Sunday, November 30, 2014

Veterans Honor WWI Christmas Truce with John McCutcheon Concert

Illustration from St. Louis

For Immediate Release:

Contact: 212-228-8337

Veterans Honor the Christmas Truce of World War I with Concert featuring John McCutcheon

Concert Date: December 20, 2014
Concert Time: 7:30pm, doors open at 6:30pm
Location: Great Hall, Cooper Union, 7 East 7th Street, New York  NY.

New York City – November 9, 2014 — The Veterans Peace Council of Metro New York will sponsor a commemoration of the World War I Christmas Truce on Saturday, December 20th at 7:30pm. Renowned folk musician John McCutcheon will perform at the Great Hall of The Cooper Union in honor of the centennial of the truce created by soldiers fighting on opposing sides of the front line during the early months of the Great War.

Mr. McCutcheon’s audience will include many veterans of recent generations who have fought too many wars since The War to End All Wars failed to achieve its goal. Their longing for a true and lasting peace derives not only from first-hand experience in wars ranging from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, but acute awareness of war’s “collateral damage” including civilian deaths, population dislocation, lasting environmental devastation and waste of global resources.

John McCutcheon, acclaimed by music critics around the world, has released 36 albums to date and is the recipient of six Grammy nominations. An extraordinary instrumentalist, his repertoire includes virtuoso performances on hammered dulcimer, guitar, banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, fiddle, and jaw harp. Mr. McCutcheon’s classic tribute to World War I truce, “Christmas in the Trenches,” is included in Folk Alley’s 100 Essential Folk Songs and will be a highlight of his Great Hall concert.

The concert is sponsored by the Veterans Peace Council of Metro New York, whose member organizations include Veterans For Peace (VFP), Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), and Friends and Family of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (FFALB). These organizations are involved in efforts that include the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, which provides aid and support to those in both the U.S. and Vietnam afflicted with the multigenerational ravages of that chemical; the Iraq Water Project, which is helping to rebuild Iraq’s water infrastructure, largely destroyed by U.S. bombs; a number of programs directly aiding veterans grappling with moral injury and post traumatic stress; and groups like Warrior Writers, which encourage veterans to use the healing power of the written word to examine combat and military service.

Tickets available at:

$35 general admission; $25 limited income

Additional information:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Veterans Organizing Conference, New York City

By Susan Schnall

About 35 veterans and allies attended all or part of the day-long "Veterans Organizing Conference" sponsored by the Veterans Peace Council of Metro New York and its affiliated organizations, and staged at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute of the City University of New York on February 22, 2014. Susan Schnall (VVAW & VFP) and Ben Chitty (VVAW & VFP) moderated the event. Laurie Sandow provided staff support.

This conference followed up on the Council's "Conference on the Veterans Peace Movement," held last May at Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York City. The May conference's morning sessions discussed veterans' witness to war, patriotic myths and rewriting history, and veterans and the politics of war. The conference's afternoon sessions focused on what veterans bring to the movement for peace and social justice, what the movement can do for veterans, and how to organize veterans as veterans in the movement.

The morning session of February 22 began with presentations by representatives from organizations affiliated or closely associated with the Council. Brian Mataresse (VVAW) focused on solidarity with Vietnam and projects such as Agent Orange relief and recovering Vietnamese MIAs. Matt Howard (IVAW) described Right to Heal. Tarak Kauff (Veterans Peace Teams and VFP) talked about direct actions by veterans. Al Stolzer and Tom Barton (Military Resistance) examined dissent and resistance in the military. Bill Gilson (VFP/NYC) discussed participation in Armistice Day events, commemorating the Christmas Peace Truce of 1914, and the Agent Orange campaign. Ken Dalton (VVAW and VFP/NJ) talked about the chapter's international composition and work with grassroots organizations.

Participants discussed many other activities and concerns, including: women veterans' issues, support for veterans in minority communities, challenges to restrictions on constitutional rights, lobbying campaigns, protesting drones, closing Guantánamo, work with US Labor Against War, counter recruitment, community organizing, intergenerational projects, and full disclosure of the real history of the American War in Vietnam. Ben Chitty opened the afternoon session with a summary of the morning's discussion. The various activities and campaigns fit into one or more of five categories: education, civic participation, outreach, direct action, and specific issues.

In the context of the Christmas Truce of 1914, three veterans' reconciliation projects were described. Jan Barry talked about Warrior Writers and Walt Nygard spoke about the therapeutic effects of the Combat Papers project, in which veterans turn their old uniforms into paper. Both projects work on the premise that art heals the soul. Susan Schnall presented the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, based on the principle that we have a responsibility to care for people harmed by our weapons and wars.

Ben Chitty presented a short summary of the importance of the Christmas Peace Truce when ordinary soldiers made temporary peace with their enemies, causing the Western Front to fall silent during WWI. The truce broke out spontaneously in many places, and more than a hundred thousand soldiers took part. This was an extraordinary event, a peace created by soldiers. Conference participants agreed that veterans should issue a call to commemorate the Christmas Truce of 1914, with suggestions including a hundred-day campaign beginning on International Peace Day, festivals featuring armistice-related movies and performances, gatherings at Vietnam Memorials and issuing the call for peace.

