The Ukrainian lifeboat dilemma

This article by Rick Staggenborg, MD, the Veterans For Peace Linus Pauling chapter president, first appeared at Op-Ed News here on Jan. 14, 2023. We urge you to check out the comment section at that link—very informative and you can join the conversation there as well.

The full article is reproduced here.

There’s a classical dilemma in ethics you’ve likely heard of that’s known as the lifeboat problem. Imagine that you’re on the last lifeboat on a sinking ship. It’s already full beyond safe capacity. The chance of rescuers arriving any time soon is minimal. There are still passengers in the shark-infested water who have little chance of survival if they are not pulled out. Those on the lifeboat have a choice between leaving them to almost certain death or taking the chance of very likely sinking the boat, with all lives lost. What do you do?

There is no unique “solution” to the lifeboat problem because neither action is something a moral person would want to do. The point of posing it is to 1) make clear that not all moral choices are black-and-white and 2) to think about how we make moral choices. When faced with a dilemma, we should do our best to realistically assess our options and consciously choose to do what we believe to be right based on the best information available. We cannot settle for adopting a simplistic view that makes the choice seem easy. Moral decisions can only be made after considering the likely consequences of our actions, rather than responding rashly out of emotion.

The typical first reaction when faced with the lifeboat dilemma is to want to try to save those who are about to die. If you don’t consider the risk that poses to everyone in the boat, you could kill them all without even realizing that was a possibility. Some would be willing to take that risk, hoping for that by some miracle that all survive, but most of us would want to save as many as possible. Logically, given the facts as presented, that would be accomplished by letting some drown, as horrifying as that prospect is. You might decide to try to take as many as will fit on board and tell yourself that you are “leaving it up to God” whether anyone survives but in reality, you are still responsible for your choice.

The situation in Ukraine can be considered a corollary of the lifeboat problem. If the US and other NATO nations quit supplying Ukraine with weapons, Ukraine would face certain defeat. However, if NATO continues to send weapons it is risking the lives of everyone else on the planet due to the ever-growing threat of nuclear war. As an additional twist, some contend that a Russian victory would embolden it to make war against the rest of Europe. Others doubt this, arguing that Russia’s defeat would be worse because it would allow the American Empire to continue to advance, unchallenged, its bloody plans for global domination.

If your goal is to minimize destruction and loss of life, the choice is clear. Even if you believe that Ukraine has a fighting chance of driving Russia from Donbass and Crimea, this would clearly come at the cost of a great loss of life on both sides, and Ukraine would be left in ruins. If you don’t believe that Ukraine has any hope of defeating Russia on its own, it’s clear that further resistance will only result in more death and suffering on behalf of a lost cause. In either event, the only way we might help stop the carnage is to demand a cessation of weapons shipments and call for the US to support negotiations. 

Calling for negotiations alone is a feel-good response with no chance of affecting the prospects of peace. Russia cannot realistically be expected to negotiate while Ukraine continues to receive ever-more powerful weapons from the US. And after the enormous costs in blood and treasure that it has paid, there can be no retreat. Putin knows that after the betrayal by NATO and Ukraine of their promises in the Minsk Accords, Russia does not have a viable partner in negotiations. Until NATO shows good faith by halting the flow of weapons to Ukraine, it will continue its grim task of grinding down Ukrainian resistance in a war of attrition. With more than 200,000 fresh troops scheduled to deploy soon and four times Ukraine’s population to draw from, it’s clear who will win such a contest.

The only rationale for supporting arms to Ukraine as things stand is to believe, against all reason, that Ukraine can not only push Russia back to its pre-February 24 position but retake Crimea. Whether such irrationality stems from a real fear that Putin has the desire and capability to take over Europe like the (latest) modern-day Hitler he is painted out to be, or from an atavistic desire to see the guys in the white hats beat the guys in the black hats, it’s time that those “peace activists” pushing for more weapons to Ukraine face reality. It’s not our moral responsibility to enable the Empire’s proxies to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. Even if Russia were miraculously defeated decisively on the field, what then? Are they so determined to “win” that they’re okay with nuclear war?

