Veterans from any branch of military service, family members, friends, and anyone interested in ending war are invited to join Veterans For Peace.
Bring Back Armistice Day and Honor the Real Heroes
By Arnold Oliver
How in heck did Armistice Day become Veterans Day? Established by Congress in 1926 to “perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, (and later) a day dedicated to the cause of world peace,” Armistice Day was widely recognized for almost 30 years. As part of that, many churches rang their bells on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the hour in 1918 that the guns fell silent on the Western Front by which time 16 million had died in the horror of World War I.
To be blunt about it, in 1954 Armistice Day was hijacked by a militaristic US congress and re-named Veterans Day. Today few Americans understand the original purpose of Armistice Day, or even remember it. The message of peace seeking has been all but erased. Worst of all, Veterans Day has devolved into a hyper-nationalistic quasi-religious celebration of war and the putatively valiant warriors who wage it. We no longer have a national day to recognize or reflect upon international peace.
And the identification of warriors as heroes is pretty shaky too. If you are a veteran, and honest about it, you will admit that most of what goes on during wartime is decidedly unheroic, and actual heroes in war are very few and far between.
I have to tell you that when I was in Vietnam, I was no hero, and I did not witness a single act of heroism during the year I spent there, first as a U.S. Army private and then as a sergeant. Yes, there was heroism in the Vietnam War. On both sides of the conflict there were notable acts of self-sacrifice and bravery. Troops in my unit wondered how the North Vietnamese troops could persevere for years in the face of daunting U.S. firepower. U.S. medical corpsmen performed incredible acts of valor rescuing the wounded under fire.
But I also witnessed a considerable amount of bad behavior, some of it my own. Among US troops racism against any and all Vietnamese was endemic. There were countless incidents of disrespect and abuse of Vietnamese civilians, and a large number of truly awful war crimes. Most unheroic of all were the U.S. military and civilian leaders who planned, orchestrated, and profited greatly from that utterly avoidable war. I should have taken action to resist the war while still on active duty, but I did not.
The cold truth is that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Vietnam had nothing to do with protecting American peace and freedom. On the contrary, the Vietnam War was fought to forestall Vietnamese independence, not defend it; it bitterly divided the American people.
Unfortunately, Vietnam wasn’t an isolated example of an unjust conflict. Many American wars — including the 1846 Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War in 1898, and the Iraq War (this list is by no means exhaustive) — were waged under false pretexts against countries that didn’t threaten the United States. It’s hard to see how, if a war is unjust, it can be heroic to wage it.
But if the vast majority of wars are not fought for noble reasons, and few soldiers are heroic, have there been any actual heroes out there defending peace and freedom? And if so, who are they? Well, there are many, from Jesus down to the present. I’d put Gandhi, Tolstoy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the list along with many Quakers and Mennonites. And don’t forget General Smedley Butler, who wrote that “War is a Racket”.
In Vietnam, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson stopped the My Lai massacre from being even worse.
Another candidate is former U.S. Army specialist Josh Stieber who sent this message to the people of Iraq: “Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.” We were honored to be able to host Josh in our home as he walked across the US on a mission of peace while giving away the money he had earned in the military as partial atonement for his role in a thoroughly unjust war.
And how about Chelsea Manning who spent seven years behind bars for exposing ugly truths about the Iraq war, and the Plowshares Seven now in the news? The real heroes are those who resist war and militarism, often at great personal cost.
Because militarism has been around for such a long time, at least since Gilgamesh came up with his protection racket in Sumeria going on 5,000 years ago, people argue that it will always be with us.
But many also thought that slavery and the subjugation of women would last forever, and they’re being proven wrong. We understand that while militarism will not disappear overnight, disappear it must if we are to avoid economic as well as moral bankruptcy – not to mention the extinction of our species.
As Civil War General W.T. Sherman said at West Point, “I confess without shame that I am tired and sick of war.” We’re with you, bro.
This year on November 11th, Veterans For Peace will bring back the original Armistice Day traditions. Join them and let those bells ring out.
Arnold “Skip” Oliver is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. A Vietnam veteran, he belongs to Veterans For Peace, and lives in Sandusky. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Introducing VFP’s new Executive Director!
June 07, 2019
Veterans For Peace is excited to announce that that have hired a new Executive Director. Please join us in welcoming Garett Reppenhagen. Garrett is a veteran of the Iraq war and joins us with a history of anti-war and climate activism, as well as a dedication to serving the veteran community. He will be starting on June 27th.
