand Hands Off Venezuela.

If you’re a veteran, join Veterans For Peace, become a part of the solution not the problem. If you are a soldier currently in the military, VFP encourages you to resist illegal orders of invading a country that has been no threat to the United States. Refuse to deploy, refuse to continue serving in the military by becoming a conscientious objector. If you wish to battle injustice, totalitarianism, dictatorships then start here at home in the ‘belly of the beast’ and resist war, violence and help us build a massive Antiwar and Peace Movement.

PH: Discuss what you learned about this bizarre gambit Trump and the other pols are creating in the international press from the Venezuelan people’s perspective.

DS:  Most of the stuff coming from the US is lies, exaggerations and cherry-picked statistics to suit their narrative. Such as hyperinflation, and the lack of food and goods for sale because of shortages, but Trump and the media fail to tell you how US sanctions are creating that crisis.

PH: Notable moments there.

DS:  You have to maintain some sense of humor even under the dark cloud of war. Thus, Guaido has become joke. In a press conference in Venezuela, I felt it necessary to inject a little humor by declaring myself President of the United States. If Juan Guaido can declare himself president of Venezuela, then why can’t I declare myself the president of the United States.

*****

We talked about how things have changed since the anti-war and pro-civil rights movements in the country in the 1960s. Maybe that was a flashpoint moment, which led the copulating forces of the US government and corporations to entrench themselves deeper and deeper into anti-democratic methods of suppressing the masses, or even stopping targeted movements and campaigns.

Not many Americans who want change are willing to face jail and employment termination. Upton Sinclair stated it almost a century ago:

I intend to do what little one man can do to awaken the public conscience, and in the meantime,  I am not frightened by your menaces. I am not a giant physically; I shrink from pain and filth and vermin and foul air, like any other man of refinement; also, I freely admit, when I see a line of a hundred policeman with drawn revolvers flung across a street to keep anyone from coming onto private property to hear my feeble voice, I am somewhat disturbed in my nerves. But I have a conscience and a religious faith, and I know that our liberties were not won without suffering, and may be lost again through our cowardice. I intend to do my duty to my country.

— Letter to the Louis D. Oaks, Los Angeles Chief of Police, 17 May 1923

We are today deeper in a time of dumb-downing, largely because we have sold our souls and our brawn and intellectual mettle to the corporation. We have variations now on this theme that Sinclair and H.L. Mencken toyed with:

  • Never argue with a man whose job depends on not being convinced.
  • It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
  • It can be very hard to understand something, when misunderstanding it is essential to your paycheck.
  • It is rather pointless to argue with a man whose paycheck depends upon not knowing the right answer.

For Dan Shea, he has great hope for and in the young people today, who are understanding putting truth to power and are training their minds to not only not accept war as inevitable, but also to train themselves to accept the very proposition that socialism is the only way to stop the madness. “They understand this perverse Orwellian language such as ‘preemptive war,’ or how politicians and generals call mass murder ‘collateral damage.’ To repeat, I see the people of Venezuela standing up against one of the most powerful countries in the world.”

He ends the interview with an allusion, deploying Albert Camus: The Greek myth has Sisyphus condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. For Camus, life is absurd and meaningless, as we see with Sisyphus, yet, “The struggle itself … is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

“I guess the gods would forgive him once Sisyphus pushes the boulder up the hill, but each time he pushes the stone up the hill, he is defying the system. I feel free knowing I too can defy the system.”

From Kabul to Okinawa, the Outrageous Abolition of War

Inaam (left), Habib (right) and I (photographer) sharing a good laugh at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul

I decided to write this ninth love letter specially to Inaam, the 21st century generations of the world and the people of Okinawa because of three personal reasons.

I miss having the wonderful energies of 15-year-old Inaam at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre. Inaam has to polish boots in the streets of Kabul to supplement his family’s income and to survive today’s terrible economic system.

I also wish that the vision and work of abolishing war had been “attractive” enough to keep Inaam in the Abolish War Team beyond three weeks. Inaam, born at the turn of the 21st century, deserves to live in world without war.

I write to the courageous and kind Okinawans because though Japanese soldiers killed my grandfather in World War II, the people of Okinawa and Japan are healing my father through their nonviolent resistance.

*****

Dear Inaam, the 21st century generations of the world and the people of Okinawa,

You’re only fifteen, and I’m almost fifty.

I wish I didn’t hear you say to me, “Hakim, I think that war will never be abolished.” Have we greedy adults made it so very difficult for you to picture a humanity without war?

I know that deep down inside, you want war to disappear forever. I can see this wish on your face in the photo I took in 2015, for the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s #Enough! War campaign.

Inaam in 2015 (second from left) saying no to war

In 1945, the UN Charter had committed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”.

I’m sorry that the UN and our human family have continued to inflict on you “untold sorrow”.

