To mark the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, September 26, Veterans For Peace is publishing an Open Letter to President Biden: Just Say NO to Nuclear War! The letter calls on President Biden to step back from the brink of nuclear war by declaring and implementing a policy of No First Use and by taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.
VFP also urges President Biden to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and to provide global leadership for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The full letter has been published on the VFP website and offered to mainstream newspapers and alternative news sites. A shorter version is being shared with VFP chapters and members who may wish to publish it in local newspapers, possibly as a letter-to-the-editor.
The Open Letter was prepared by members of the VFP Nuclear Abolition Working Group, which meets on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of every month at 6 pm Eastern, 5 pm Central, 3 pm Pacific. For more information, contact email@example.com.
This piece appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune on September 18, 2021.
Seventy-six years after the U.S. dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I am reminded of my own mindset during the Cuban missile crisis when American President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev were threatening a nuclear confrontation. I remember feeling that my life would soon end, clearly embracing a comprehensible existential threat even at the age of 7.
I now understand the weapons of mass destruction deployed against the Japanese in 1945 as the two most horrible “singular event war crimes” ever committed by a state actor.
Coming from and living in the most militarized culture of scale in history, I work to promote non-military careers for youth most susceptible to military recruitment offers.
I do so with much restraint to not alienate nervous school administrators, fearful teachers and clueless students and parents, which means that essential lessons surrounding cultural militarism are avoided or carefully negotiated in language and tone.
We sell military service to our youth in the name of defending freedom and developing leadership and good citizenship traits, but the reality of our wars, and nearly all wars historically, are that they are fought to gain advantage over natural resources needed to accumulate wealth for the “national interests” be that petroleum or, in contemporary times, the vast list of minerals that construct our industrial and now technological world that support our quality of life standards.
Over the last several decades, the Pentagon, conservative forces and corporations have been systematically working to expand their presence in the K-12 learning environment and in public universities.
The combined impact of the military, of conservative think tanks and foundations, and of corporatization of our public educational systems has eroded the basic democratic concept of civilian public education. It is a trend that, if allowed to continue, will weaken the primacy of civilian rule and, ultimately, our country’s commitment to democratic ideals.
The most aggressive outside effort to use the school system to teach an ideology with ominous long-term implications for society comes from the military establishment.
Over the last two decades, with relatively little media coverage or public outcry, the Pentagon’s involvement in schools and students’ lives has grown exponentially.
Now, for example:
Every school day, at least half a million high school students attend Junior ROTC classes to receive instruction from retired officers who are handpicked by the Pentagon to teach its own version of history and civics.
These students are assigned “ranks” and conditioned to believe that military and civilian values are similar, with the implication that unquestioning obedience to authority is therefore a feature of good citizenship. Armed forces academies are being established in some public schools where all students are given a heavy dose of military culture and values; Chicago now has eight of them.
A network of military-related programs is spreading in hundreds of elementary and middle schools. Examples are the Young Marines and Starbase programs, and military programs that sneak into schools under the cloak of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
Our statecraft manipulates public opinion to justify these endless wars, and to secure public financing for the enormous matrix of industries, universities and private organizations that support the global U.S. military footprint in the name of security.
That security is now at a crossroads with our planet facing human affected ecological decline, our civilian society in economic crisis from a global pandemic, and a flailing democracy that really only represents those corporate interests that determine domestic and foreign policy.
By any practical definition, for the majority of us, we now live in a military, industrial and technological plantation, where all our collective surplus goes to feed the continuation of that militarized complex, now extending into the space that surrounds the planet and beyond.
The very apparatuses that construct our security, now including another imminent nuclear arms race with competing economies, are the very machinations that threaten the survival of the planet that gives and sustains our lives.
The essential lesson we should be learning from Hiroshima, even 76 years too late, is that we have become the enemy that we portended to protect ourselves from.
Robert Oppenheimer, who led the Manhattan Project for the development of the atomic bomb, understood the monster he helped create.
Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are short blurbs broadcast between music cuts. They’re a clever way to engage the public on “civics” topics and make great conversation starters. Our VFP chapter members have worked with the station manager to create the announcements.