The choice is clear: Those who have a genuine interest in the welfare of Ukraine and the rest of world must demand that their governments end weapons shipments to Ukraine now, and that the US encourages negotiations.

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Bob Stebbins, ¡Presente!

Today, we remember the life of Bob Stebbins, one of VFP Linus Pauling Chapter’s charter members, who died December 29, 2022 at the age of 89.

Bob led Army units in Korea and witnessed first-hand the horrors of war. Until very near the end of his life, Bob worked tirelessly for peace and justice. But he was also sort of a renaissance man with serious art and science skills.

His obituary appeared in the local Corvallis/Albany papers.

We would have loved to be present in the late 1960s as Bob led anti-Vietnam War activism among his faculty colleagues at Oregon State University. This had to be a risky move at a largely conservative agricultural school in those days.

From the moment he helped us create our new Corvallis, Oregon VFP chapter in 2006, Bob could always be counted on for ideas on how to better educate the public about the true costs of war. But he also gave us his enthusiastic presence at any VFP function, be it a parade in terrible weather, flyering about the Pentagon budget at the post office on tax day, or just to offer a few comments at a rally or demonstration to reaffirm his and the chapter’s commitment to creating a more peaceful world.

Gold Star Mom, Cindy Sheehan, & Bob during Cindy’s visit to Corvallis in 2009

Even in his later years, Bob could be seen pedaling around Corvallis on his trike, which sported a peace flag for better visibility on the road. His commitment to fighting climate change was also evident when he replaced his VW van with a small electric vehicle.

Another fond memory is of Bob’s crucial help setting up our Armistice (Veterans) Day float in the big Albany, Oregon parade in 2012. We wanted to remind parade goers that Veterans Day began as Armistice Day at the end of World War I. To draw attention to our “float” we needed a big bell that could be rung eleven times in succession, representing the end of the “Great War” and the armistice signing at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Bell ringing has been a VFP Armistice Day tradition for many years. Well, Bob dusted off his big school bell, founded for his Specialty Apples business, and mounted it on a frame so it could ride safely in the back of our float trailer.

Bob can be seen at one of the Albany parades in this page’s banner photo above, on the left, in the tan jacket.

Bob’s lifelong contributions to the causes of social justice, environmental justice, universal healthcare and peace cannot be overstated.

He is truly missed.

Bob Stebbins, ¡Presente!

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Linus Pauling VFP and Partners React: Corvallis Divest from War

Veterans For Peace: Linus Pauling members partnered with Corvallis Divest from War to pass a resolution through the Corvallis City Council to prevent future investments in war profiteering. An editorial in the Gazette Times seemed to dismiss the action as virtue signaling, prompting this Letter to the Editor response:

Your December 9 editorial, ‘Corvallis leaders shouldn’t waste widespread support,’ missed an important point about city-sponsored resolutions on issues of statewide and national concern.

The City Council makes governmental policies and oversees city administration, but it also has the authority, even a responsibility, to express our community’s values.

The editorial noted actions of the Corvallis council may serve to inspire other local governments. Yes, a major reason for passing resolutions about statewide and national issues is to encourage other local governments to also consider those issues. 

Our individual letters to the editor are valuable, but they are drowned out by special interests who pay to speak more loudly to government.  When resolutions of a community are passed and reported in the media, the community’s voice is amplified.

Among our biggest problems today are militarism, climate and environmental crises, racism, and homelessness. The resources our country devotes to weapons production could better be applied to those issues. Yet manufacturers of weapons are one of the most strident lobbies in Washington DC.

If we want our government to represent the interests of ordinary Americans, we need to let legislators know what we want. The more communities demand to redirect money from weapons production to our real problems, the more likely higher-level governments will hear our voices.

We appreciate our Corvallis City Council for their willingness to adopt proactive, local policies that also speak to our country’s difficulties.

Corvallis Divest from War
Bill Glassmire
Brian C. Lee
Linda M. Richards
Rick Staggenborg

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CORVALLIS, OREGON UNANIMOUSLY PASSES RESOLUTION PROHIBITING INVESTMENTS IN WEAPONS

CORVALLIS, OR: On Monday, November 7, 2022, the Corvallis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to prohibit the city from investing in weapons of war. The resolution passed following years of advocacy work by the Corvallis Divest from War coalition, including an initial hearing in February 2020 where the resolution was voted down.