But I believe in you and your generation! 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thurnberg is your peer, and she demonstrated the same wisdom you have when she said:

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground, so we can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today.

I wish Greta had said this about the obsolete and ineffective method of war too, but she didn’t.

There is no politician currently in office who has proposed laws to ban war. I had hoped that Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK would, but they haven’t.

With your reason and compassion, you see through all the current peace negotiators of the Afghan conflict: beneath their emperor’s clothes, you see that they are naked war executioners.

When the world imagines that these peace negotiators/war executioners will negotiate for genuine peace, the world is fantasizing that the US military-christened Hellfire missiles, costing about US$58,000 each, or the extremists’ opposing suicide bombing vests, costing much less, can usher heaven into Afghanistan.

Even if you could cast an under-age vote in this July’s scheduled Afghan Presidential elections, none of the 18 candidates will abolish war. Yes, to gain votes, they will all parrot the rhetoric that they wish to end the Afghan war, but none of them will abolish the method of war.

It was only years after his political career, in 2017, that former President of USSR Mikhail Gorbachev wrote:

In modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war — not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.

Gorbachev understands the real political risk of humankind annihilating herself through nuclear warfare.

Inaam, as a war child, you understand by experience that there are also no politics today to abolish war. Together with the Gretas and youth of the world, build the necessary new politics.

You’ve seen how the Afghan Peace Volunteers are organized without a Director, so if the new politics needs to be one without a President, a CEO or a Prime Minister, go for it! And, don’t worry about all the various mis-used and bombastic political terms. Go for nonviolent liberty, equality and fraternity. As the late French diplomat Stephane Hessel wrote about nonviolent resistance when he was 93:  “Indignez vous. Time for Outrage!

Also, to practice magnanimity through life, you and I must exercise timeless patience while working our butts off.

I mean, it was way back in the 1930s that British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar calculated that a doubling of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere could warm the Earth by 2 degrees Celsius. It has taken 90 years to reach today’s level of climate activism, and despite this, we still have people like Trump who denies climate change.

Or like with the abolition of slavery. The Qin Dynasty of China abolished slavery in 221 BC and Pope Paul III forbade slavery of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in 1537. Niger made slavery a crime only in 2003! So, the human family’s struggle against slavery took more than 2000 years, and even today, modern slavery still exists, like with the child brick-layers of Afghanistan.

History’s gradual but seismic changes happened when different individuals and societies took decisive actions at different times and ages. We can each be those channels of change: get the scientific results of war out there, use your shrill and growing voice, demand for laws to ban war, divest from the military industrial complex, don’t join the military corporations, persuade your soldier-brother to be a conscientious objector, prohibit all weapons, make military generals very unpopular just as the CUNY undergraduates did, refuse to cooperate for war like some Google and Microsoft staff did, replace every war method with a thousand nonviolent methods, turn soldiers into pacifist mediators…

All these are revolutionary acts of love; you’re already familiar with the Dari phrase, “ در کار خیر پیش دستی کردن- dar kaar khair pesh dasti kardan”, which means “For charitable work, set your hands to work quickly!”

Am I asking too much of the 15-year-old you?

You see, I want so much for you to have a meaningful and gorgeous life, and to have enough friends, friends even with those considered “enemies”.

My father had considered my Japanese friend Eitaro Oka an “enemy”, because Japanese soldiers who had occupied Singapore in 1942 killed his father. It was World War II.

But, when Eitaro visited me in Singapore years ago, my father and mother hosted him. The first thing Eitaro said to my father was, “I want to ask you for forgiveness, for the killing of your father.” My father inspired me with his reply, “You were not the one who killed my father. Please enjoy the meal, a special Singaporean dish called Hainanese Chicken Rice prepared by my wife.”

Eitaro (centre) with my parents in Singapore

When I joined a group of Japanese peace activists in Okinawa three years ago, an elderly Japanese monk stood before officials in the local office of Japan’s Ministry of Defense, and asked me for forgiveness! He pleaded against the presence of US military bases in Okinawa. This kind monk had covered his bald head with the Borderfree Blue Scarf of the Afghan Peace Volunteers!

The kind monk (left, standing) and Yuichi (centre, standing) with other Japanese activists in an office of Okinawa’s Ministry of Defense.

Many young Japanese like Yuchi, Sara and Kamoshita are resisting the re-militarization of Japan. Their current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is regrettably addicted to military prowess, and wants to amend the Japanese constitution to enable the re-establishment of a Japanese army. Shinzo is a human being who is sold-out to money and power, and not very sound, as he has even nominated US President Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize!

Sara, Yuichi and Kamoshita ( first, second and third from right) with other activists

Kamoshita and Sara had wanted to visit us in Kabul this winter, but Kamoshita emailed me, I am sorry to late reply. I can’t travel to Afghanistan this time. I couldn’t persuade my family…They worry me to go.”