KORC-FM can be found at 105.9fm in Corvallis and streaming online here.
By Rick Staggenborg, President, VFP Linus Pauling Chapter 132, Mid-Valley, Oregon
This letter to the editor first appeared on September 11, 2021 in the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald.
“Watching the reaction of Americans to the tragedy befalling the people of Afghanistan, I can’t help wondering where their compassion and outrage were during the 30-year U.S. occupation.
Around 170,000 Afghans died as a direct result of war-related violence, and countless more succumbed to disease, famine, exposure, lack of clean water and other consequences of the destruction. Manning, Assange, Hale and others suffered imprisonment, bankruptcy and even torture for revealing the awful truths our government concealed from us. We should also weep for them and their devastated families.
What will be the lesson of Afghanistan? To listen to the pundits, it’s that we should have stayed there forever, despite the fact that the U.S. never succeeded in establishing a truly democratic government. Its precipitous fall was due to corruption and lack of popular support, a familiar story to anyone alive when the puppet government of Vietnam fell in 1975.
Meanwhile, the War on Terror continues unabated throughout the Mideast, Africa and Asia. Don’t kid yourself that the U.S. bears no responsibility for the violence in Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere just because U.S. troops are not in those places in force. There are many ways to bring about regime change. Now we are turning toward confrontation with Russia, China and Iran while building a new Space Force.
Perhaps it’s time to think about giving up grandiose dreams of global empire and take care of the devastation that we’ve allowed to occur in the U.S. as we’ve been busy destroying other nations.”
“Footage from this month’s Hiroshima-Nagasaki commemoration, an annual event in which members of the Corvallis community gather to mourn and remember the devastating nuclear attacks on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, is now available to the public. The event, sponsored by the Women’s International League of Peace & Freedom (WILPF) and Veterans for Peace Linus Pauling Chapter (VFP), was held at the Riverfront Park on August 5 and featured a variety of speakers from within and beyond the Corvallis community. Live traditional koto music was provided by Masuma Timson, who teaches and records musical sessions from her home studio in Salem.
Linda Richards, a member of the WILPF and VFP and an instructor at OSU’s School of History, Philosophy and Religion, remarked in her opening speech that those in attendance had gathered “as a type of ceremony to send healing” to all of those harmed by nuclear weapons, including the hibakusha — survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and the victims of radiation exposure.”
Messages based on themes from supporting local groups to address civics issues.
VFP Linus Pauling Chapter is a founding sponsor of the Corvallis-area low-power FM station, KORC-FM. We recently offered several suggested themes to the station manager, John Ellis, to create some short public service announcements (PSAs).
Here is the first VFP PSA message scheduled to air occasionally.
KORC is also running interviews with members of affiliate organizations. Here’s one with our member, Joel Inman. When you visit the Podbean link for this interview, you’ll find another interview with our chapter President, Rick Staggenborg, and other interesting clips.
AND, please mark your calendar for the KORC Community Celebration, September 25, 1pm – 5pm at Common Fields, 545 SW 3rd St., Corvallis. It’s outside and we can social distance easily. SEE YOU THERE!
The local chapters of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF) and Veterans For Peace hosted a commemoration for the victims of the United States attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.
The ceremony was held at the Riverfront Park in Corvallis, Oregon on August 5, 2021.
On May 27, 2021, local Corvallis Hiroshima survivor June Ikuko Terasaka Moore, came to visit and bless (with her and her family’s presence) our Peace Tree.
The Peace Tree was planted April 11, 2019 at the Oregon State University (OSU) Asian & Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) with the help of local Veterans For Peace member, Dr. Linda Richards, OSU’s School of History, Philosophy and Religion and the APCC. The tree planting honors Ms. Hideko Tamura Snider, a Medford peace advocate and Hiroshima survivor.
To learn more about Ms. Snider’s history and peace activism and about the Hiroshima Peace Tree project in Oregon, see this link.
For more details about this project, please email Dr. Richards: atomiclinda[at]gmail.com.