The coalition represents 19 organizations: Veterans For Peace Linus Pauling Chapter 132, WILPF Corvallis, Our Revolution Corvallis Allies, Raging Grannies of Corvallis, Pacific Green Party Linn Benton Chapter, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism Corvallis, Corvallis Palestine Solidarity, World BEYOND War, CODEPINK, Race Matters Group of Corvallis United Church of Christ, Electrify Corvallis, Corvallis Interfaith Climate Justice Committee, Corvallis Climate Action Alliance, OR Physicians for Social Responsibility, Buddhists Responding – Corvallis, Oregon PeaceWorks, NAACP Linn/Benton Chapter, Sangha Jewel, and Sunrise Corvallis. The Divest Corvallis resolution at the time of passage had over 49 individual endorsers as well.

The City of Corvallis joins New York City, NY; Burlington, VT; Charlottesville, VA; Berkeley, CA; and San Luis Obispo, CA, among other cities in the U.S. and worldwide, in committing to divest public funds from weapons of war. While Corvallis does not currently hold investments in weapons manufacturers, the passage of this resolution marks a significant commitment for the city to support peace and life-affirming industries in all future investments.

“I want to help create a better world that can live constructively. The human gift of the capacity for problem-solving needs to be nurtured more than war’s vast infrastructure […] We must think our way there together. This Divest from War Resolution is a way for us to practice imagining new futures as a community,” said Linda Richards, Divest Corvallis member and professor of history at Oregon State University. Richards is also a member of Linus Pauling VFP, joining VFP members Bill Glassmire and Joel Inman in speaking for the resolution.

The Divest from War resolution builds off of the momentum of Corvallis’ robust peace and climate justice movements. In the public comment section, coalition and VFP member Bill Glassmire spoke about the 19 year-long daily peace vigil held in Corvallis by late activist Ed Epley, which eventually led to the formation of the Corvallis Divest from War coalition. The Divest from War coalition also base their work in the climate justice movement, citing that the U.S. military is the biggest institutional producer of greenhouse gasses in the world.

“It’s estimated that the U.S. military emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than entire countries, like Denmark and Portugal,” said Barry Reeves, a member of Buddhists Responding – Corvallis. “It is important for us, as a part of civil society, and for those of us in the council of government, to respond and begin the transformation to a sustainable future. May we remember that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. And this resolution can be seen as a first step,” he added.

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Medea Benjamin on War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict

Linus Pauling VFP is proud to promote the work of a variety of peace activists. This month Linus Pauling VFP joins Code Pink in welcoming Medea Benjamin to the Oregon State University campus to discuss her book, War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict. Medea will speak at the Oregon State University Memorial Union Journey Room, 104, on November 17th from 12:00pm-2:00pm, and at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis at 7:00pm. Head over to Americans Who Tell The Truth for more about Benjamin, or Code Pink to RSVP.

Portrait of Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin – Americans Who Tell The Truth
Medea Benjamin was born Susan Benjamin. In college she changed her name to Medea, after the complex figure from Greek mythology. She has a Master’s Degree in both Public Health and Economics, and has spent over twenty years advocating for human rights all over the world.
americanswhotellthetruth.org

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Corvallis Hiroshima and Nagasaki Commemoration 2022

Corvallis Commemoration: Thursday, August 4, 2022

Corvallis Riverfront Park, 1st and Madison, Corvallis 

Event begins at 6:30pm with traditional Japanese koto music by Masumi Timson.

Program begins at around 7pm 

Speakers:

Joe ScottLanguage and Culture Bearer, Siletz Tribe; will give a Land Acknowledgment.

Corvallis Mayor, Biff Traber – So pleased to have our Mayor at the Commemoration podium again this year. Biff will read a Mayor’s Peace Declaration.