Not only are Japanese activists working to abolish war. Many ordinary Japanese are resisting the heavy killer machinery too.

In fact, in a February 2019 referendum, 72% of Okinawan voters opposed the construction of a new US military base to replace an existing one.  Most Okinawans don’t want US military bases on their peaceful and beautiful island.

You’ll also be encouraged to know that Masoma, Habib and new members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers had sent Msent Kamoshita, Sara and Okinawans a video message of solidarity.

Ordinary Japanese link hands in protest, at the gate of a US military base in Okinawa (insert) New Afghan Peace Volunteers link hands in solidarity with Okinawans, saying, “No to US military bases in Okinawa and Afghanistan!”

So, dear Inaam, remember how you told me that the current education system is not teaching you anything useful? You’re right. I’m sure that you can educate yourself better than the schools, especially in the knowledge, values and skills needed to build a better world.

We have on many occasions talked about true education: thinking and feeling deeply, freeing ourselves from the control of money, questioning all power, changing the culture of war within us. In relational learning, we connect all the dots and love like everyone and everything in the world is related.

Our lives are brief, but as long as I have opportunity, I’ll walk with you.

Baa mihr  با مهر( With love ) !

Hakim

Venezuela: US Imperialism Is Based On Lies And Threats


We are completing what became more than a week-long peace delegation to Venezuela organized by the US Peace Council and the Committee for International Solidarity in Venezuela (COSI). The trip was complicated by American Airlines cancelling all flights in and out of the country, leaving us scrambling for ways to get there and get home. We also arrived in the midst of the attack on Venezuela’s electrical system, which caused further complications.

Our delegation met with community groups, political parties and members of the government, including a private meeting with President Maduro. One theme that became obvious during the visit is that the United States’ imperialism is fundamentally weak. It relies on lies and bullying threats to get its way. So far, Venezuelans are resisting everything the US and its allies are throwing at it, but they remain vigilant and concerned about an escalation of attacks.

Rallying with the women oil workers outside the presidential palace on March 15, 2019 in Caracas.

Venezuela Unites in Response To US Attack on Electrical Grid

The attack on Venezuela’s electrical grid began on March 7 and continued for several days. The outage made life difficult for Venezuelans. Without electricity, water pumps could not bring water to people’s homes, refrigerators weren’t working and the subway couldn’t run.

People lined up to fill buckets with water. Lights were on, but not everywhere. When we talked to residents, we learned how they came to their neighbor’s aid, sharing food and water. Despite years of economic difficulties caused by US and allied countries’ sanctions, there were no reports of looting or unrest in Caracas. Venezuelans remained calm and steady while confronting the challenges of the blackout. School and work were cancelled until March 14, but some people were out anyway and a few shops were open.

Maduro explained that the attack on the electrical grid came from the United States. There is evidence it emanated from Houston, the home of the company that provided infrastructure for the grid, and Chicago. There were also attacks on power lines and substations inside Venezuela. When a section was repaired, it would be attacked again.

Maduro told us the plan had been for the attack on the electrical grid to cause chaos and confusion in order to provide an excuse for US intervention. The plan failed. Venezuelans realized this was part of the US-led coup campaign, and rather than becoming divided, they united.

Russia confirmed the Venezuela account and said it was supported by other evidence. The Grayzone reported on a 2010 memo about regime change in Venezuela, which included discussion of an attack on the electrical grid to cause a blackout and chaos. The US tried to sabotage the Iranian electrical grid and has used electricity attacks in previous coups, so this is part of the US coup playbook.

During our stay, CNN also reported that the drone assassination attempt against President Maduro last August was organized in Colombia and that the US was in close contact with the assassination plotters. It was also confirmed by the NY Times that it was the opposition who burned USAID trucks on February 23 at the border, the day of the humanitarian aid defeat. This corroborates the report by the Grayzone Project the day it occurred.

The democratically-elected government of President Maduro worked to end the electricity crisis, provide people with water and food and made sure buses were running. The self-appointed coup’s Juan Gaido worked with the United States, which caused the blackout and their hardships. Gauido is being investigated for his involvement in the electrical attack. He is allied with countries waging an economic war that is causing financial distress, and he is calling for foreign military intervention, a traitorous action.

The attack mobilized more people in the US and around the world to oppose the US coup calling for ‘Hands Off Venezuela,’ an end to the sanctions and an end to threats of war. Another mass march in support of Venezuela is scheduled in Washington, DC on March 30.

We attended an ongoing rally outside the presidential palace to defend it. On Saturday, there was a mass protest of tens of thousands of people celebrating the country coming together to confront the attack on their electrical grid. People were dancing, singing and chanting their support for President Maduro. While there were several opposition protests announced, when a member of our delegation went to cover them, they were not to be found.