Garett Reppenhagen is the son of a Vietnam Veteran and grandson of two World War II Veterans. He served in the U.S. Army as a Cavalry/Scout Sniper in the 1st Infantry Division. Garett completed a deployment in Kosovo on a 9-month peace-keeping mission and a combat tour in Baquaba, Iraq. Garett gained an Honorable Discharge in May of 2005 and began working as a veterans advocate and a dedicated activist. He served as the Chairman of the Board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, worked in Washington, DC, as a lobbyist and as Vice President of Public Relations for the Nobel Prize winning Veterans For America, as a Program Director for Veterans Green Jobs and was the Rocky Mountain Director for Vet Voice Foundation. Garett lives in Colorado where he serves as the Executive Director for Veterans For Peace.
A message from Garett:
It is a great honor to help VFP modernize our campaign for peace while preserving the powerful legacy of veteran activism. I hope to encourage more post 9-11 veterans to join our fight and prepare the organization to address the coming military conflicts and domestic violence. Veterans For Peace is a critical force to help turn our government’s policies away from aggression and to shape a culture of peace in our communities. No one has more credibility to talk about nonviolence than those who swore to serve in the armed forces.
I realized I was opposed to the war in Iraq when my US Army scout platoon crossed the border of Kuwait. I knew I was against ALL war after I pulled the trigger on my first sniper mission. The urgency for peace has led me to become a leader in Iraq Veterans Against the War in the streets of DC. The awareness of my moral injury brought me to Standing Rock to protect clean water and the rights of indigenous Americans. Years of working in non-profit management has prepared me to help guide Veterans For Peace as the new executive director.
I look forward to hearing from every chapter on how I can do my best to serve the membership and our mission. Please continue your hard work and join me in reactivating old members, recruiting new blood and striving to build a community of diverse and effective veteran organizers.
This from Chapter member Craig Wandke;
Click on the link below, and spread the word
By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, July 11, 2019
By a vote of 219 to 210, at 2:31 p.m. on Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar requiring that the U.S. military provide Congress with the cost and the supposed national security benefits of every foreign military base or foreign military operation.
World BEYOND War had flooded Congressional offices with the demand for Yes votes.
Here is the text of the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act as passed:
At the end of subtitle G of title X, insert the following: SEC. 10. REPORT ON FINANCIAL COSTS OF OVERSEAS UNITED STATES MILITARY POSTURE AND OPERATIONS. Not later than March 1, 2020, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report on the financial costs and national security benefits of each of the following for fiscal year 2019: (1) Operating, improving, and maintaining overseas military infrastructure at installations included on the enduring location master list, including adjustments that take into account direct or in-kind contributions made by the host nations of such enduring locations. (2) Operating, improving, and maintaining overseas military infrastructure supporting forward-deployed forces at overseas contingency locations, including adjustments that take into account direct or in-kind contributions made by the host nations of such enduring locations. (3) Overseas military operations, including support to contingency operations, rotational deployments, and training exercise.
Our Representative, Jimmy Panetta, voted with the no’s
Please write to him and ask for an explanation of his votes
From Tom Lee:
Recently President Trump worried to ex-President Jimmy Carter that “China is getting ahead of us” and would pass the US as the world’s strongest economy. To which Carter replied that since 1979 China hasn’t been at war with anybody, while the US had virtually “stayed at war.”
Thus, China kept re-investing the unspent war funds in its own economy, growing prosperous and strong in the process. The US, under the influence of malevolent media pundits and aggressive politicians, became weaker as it “invested” in one war disaster after another.
Is Trump waking up to any possibilities here? Maybe. He suggested a few days ago that the US make a deal with China on military spending limits, thinking that the money would be better spent elsewhere. But elsewhere in the world, Trump continues to want the US fighting several wars at once, promoting ever larger military budgets. Does the United States really want to bear the burden, for example, of a new and probably endless war with Iran? To intervene in Venezuela, which could destabilize South America?
The Veterans for Peace, Chapter 46, proposes ending all current US wars and standing down on future interventions.
Tarak and Ken drew some good attention in Galway yesterday with their sandwich boards. They handed out a brochure about their case and about Shannon. One guy was so supportive, he ended up buying us ice cream when we finally packed it in (because we had run out of brochures). The guys went into Dublin today and stood outside the GPO (no pictures because I split off from them to go to the airport and come home). They are going to go weekly to stand in front of Parliament and the U.S. Embassy with their signs. More pics from Galway here.
Greenpeace lawyer confident that decision will deter other companies “from abusing the legal system in their quest to bully those who speak truth to power.”
In a “landmark” ruling on Thursday, a federal court in North Dakota tossed out a “baseless” case against Greenpeace and other environmental and Indigenous activists who organized protests against the deeply controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which drewthousands of people to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016.