Kelly Campbell – Executive Director, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). Cofounder, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows– – Kelly is recipient of the 2019 Visionary Leaders Award from National PSR. Will share her journey as an anti-nuclear weapons activist.

Pat Hoover Hanford Downwinder, living with radiation poisoning; Pat will read a work of poetry.

Aleita Hass-Holcombe – Volunteer and activist for the homeless; director, Corvallis Drop-in Center;  Aleita will read a statement from June Ikuko Terasaka Moore, a local Hibakusha who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Seneca Moback – Student, OSU School of History, Philosophy and Religion. Seneca will read the Divest from War Resolution. Divest from the War Machine 

Rev. Matt Gordon, First Christian Church – Matt will lead the Community Affirmation for Peace.

8pm – Peace Flotilla – A short walk to the Van Buren bridge to watch the lantern lit Peace Flotilla as it advances down river and passes beneath us . . . an awesome and inspiring sight! 

 News coverage and video of the 2021 Commemoration.

Event ends by 8:30pm.

Commemoration sponsors:

A huge Thank You! to: 

  • Masumi Timson for gracing the Commemoration with her beautiful Japanese koto music.
  • James Reismiller, Abundant Solar – For several years, James has contributed to the Commemoration a solar powered sound system.  A great local company, a fantastic sound system, thanks to Abundant Solar and the sunshine!
  • First Christian Church – a warm and open-hearted church in Corvallis – providing chairs for the Commemoration.  The church hosts the community’s Stone Soup program and AA meetings. 

And thanks to all the Commemoration’s speakers. We appreciate so much the good work you do!

Websites with excellent information and ways we can take action against the war machine and the threats posed by nuclear weapons:

Code Pink: https://www.codepink.org/

Divest from the War Machine: https://www.divestfromwarmachine.org/

Corvallis Divest from the War Machine:  https://www.divestfromwarmachine.org/corvallis

Hanford’s Dirty Secret – Environmental and health hazards: https://www.icanw.org/hanford_s_dirty_secret_and_it_s_not_56_million_gallons_of_nuclear_waste

City of Hiroshima  – Atomic Bombing and Peace Initiatives: https://www.city.hiroshima.lg.jp/site/english/158098.html

ICAN – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons: https://www.icanw.org/

Veterans for Peace: https://www.veteransforpeace.org/

Veterans for Peace Linus Pauling Chapter 132, mid-Valley, Oregon – The Commemoration’s gracious website host: http://vfpcorvallis.org/

WILPF – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: https://www.wilpf.org/

Radiation Blues – a song written by Ellen Thomas,WILF’s Disarm, End Wars Committee. Great song, sung here by Courthey Dowe.

World Beyond War: https://worldbeyondwar.org/

Peace Action: https://peaceaction.org/

Ploughshares: https://ploughshares.org/about-us

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Linus Pauling VFP Chapter hosts Tax Day event

Veterans For Peace, Linus Pauling Chapter, Mid-Valley, Oregon hosted a Tax Day event at Corvallis (OR) Riverfront Park on April 16, 2022.

VFP Chapter President, Rick Staggenborg, thanks Tax Day attendees and speakers.

Organizers asked the question, “The US will spend $800 billion this year on militarism. How would you spend $800 billion to make the world better?”

Twelve speakers and over 40 participants attended. Answers to this question fell into three major areas. First, three fourths of respondents emphasized one or more basic needs. Most noted were health care and housing. These were followed by education, food, child care, and student debt.

Righting injustices was the next theme with just over one third of respondents wanting to help the needy, pay reparations to indigenous and black people, plus supporting refugees and world peace. Just under a third had environmental concerns about renewable energy, stopping the use of fossil fuels, and developing better infrastructure for electricity and transportation. Many attendees volunteered to work on future actions to reduce taxes that support militarism.

If you would like to help on this campaign of public awareness, please share this post and contact us: info@vfpcorvallis.org.