Pro-Bolivarian Process rally on Saturday, March 16, 2019 in Caracas.

The US Embassy is Forced to Close

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Venezuela was forced to close because it was being used as a center for organizing the ongoing US intervention. President Maduro told us how the US openly tried to bribe and threaten officials in his government and in the military and how they threatened his wife and family. The US told the opposition to boycott the last election and told candidates not to run against him. They knew they would lose an election to Maduro, so the plan had always been to falsely claim the election was illegitimate.

Maduro wants to have a dialogue with the US but the embassy had to close because not only was it undermining his government but it provided justification for the US to intervene on behalf of its diplomatic staff. Venezuela plans to have dialogue with the US through its UN representative.

When the embassy personnel left, we received word we were “on our own.” The State Department issued a statement describing civil unrest in Caracas saying that Americans could be arrested at any time for no reason. They warned people it was too dangerous to come to Venezuela. This was echoed by the Airline Pilots Association, who told their pilots not to fly to Venezuela because of the dangers.

The morning of these declarations, we went for a walk in Caracas to look for unrest. Families were out with their children, people were shopping and eating pizza, and ice cream. Caracas is as active and safe as any big city in the United States. Members of our delegation described in this video the calm in Caracas and how the US was falsely claiming civil unrest to manufacture an excuse for US intervention. The people of Venezuela are prepared for more struggle, building a self-sufficient resistance economy and they will fight to preserve their independence.

When we talked to Venezuelans, one thing they commonly told us was ‘thank you for coming to Venezuela, now you can tell people in the United States the truth about our country when your politicians and media lie about us.’ The Venezuelan people want a good relationship with the people of the United States. President Maduro told us of his love for the United States and how he had driven through Chinatown, Little Italy, and Harlem in New York, visited many cities in the US, was offered a contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and loves basketball and Jimi Hendrix.

Maduro has offered to meet with President Trump to discuss and resolve their differences. His Foreign Secretary met with John Bolton — a fruitless meeting, but an attempt by Venezuela for dialogue. Venezuela wants a positive relationship with the United States but it will not give up its sovereignty, independence, or pride, and is prepared to fight a US coup.

Hands Of Venezuela March in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019 (by Ted Majdosz)

Guaido Is the Butt of Jokes In Venezuela, Not Legitimate Under the Constitution

We were invited to be in the audience of the most widely-watched television show in Venezuela. It is a remarkable political education-entertainment show hosted by the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello. The show, Con el Mazo Dando (loosely translated as “Hitting with a Club”), is a weekly five-hour show that combines politics with music and comedy. During the show, he covered 80 different news stories including a chronology of the electrical attack.

Cabello uses biting satire. Guaido was the punch line of many jokes and his alliance with the hated Trump administration was highlighted. Gauido does not have the respect of the people of Venezuela. He is becoming of little use to the US coup and will possibly be discarded in the near future.

While Guaido has overtly committed multiple crimes, the Maduro administration seems to have made a conscious decision to not arrest him as his actions are weakening him and exposing the coup’s connection to US and western imperialism.

One thing that was highlighted to us in Venezuela was that the self-appointment of Guaido violates the Venezuelan Constitution. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is plain regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of those conditions have been met. The coup relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect

become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

None of these conditions exist. And, if they did exist, the vice president would take power until there is an election. Not only is Guaido a self-appointed president, but he is illegally self-appointed. In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams admitted that Guaido is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.”

The State Department has been pressuring the media to call Guaido the “interim president” and not to call him “self-appointed” or “opposition leader” despite the fact that he has no presidential powers and no legitimacy under Venezuelan law. Any media that succumbs to this pressure is participating in a dangerous farce that is part of a US-led coup.

This contrasts with the legitimacy of President Maduro. This week, international election observers wrote the European Union telling them they were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased.” They described EU claims as “fabrications of the most disgraceful kind.” We described in detail the legitimacy of the elections and other essential facts activists need to know about this US coup.

Singing and dancing as people arrive for “Con El Mazo Dando” (by Margaret Flowers)

Solidarity With Venezuela Is Essential

The people of Venezuela have shown their solidarity in standing together against the US and oligarch coup attempt. It is essential for those who believe in peace, justice and anti-imperialism to do the same.

We agree with Vijay Prashad, solidarity is a process, not a slogan. We plan to build on the relationships we developed with the US Peace Council, World Peace Council and COSI among others. We will provide a list of items that COSI needs for their ongoing organizing in Venezuela, but so far they told us they need computers, printers and paper. They also need donations (a little goes a long way). They don’t have a website yet. If you can donate, contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni and we’ll find a way to get it to them.

