Reclaim Armistice Day, November 11

[The original submission for the Corvallis Gazette-Times “As I See It” piece, published Nov. 6, 2016]

November 11 is Armistice Day

Graphic: VFP national

Many celebrate November 11 as Veterans Day, but across the country, Veterans For Peace chapters and other peace and justice groups will be ringing bells to commemorate Armistice Day.

The Armistice of 1918 ended the terrible slaughter of World War I. Thirty million soldiers were killed or wounded in that war. The world had never witnessed such carnage. 

For one moment, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (11a.m. on November 11, 1918), the world agreed World War I must be the “War to End All Wars.”

There was exuberant joy everywhere and many churches rang their bells, some eleven times, to mark the signing of the armistice.

In hopes of “sealing the deal,” sixty-two countries, including the belligerents from World War I, signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928, promising not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.” The United State Senate ratified that treaty by a vote of 85-1. Similar provisions were later incorporated into the United Nations Charter.

So how did Armistice Day become Veterans Day and how did this country’s foreign policy swerve so dramatically away from a renewed pursuit of peace toward one of endless war?

Armistice Day in the U.S. was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, to honor the war dead but also to affirm that the World War I armistice had provided the opportunity “…to show [America’s] sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”

Congress, following the lead of twenty-seven states, finally adopted Armistice Day as a national holiday in 1926, saying in the congressional resolution: “…it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations….”

World War II veterans wanted to expand recognition to all veterans and President Eisenhower signed a bill in 1954 officially changing the name from “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day.” That’s it. There was no change to the original purpose of Armistice Day; just a name change.

Since then, as the U.S. fought direct and proxy wars to enlarge its economic sphere of influence and ensure the Soviets were denied the same, war and militarist expansion were reestablished as the preferred means of implementing U.S. foreign policy. 

Why is that? The answer lies in the fact that war is a very lucrative business. As Marine General Smedley Butler, who fought in several wars of empire from Latin America to China, said, “War is a racket.”

Consider these statistics:

– The Pentagon budget consumes over 50% of federal discretionary dollars.

– The top six defense contractors (in money awarded for contracts) are the same top six election campaign donors (totaling $27M in 2012). Is this a coincidence?

– Lockheed Martin, the top 2016 defense industry campaign contributor, has spent $3.4 million of the $24.7 million total spent by defense contractors in this election cycle (as of this writing). Is there any question that this money buys access and influence?

– Every hour, taxpayers are spending $8.36 million on the Pentagon, homeland security, the Pentagon’s “slush fund” (for overseas contingency operations) and other war-related budget items; not including military health and retirement benefits.

– In 2015, Linn County taxpayers paid $91 million and Benton County $106 million to fund the Pentagon budget.

What could these “defense” dollars have funded in local projects, e.g., schools, roads, jobs, needy family assistance?

See for details.

But what about the veterans for whom the November 11 holiday was renamed to honor?

How best to honor them? We could start by providing the health care and support they were promised. 

Twenty veterans take their own lives every single day. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) funding is discretionary, and must be rejustified and renewed by Congress every two years. The agency is currently so severely underfunded that it cannot adequately serve the unexpected (by some) volume of medically needy Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, let alone the thousands of veterans of all prior wars still awaiting treatment for mental and physical wounds. 

Most studies estimate that up to one in three homeless people are veterans and that the homeless veteran population is becoming larger and younger, as veterans suffering from PTSD (and coping by abusing drugs and alcohol) have trouble finding and keeping a job.

Of particular concern to us in Veterans For Peace are the thousands of veterans and their families who continue to suffer the effects of Agent Orange defoliant exposure from their time in Viet Nam. The VA has a tragic history of denying Agent Orange-related illness claims, especially from those with genetically inherited birth defects.

How best to honor our veterans? Wave flags at a parade and thank veterans for their service? Buy stuff at the Veterans Day sales at the mall? 

How about we bring our troops home and reduce the size of the military to what is minimally necessary to defend our shores? How about shifting those public funds to colleges, technical training, health care and green energy, where millions of jobs would await those no longer employed by the armed forces?

Please join Veterans For Peace, Albany Peace Seekers, the Corvallis branch of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Corvallis Alternatives to War and other local faith, peace and justice groups in truly honoring veterans on November 11 (and every day) by working for peace, not celebrating militarism and war.

Bart Bolger, Chairperson, Veterans For Peace, Linus Pauling Chapter, Corvallis

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Great Drones Quilt Video from Connecticut Event

This presentation by Ed Kinane could be titled “Drones 101.” It is a great video for someone who doesn’t know too much about them. Please share!

Source: Great Video from Connecticut Event

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Veterans For Peace Statement Calling for Columbus Day to be Replaced with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Statement by Veterans For Peace national office


Veterans For Peace believes that the federal holiday commemorating the arrival of
Christopher Columbus to the vfpreindigenouspeoplesday“New World” is an affront to Indigenous peoples everywhere and particularly to native peoples of the Americas. We denounce the celebration of a person who carried out mass killings and genocidal acts against Indigenous peoples and paved the way for European colonization of native lands and enslavement of native peoples. Continue reading

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Drones Quilts at the Intrepid Museum

The prestigious Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City will be holding a major exhibit on drones beginning May 5th 2017 and running at least until the end of the calendar year. The Dro…

Source: Drones Quilts at the Intrepid Museum

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Week of the Bomb: Monday

[In addition to the classified briefings for presidential candidates, this excellent piece should be required reading for all of them and their senior advisors, with a written test to follow. Then publish the results of that test before the general election. — VFP 132 ed.]

With the anniversary of the Trinity Test just passed, and the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki coming up, I realize the atomic bomb has been following me for years. The first book of poetry I …

Source: Week of the Bomb: Monday

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The peace boat Golden Rule sails into a new era of nuclear activism

This article originally appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 25, 2016. [with links]

by Dawn Stover

Dwarfed by the ships from the US Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the US Coast Guard that visited Portland, Oregon, for Fleet Week last month, the 30-foot-long Golden Rule looked like it was from another era. And it was.

The boat, sporting a 6-foot-wide peace symbol on one of its sails, is the same wooden ketch once crewed by pacifists who tried to sail it to the Marshall Islands in 1958, to protest US atmospheric testing of large nuclear bombs. They were prepared to sacrifice the boat and their own lives in an attempt to stop the tests, which were devastating the islands and sending radioactive fallout around the globe.

Like that historic voyage of 58 years ago, the Golden Rule’s 2016 tour of the Pacific Northwest is intended to promote nuclear disarmament. This time around, though, the challenge of raising public awareness may be even more difficult than it was in 1958. The volunteer crew doesn’t expect to bring about change through protest—they have no plans to risk arrest or boat seizure. Instead they’re hoping to appeal to boaters, Rotary club members, waterfront tourists, and others who may not be aware that their country not only possesses thousands of nuclear weapons, but is also working on extremely expensive upgrades to them. Continue reading

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The Big Boom: Nukes and NATO

The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO

Dispatches From The Edge

July 18, 2016

“Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”

-William J. Perry

U.S. Sec. Of Defense (1994-97)

Perry has been an inside player in the business of nuclear weapons for over 60 years and his book, “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” is a sober read. It is also a powerful counterpoint to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) current European strategy that envisions nuclear weapons as a deterrent to war: “Their [nuclear weapons] role is to prevent major war, not to wage wars,” argues the Alliance’s magazine, NATO Review.

But, as Perry points out, it is only by chance that the world has avoided a nuclear war—sometimes by nothing more than dumb luck—and, rather than enhancing…

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