“This is what happens when greedy corporations go after Indigenous women grounded in the power of prayer, the power of relationship building, and the power of collective organizing.”
—Krystal Two Bulls, defendant
District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed (pdf) all claims against all defendants in a lawsuit brought by fossil fuel giant Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which sought to hold the water protectors liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for millions of dollars in alleged damages.
“Donating to people whose cause you support does not create a RICO enterprise,” Wilson wrote in his opinion. “Posting articles written by people with similar beliefs does not create a RICO enterprise.”
While the protests against DAPL, which were met with a militarized response from law enforcement, were ultimately unsuccessful—and the now-operational pipeline already boasts an alarming track record of oil spills—the activists and their attorneys welcomed the win in court on Friday, noting that Wilson’s ruling aligns with that of a similar case that was dismissed in 2017.
“We are confident that this decision will set a precedent that deters Energy Transfer and other corporations from abusing the legal system in their quest to bully those who speak truth to power,” declared Greenpeace USA general counsel Tom Wetterer. “This is a huge victory not just for Greenpeace but for anyone and everyone who has ever stood up against powerful corporate interests.”
Wetterer posited that the dismissal of ETP’s “baseless lawsuit against Greenpeace and others sends a clear message to companies trying to muzzle civil society that corporate overreach will not be tolerated. It is also a check on corporate efforts to silence dissent.”
“We are confident that this decision will set a precedent that deters Energy Transfer and other corporations from abusing the legal system in their quest to bully those who speak truth to power.”
—Tom Wetterer, Greenpeace USA
Defense attorneys called the case a “textbook example” of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).
“The goal of a SLAPP is not to win, but to burden the defendants with costly and time-intensive litigation procedures, while creating a chilling effect that discourages others from speaking out on issues of public concern,” EarthRights International explained in a statement on Friday. “The judge’s swift dismissal suggests that the federal judiciary may be losing patience with these abusive tactics.”
Denouncing ETP’s “embarrassing and expensive attempt to silence organizers who stand for justice,” Astha Sharma Pokharel, a legal fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, charged that the “baseless lawsuit should never have been filed, but [this] victory will only strengthen the movements they tried so hard to suppress.”
Celebrating the win, defendant Krystal Two Bulls concluded: “Loss. Defeat. Dismissal. This is what happens when greedy corporations go after Indigenous women grounded in the power of prayer, the power of relationship building, and the power of collective organizing. Not only was my right to free speech upheld by this decision, but also my rights as an Indigenous woman to steward this land. Now, more than ever, we ALL need our rights to share our voices uplifted, supported, and protected.”
Veterans For Peace members were in Ireland working with VFP Ireland on their ongoing campaign to stop allowing the U.S. to fly weapons and soldiers through Shannon on their way to illegal wars in the Middle East.
On March 17th, Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, members of VFP entered the Shannon Airport on March 17th carrying a large banner that said:
U.S. Veterans say
Respect Irish Neutrality
U.S. War Machine out of Shannon Airport
Veterans For Peace
They were both arrested and are currently being denied bail in Ireland, with their next hearing scheduled for March 28th.
Check out Ann Wright delivering a letter to Consulate.
Every year NATO has held its summits, people around the world have organized massive protests against it: in Chicago (2012), Wales (2014), Warsaw (2016), Brussels (2017 & 2018) — and 2019 will be no exception.
VFP joins many other organizations for calling for a peaceful mass mobilization against this year’s NATO Summit in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 30. Additional actions will take place at the opening of the NATO meeting on April 4.
We ask you to make every effort to join with us in Washington DC, or, if not possible, organize a rally or demonstration in your area. We need to show, in the strongest possible way, our opposition to NATO’s destructive wars and its racist military policies around the world.
Veterans For Peace stands strongly in solidarity with Chelsea Manning. Chelsea has been a remarkable example of principled dissent. She showed great courage in releasing documents and now again standing firm against the questionable practices of a grand jury. Veterans For Peace calls on Chelsea to be released immediately.
Veterans For Peace members were arrested outside the Marine Base at Quantico, Virginia, where Chelsea was being held in torturous solitary confinement. Members rallied outside her court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, and sat in the courtroom every day. Veterans For Peace helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Chelsea’s defense, in conjunction with Courage To Resist and the Chelsea Manning Support Network.
Once again, Chelsea Manning is demonstrating remarkable, principled courage. And once again, the powers-that-be are persecuting her. Chelsea has refused to participate in a grand jury fishing expedition against Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
We are proud to stand with Chelsea Manning once again. We will add our voice and our energies to supporting her in her courageous stance.