The first steps in building solidarity include demanding the end to all interference: ending US imperialism and preventing military intervention and war. It also means an end to the economic war, sanctions, blocking of finances and the embargo. On a near daily basis, it requires us to correct the record and confront the lies on which US imperialism is based. We will continue to post stories on Venezuela regularly and we urge you to re-post them to social media, email networks, and websites.

We can defeat the regime change narrative by getting out the truth. Join the national webinar on Venezuela on March 26 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Register here. And join the national webinar on NATO and Latin America on March 28 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Register here. We will have more reports from our meetings in Venezuela posted on Popular Resistance.

Join the March 30 Mobilization Against the US Coup in Venezuela and the No to NATO protests in Washington, DC.

It is evident the US coup is weak. They have a weak leader in Guaido. They depend on lies because the truth undermines their every turn. They cannot participate in elections because they have very little democratic support. This contrasts with the strength of Maduro, who has the support of the people. The popular movement is positioned to stop the Venezuela coup and prevent a military attack. Our solidarity efforts in the US may prevent them from having to suffer more.

Can We Divest from Weapons Dealers?

Impoverished people living in numerous countries today would stand a far better chance of survival, and risk far less trauma, if weapon manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon stopped manufacturing and selling death-dealing products.

Family Visit in Kabul (Photo by Dr. Hakim)

About three decades ago, I taught writing at one of Chicago’s alternative high schools. It’s easy to recall some of their stories—fast-paced, dramatic, sometimes tender. I would beg my students to three-hole-punch each essay or poem and leave it in a binder on our classroom shelf, anxious not to lose the documentation of their talents and ideas.

Some of the youngsters I taught told me they were members of gangs. Looking down from the window of my second-floor classroom, I sometimes wondered if I was watching them selling drugs in broad daylight as they embraced one another on the street below.

Tragically, in the two years that I taught at Prologue High School, three students were killed. Colleagues told me that they generally buried three students per year. They died, primarily, from gunshot wounds. I think they could have survived their teenage years if weapons and ammunition hadn’t been available.

Similarly, I believe impoverished populations of numerous countries at war today would stand a far better chance of survival, and risk far less trauma, if weapon manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, stopped manufacturing and selling death-dealing products. It would also help if the people living in countries that export deadly weapons were well-informed about the consequences these businesses bring.

Consider this: The 2018 U.S. Census Report tallies U.S. exports of bullets to other countries. Topping the list is $123 million-worth of bullets to Afghanistan—an eight-fold rise over the number of bullets sold in 2017 and far more than the number of bullets sold to any other country.

During a recent visit to Afghanistan, I heard many people voice intense fear of what would happen if civil war breaks out. It seems to me that those who manufacture bullets are doing all they can to hasten the likelihood and deadly outcome of an armed struggle.

But rather than help people here in the United States understand conditions in countries where the U.S. conducts airstrikes, President Donald Trump is hiding the facts.

On March 6, 2019, Trump revoked portions of a 2016 executive order imposed by President Barack Obama requiring annual reports on the number of strikes taken and an assessment of combatant and civilian deaths. Trump has removed the section of the mandate specifically covering civilian casualties caused by CIA airstrikes, and whether they were caused by drones or “manned” warplanes.

A U.S. State Department email message said the reporting requirements are “superfluous” because the Department of Defense already must file a full report of all civilian casualties caused by military strikes. However, the report required from the Pentagon doesn’t cover airstrikes conducted by the CIA.

And last year, the White House simply ignored the reporting requirement.

Democracy is based on information. You can’t have democracy if people have no information about crucial issues. Uninformed about military practices and foreign policy, U.S. citizens become disinterested.

I lived alongside civilians in Iraq during the 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing of Baghdad. In the hospital emergency rooms I heard survivors asking, through screams and tears, why they were being attacked. Since that time, in multiple visits to Kabul, I have heard the same agonized question.

The majority of Afghanistan’s population consists of women and children. When civilians in that country die because of U.S. attacks—whether within or beyond “areas of active hostilities”; whether conducted by the CIA or the Department of Defense; whether using manned or unmanned warplanes—the attack is almost certain to cause overwhelming grief. Often the survivors feel rage and may want revenge. But many feel despair and find their only option is to flee.

Imagine a home in your neighborhood suddenly demolished by a secret attack; you have no idea why this family was targeted, or why women and children in this family were killed. If another such attack happened, wouldn’t you consider moving?

Reporting for The New York Times, Mujib Mashal recently interviewed a farmer from Afghanistan’s Helmand province displaced by fighting and now unable to feed his family. “About 13.5 million people are surviving on one meal or less a day,” Mashal writes, “and 54 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of a $1 a day.”

Last week, an international crisis sharply escalated in a “dogfight” between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed states. The crisis has been somewhat defused. Media reports quickly focused on the relative military strength of both countries—observing, for example, that the dilapidated state of India’s jet fighters could be a “win” for U.S. weapons manufacturers.