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Tax day event: Let’s Use Our Taxes for a Better World, April 16, Corvallis

UPDATE, 4/14/22:

Join us April 16 and hear more about a VFP co-sponsored resolution we hope to have the Corvallis City Council to pass which would divest city investments from weapons maker companies. More here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tn55mlg8hxy7539/2022-02-13%20CDfW%20resolution%20v4.pdf?dl=0

ALSO, please have a look at the letter to the editor in the April 12, 2022 GT/DH from our chapter president, Rick Staggenborg. He does a great job of laying out the issues regarding “opportunity costs” of Pentagon spending.

LTE, Rick Staggenborg

What would you rather spend our money on than militarism?
Come join advocacy groups from around Corvallis to share how we can use our taxes to build a better world.

https://fb.me/e/2ii6AKFI4 and please contact us at info@vfpcorvallis.org for more info.

*** Please share the Facebook event ***

Our Statement:

The individual income tax is the primary source of revenue for the federal government’s discretionary spending: for US militarism and human services, such as food and housing, health care, and education. Excluding Social Security and Medicare, we spend half our income tax money on militarism, which is bad for the earth, bad for the well-being of all of us, and bad for the US economy.

Income tax support for militarism and an unfair overall tax system prevent many people from meeting their needs and sap the productivity of the nation. We favor spending discretionary tax money to provide everyone with food and housing, health care, and education.

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Be wary of mainstream media’s portrayal of the Russia – Ukraine conflict

The unfolding tragedy in Ukraine provides a graphic illustration of the consequences of allowing diplomacy to fail. The stories and photos about the conflict have naturally stirred anger along with empathy for the victims.

That’s why it’s important  to remember that the first casualty of war is the truth. We should never accept anything about foreign affairs reported in the mainstream media without considering the interests of US imperialists who have great influence over Western media and whose profits depend on continuous conflict and threats of war.

As lovers of peace we must try to understand both sides of these conflicts so that we can form a realistic picture of what factors have contributed to the war in Ukraine or anywhere else where the US claims to have “security” interests. This article by former Marine intelligence officer and weapons inspector Scott Ritter outlines some of the issues that are ignored or obfuscated by mainstream media sources.

— Rick Staggenborg, President, VFP Chapter 132, mid-Valley, Oregon

Pity the Nation

By Scott Ritter

Pity the nation whose people are sheep

And whose shepherds mislead them”

Pity the nation oh pity the people

Who allow their rights to erode

and their freedoms to be washed away

– Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

In the past few months, the United States has undergone a kind of transformation that one only reads about in history books from a nation which imperfectly, yet stolidly, embraced the promise, if not principle, of freedom, especially when it came to that most basic of rights – the Freedom of Expression.

Read the full article here.

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Sign the Petition to Ban Militarized Policing in Corvallis

Veterans For Peace (VFP) Linus Pauling Chapter, Mid-Valley, Oregon is sponsoring a petition calling on the Corvallis City Council to pass a resolution banning militarized policing in Corvallis. 

VFP is looking for individual signers and other community organizations to co-sponsor, endorse, and promote the petition and resolution.

Read the resolution at one of the following links:

For individuals to sign, go here.

For organizations to endorse or become a co-sponsor go here.

The “Ban on Militarized Policing” resolution would prohibit the purchase or granting of various military hardware from the U.S. military or any other source. It would also prohibit the use of militarized “warrior” training for Corvallis Police Department (CPD) officers.

Breaking, 2/9/22: Sen. Ron Wyden and nine other senators call on President Biden to demilitarize the police. Story in the Corvallis Advocate and Sen. Wyden’s press release.

VFP has modeled the resolution wording on a resolution passed by the Charlottesville, Virginia city council at the urging of David Swanson of World Beyond War, other community groups, and the public (through a petition similar to ours). More information about this project can be found at the World Beyond War site here.

Our research of Defense Department data and a U.S. government grants data base indicates that Corvallis has never participated in the DoD 1003 program, which allots excess military hardware to local law enforcement requesting it. Former CPD Chief Jon Sassaman stated in a 2020 interview with the Corvallis Advocate that Corvallis does not participate in the 1033 program and did not have plans to do so. The current police chief, Nick Hurley, has reaffirmed that intent to us via email and phone.

So now is the perfect time to enact this ban; to cement current practice into formal guidance from the city council.

A Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle procured though the DoD 1033 program
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