“It is hard to sell a front-line fighter to a country that isn’t threatened,” said an analyst with the Lexington Institute. “Boeing and Lockheed Martin both have a better chance of selling now because suddenly India feels threatened.”

A few weeks ago, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited heads of state in Pakistan and India. Photos showed warm embraces and respectful receptions.

The CEO of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson, also embraces the Saudi government. She serves on the boards of trustees of two Saudi technological universities, and presides over a company that has been awarded “a nine-figure down payment on a $15 billion missile-defense system for Saudi Arabia.” The Saudis will acquire new state-of-the-art weapons even as they continue bludgeoning civilians in Yemen during a war orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And the Saudis will build military alliances with nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

With both India and Pakistan possessing nuclear weapons, every effort should be made to stop the flow of weapons into the region. But major weapon making companies bluntly assert that the bottom line in the decision is their profit.

Attending funerals for young people in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, at the time one of the poorest in Chicago, I felt deep dismay over the profits that motivated gun runners who sold weapons to students, some of whom would be soon fatally wounded. In the ensuing decades, larger, more ambitious weapon peddlers have engendered and prolonged fighting between warlords, within and beyond the United States.

Boys and girls at Street Kids School, Kabul, March 2019 (Photo by Maya Evans)

How different our world could be if efforts were instead directed toward education, health care, and community welfare.

This article first appeared on the website of The Progressive

Inspired and Inspiring, Young People will Change the World

We are living amongst the largest generation of young people in history; young people who are better educated, better informed and more widely connected than ever before. Around 42% of the world’s population is under 25 years of age, 25% are under 15 – that’s 1.8 billion. The largest group is in South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the median age is only 19, compared to 38 in America, and an ageing 45 in Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe.

This huge army of young people is cause for great optimism; they are more politically and socially engaged and certainly more environmentally aware than previous generations, are less conditioned by ideologies, and despite the widespread notion that anyone under 35 is self-obsessed and uncaring, in many cases they are the ones leading the global charge for change. They abhor dishonesty, don’t trust politicians and rightly believe that unity and tolerance of others are essential to right relationships and social harmony.

Many feel frustrated at the state of the world they have been born into, are angry with inept politicians and unaccountable international institutions, and enraged at the environmental vandalism that is taking place throughout the world. Anger and disillusionment has led to committed engagement among large numbers of young people throughout the world; they swell the ranks of the global protest movement forming the vanguard at demonstrations for action on climate change, demanding social justice and freedom, rational changes in US gun law and an end to austerity and economic injustice.

They formed the driving force behind what were arguably the two most significant social/political movements in recent years: the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, and whereas in the past young people have been less engaged than older generations in voting and party activism, this too is changing – in Britain, for example, the Labour party, with an overall membership of 504,000 – the largest in Europe, has over 100,000 members under 25, and they are extremely active.

As well as demonstrating, working on environmental campaigns and human rights issues the impulse to contribute to the local community is strong, and many act upon it: a survey made by the Royal Society of Arts in Britain found that a staggering “84 percent of young people want to help others,” and that “68 percent of young people have participated in volunteering or other forms of social action.” These statistics reflect the high level of social responsibility that exists in countries throughout the world amongst this generation. The study also revealed that whilst there is a strong desire to bring about large scale change, working locally to support someone in need – befriending, or helping an elderly person with their shopping, for example – is recognized to be of enormous value.

It is a generation brought up with social media and, according to The Millennial Impact Project, they use it alongside traditional forms of participation.  Millennial’s “interest in the greater good is driving their cause engagement today, and their activism (or whatever you want to call it) is increasing.”

Inspired and Inspiring

Appalled by the level of inaction and the scale of the crisis, large numbers of young people have committed themselves to the environmental cause. One of the most inspirational forms of climate change activism is the Schools Strike for the Climate initiated by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg. Following a record-breaking summer, in August 2018 Greta began a solo protest for climate change outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. Every Friday since, instead of going to school she sits outside her country’s parliament: she has vowed to “continue to do so until [world] leaders come into line with the Paris agreement [on climate change].”

Apathy is often disguised by arguments of individual inadequacy in the face of the scale of the problems confronting humanity. Well, a loud answer to such feeble excuses is Greta Thunberg’s one-girl protest; following her example hundreds of thousands of school children around the world have staged their own School Strike for the Climate. Although all teaching bodies should support the actions, some don’t, and whilst disappointing, their view is largely irrelevant; what matters is that teachers, along with politicians, big business and the general public pays attention to what these young people are saying: keep fossil fuels in the ground, invest in renewables, live environmentally conscientious lives; it is our future you are destroying, act now before it’s too late.

The man-made environmental crisis is the result of a certain way of life, an approach to living that places enormous value on material wealth, on image, pleasure and success. It is, we are told, a ‘dog eat dog’ world in which only the ‘strong’ survive. This fear inducing view has polluted life, fueling social division and widespread mental health conditions, particularly amongst under 25 year olds. In November 2017 the World Youth Parliament met in Beijing to discuss, ‘Interpersonal Relationships: Keys for a new Civilization’.

In their conference report they call for the creation of a kinder, friendlier society. They extol forgiveness, which they describe as the “most sublime and integral form of love” and make clear their view that the current “competitive culture (which places our goals against the goals of others) and the wrong use of technology” is detrimental to human well being. And they should know: as a result of the ‘competitive culture’ and the pressure to ‘achieve’ – in education, in a career and socially – unprecedented numbers of young people are suffering from anxiety and stress, panic attacks and depression, leading some to self-harm and suicide.

Despite being conditioned into competition by an outdated education system, which is designed to train compliant workers, not free-thinking creative individuals, young people instinctively recognize that cooperation, not competition is an integral part of human nature, and that working collectively for the common good is the best way of dealing with the many challenges facing humanity. It is, in fact, the only way we will overcome the various crises confronting us; unity is the way forward and young people know this.

The future belongs to the 3 billion or so under 25 year olds of the world, many of whom are inspired and inspiring. If we are to collectively overcome the challenges facing humanity we need to listen to what young people have to say, to draw on their energy and dynamism; they are in tune with the times, are overflowing with creativity and are a powerful voice for change.

While State Leaders Make War, Spanish Children March for Peace

Jacaranda schoolchildren marching for world peace

Benalmádena, Spain — Seven hundred and seventy primary and elementary school children, aged three to 12, walked and skipped three kilometers to the main square (Plaza de España) here in this town located in Spain’s Andalusia province, and back to their municipal school, Jacaranda.

On this 30th march for international peace in commemoration of the day that Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated (January 30, 1948), the children sang “No to War”, “Yes to Peace”, “Save the Children,” “Friendship Yes, Violence No”. (The event was postponed a week due to a storm.)

They were accompanied by their 29 classroom teachers and about 100 parents and grandparents.

For a week each January, these students study peace, solidarity and friendship values, and how to protect Mother Earth from man-made pollution. The day dedicated to “Save the Children” includes students asking their parents for donations of funds and clothing for poor children. Since 2011-2, they have raised some 7500 Euros ($8500). A committee of teachers and parents decides where to send the donations, sometimes in Spain and sometimes abroad.

The students also make designs for banners and T-shirts. A committee of students and teachers decides what designs are used. The municipal marine sports and water firms donated 3000 Euros to manufacture 1000 T-shirts that the students and teachers wear.

I have participated in hundreds of peace activities but never one where the prime activists are young children. I asked some children and parents what marching for peace means to them.

Ten-year-old Julia made the T-shirt design for last year. “I love peace” is centered on the blue shirt, and “We must all work to create peace” is the co-slogan. All words are in Spanish and English.

Julia tells me, “We can’t get peace in the world without everyone together, building for it. I just thought about that when I drew.”

This year’s T-shirt is pink. A dove is flying leading three children wearing shirts with a peace sign, a heart and a smile, and the words: peace, respect, solidarity, equality, happiness, friendship and love.

Along the march, I meet up with Carmen, Jonathan, Tillie and Dario ages 11-12. Their collective voice speaks gleefully: “Togetherness is beautiful. Racism and machoism are wrong.”

Lise, 4, feels that marching is “fun”. Her teacher adds, “Teaching peace can be fun. Teaching war is not.”

One mother tells me, “We are so grateful for this school, because it focuses on developing a consciousness of peace and friendship, of love, really. We do not make wars; it is the politicians. War for oil. This,” says the parent, opening her arms as to embrace the hundreds of children assembled before the march began, “this is life.” Her husband adds, “Not forming Hitlers and Francos, and those of today’s times.”

A Polish couple moved from their country to Benalmádena, in part to get away from warring conflicts. Carolina and Robert tell me as they march, “We must help create a future, and this school is one way of doing it. Wars are for politicians and the rich. Here the children are stimulated with peaceful thoughts.”

Thirty-year old Carmen walks beside her husband and her father as they follow their two children and grandchildren. “I bring my children to this school because of the values they teach,” Carmen says. “The academic part is OK but the best is the morality that is taught, and done so without authoritarian finger pointing. The teachers let our well-nourished children know that other children in the world die of hunger, others barely live with little nutrition; many live with fear and in violent danger. They are helping our children become conscientious adults. This is humanitarian, this is caring, and one day our children may make a real difference for peace.”

One of those kids, 9-year old Karin, tells me, “We are happy to have our parents help other children no matter where they are.”

At the Plaza de España, the children sing and dance to cheerful songs, waving their arms and stepping in tune. I ask a local policewoman what she thinks of the children’s peace march in the context that her government is killing people in the Middle East. “It is not ‘my’ government. It is the world government making wars. We need more love and peace.”

Three children read manifestos for peace that 6th graders had written in Spanish and English:

Peace needs education with values, behavior and attitudes that allow personal and social harmonia, refusing all types of violence.

Many wars could be avoided through dialogue, reaching pacific agreements that could benefit us all. When it comes down to it, we are all equal human beings, born of a father and mother: tall and short, blond and brown, with round or extended eyes, with different colors of skin.

It is not enough to talk about peace. We must believe in and work for peace. The children and adults of Jacaranda are ‘peaceniks’. Each year we join hands and march through the streets of our beautiful town, traveling a common path of solidarity and joy, offering our grain of sand for peace in the world.

A second statement, read in English by a 12 year-old girl, states:

If you look up the word peace in the dictionary, it speaks about tranquility and non-violence…a synonym might even be a truce. I think Peace is far more than a truce… If we are to achieve peace, we have to make a difference.

Peace is the feeling that everybody wants to enjoy in the world. How do I feel it? When everyone around me in my family, my circle of friends and my neighborhood is happy, eager to love, to accept and relate…then I feel at peace…Peace starts with me, and begins with a smile.

The day’s peace activity ends by freeing doves from a cage, and with tears on many adults’ cheeks.

Jacaranda school’s education

While the school is state funded, it has its own values, not necessarily those of the Spanish state, which wars against several countries in the US-led so-called “coalition of the willing against terrorism”. Nevertheless, the town’s mayors and other members of the town council are always present at the square where students sing and read their manifestos for peace.

Spain’s King Felipe VI recently made a trip to Iraq. He is the first Spanish monarch to visit Iraq in 40 years. He went to encourage his occupying troops in the “cradle of civilization” devastated by the invasion since 2003. The current Iraqi government wants the “coalition of the willing” to leave its war-torn country. Spain has fought beside the US in its wars since 1992 against Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. It warred against Afghanistan from 2002 to 2015 where 102 of its soldiers died.

Before the peace march, I discussed with the school’s principal, Juan Luis Castro, and head teacher, Camino Albillos, how it can be that the state wars against people (who have not attacked and do not threaten Spain) while this public school rejects wars and teaches peace.

Camino explained:

Our 1978 constitution sets down principles of working for peace, and gives public school administrators and teachers the freedom to teach, and to help develop alongside with parents their own religious and moral values.

Here’s my translation of that part of the Spanish constitution’s preamble:

The Spanish Nation, wishing to establish justice, freedom and security and promote the well-being of those who make up the nation, in use of their sovereignty, proclaim the will to…Collaborate in the strengthening of peaceful relations and effective cooperation among all the peoples of the Earth.

The constitution’s Article 27. states:

1. “Everyone has the right to education. Freedom of teaching is recognized. 2. Education shall aim at the full development of the human personality in respect of democratic principles of coexistence and fundamental rights and freedoms. 3. The public authorities guarantee the right that assists parents so that their children receive the religious and moral training that is in accordance with their own convictions. 7. Teachers, parents and, where appropriate, students can intervene in the control and management of all centers supported by the Administration with public funds, under the terms established by law.”

Camino told me:

We teachers learn to teach through our students. We don’t have a particular doctrine but we view all humans in a holistic manner, such as did Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori. Today, it is called emotional intelligence, or creative intelligence. Most teachers want peace. We hope our children will grow to be critical thinkers, not sheep but full humans who question, who are active in finding solutions to problems we have, and to protect the earth. We are an ecological school.

The founders of the school named it after the blue-flowered tree. They placed emphasis on teaching values of peace and solidarity, and using teaching methods formulated by Steiner and Montessori. The founders chose the peace march to mark the day Gandhi was murdered. The UN International Day of Peace (September 21), and the International Day of Non-Violence (October 2) also honor peace efforts and the life of Gandhi.

Principal Luis Castro told me:

Our laws allow our teaching methods and values. Many other schools in Spain practice these ideals and forms as well, though there is no network. The state decides on general curricula. We have the liberty to respect universal values: violence is no solution to conflicts. We do not enter into the particular foreign policies of the various political parties and governments, but we do not justify what they do when using violence and warfare. We say humans must reflect and discuss, empathize with one another, respect humanity and the planet.

Jacaranda morality seems to work for the many thousands of children who have attended the school through its 30 history. “We do not have bullying here, nothing that has required implementing the protocols required for such bad treatment of one another,” concluded Camino. “We have learned from the terrible years of fascism and Franco,” added Juan Luis.

Photos by Jette Salling