This story is based on Ben Chitty's report on the conference. It previously appeared in VVAW's The Veteran, Spring 2014 issue. The full report is available on the Veterans Peace Council's Facebook site

Susan Schnall is a co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign. She is currently a professor in Health Policy and Planning at NYU and a member of VFP and APHA. She is on the VVAW Board.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dave Cline's Legacy

David Cline (1947-2007)

This is the full version of a talk I gave at the David Cline Memorial Celebration, at Connolly's Pub & Restaurant in New York City, on Saturday, February 16. I summarized or skipped over most of the middle portion due to time constraints and the wide variety of speakers who addressed numerous issues that Dave was involved in. 

By Jan Barry
As you all know, Dave Cline loved to talk about the big picture, nightmarish clashes of war and peace and, in the next breath, about the nitty gritty details of grassroots organizing to transform horrendous problems into progress.

Twelve winters ago, Dave and I found ourselves stuck in a blizzard that suddenly snarled traffic across New Jersey. We were on our way to a class at Rutgers in New Brunswick, where I taught a course in community-level organizing. As we inched through that storm for hours to get back to Jersey City, there wasn’t a dull or boring moment—being engaged in a running conversation with Dave Cline about the state of the world and what to do about it.   

Through good health and bad, Dave knew how to pull out of his own experiences insights into the human condition—which people have struggled with since biblical days to transform murderous wrath into righteous anger that speaks truth to power. He showed us how to reach down into ourselves for the reasons, the resources and the commitment to work on transformation.

This is what he helped me to get—and keep—a clear focus on. When I was 21, I made the most crucial decision of my life—whether to return to Vietnam as a soldier or to resign from a military career. In a life focused on nonviolent conflict resolution, I’ve met many ex-soldiers who turned from waging war to waging peace. Such transformation happens when combatants wrestle with a fundamental question: What is the right thing to do in a war? If soldiers can make this transformation, why can’t American society? 

Having served an eye-opening early tour in Vietnam, I resigned from West Point rather than help escalate the war there. Instead, I helped to start an organization, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, that worked to end the war we fought in.  For the past decade, many other Americans have spoken out against the wars conducted by our military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. All across America, there are many veterans of the latest wars working for peace, some in Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, and others embedded throughout our society. But Americans would hardly know this due to our news media’s crusty culture of worshipping war.

The glaring lack of coverage of peace groups’ actions spurred a special report nearly two years ago by the Nieman Watchdog website of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. “Antiwar activists repeatedly stage dramatic acts of civil disobedience in the United States but are almost entirely ignored by mainstream print and broadcast news organizations. During the Vietnam era, press coverage of the fighting and opposition to it at home helped turn public opinion against the war. This time around lack of homefront coverage may be helping keep military involvement continue on and on,” wrote John Hanrahan, a former Washington Post reporter.

“By ignoring antiwar protests almost totally, editors are treating opposition to the ongoing war in Afghanistan much as they handled the run-up to the war in Iraq: They are missing an important story and contributing to the perception that there is no visible opposition to the U.S. wars and ever-growing military budgets, even as polls show overwhelming support for early U.S. military withdrawal,” Hanrahan continued.

Among the examples of non-coverage of significant events that Hanrahan cited was a December 2010 “demonstration organized by Veterans for Peace, 500 or more people gathered outside the White House, as snow was falling, to protest the war and to support Wikileaks and accused leaker PFC Bradley Manning. … there were 131 arrests – including a sizable number of veterans of current and past wars – for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience. … The event was covered by The Huffington Post, the Socialist Worker, OpEd News, in Oregon, and the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, but was ignored by The Washington Post, The New York Times and almost all other mainstream media,” Hanrahan found.

Among the leaders of Veterans For Peace, whose statements are frequently ignored by the national news media, is Leah Bolger, VFP’s president until recently and a retired Navy officer, who traveled last fall in a peace delegation to Pakistan to areas hit by US drone missiles. You probably didn’t see Leah on CNN—although what she has to say about civilian casualties of our not-so-secret drone war in Pakistan is all over the Internet, plus in many communities where she has spoken. 

As Dave would say, keep keeping on—travel to hotspots, speak in every community forum you can wangle an invite to, and even ones where you’re not welcome, march, demonstrate, write letters to editors, pamphlets, poems, songs, books, use the Internet.

And make use of inspiring moments in American history. On Armistice Day 1948, General Omar Bradley made this observation: “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”

General Bradley spoke out in the Truman government against expanding the war in Korea into China. His West Point classmate, Dwight Eisenhower, ran for president and ended the war in Korea. That’s a good model for our government to follow today—stop expanding and start ending our wars in Asia and the Middle East. 

It is long past time for the Obama administration and Congress to hear from veterans and military families of the monstrous, cancerous consequences of the war on terrorism who have been ignored by the gatekeepers of the news media, congressional committees and at the White House.

How do we get their attention? I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Meanwhile, as US military forces roam the world in search of enemies to fight, folks back home are under assault by suicidal, mayhem-bent sons and neighbors wielding military assault weapons. America’s relentless wars have come home in terrifying, terrible ways. Gunmen from our own communities have turned urban neighborhoods, suburban shopping malls, college campuses and small town schools into war zones. The National Rife Association’s proposed solution is to station armed guards in every school. That would take a lot of armed guards. To protect every American from those few who decide to play war with real assault weapons would take an army.  

The military solution would be to declare martial law, station troops at every school, shopping center and every other public gathering place, marshal special operations teams to break down doors at every home and apartment that military-intelligence found reason to believe may harbor hidden weapons of mass destruction. That’s been the American way of war for the past decade and more in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s been very popular in American video games, movies, TV shows. And it’s been a fatal attraction for many young men in American communities whose minds became unhinged in a society that apparently worships military-style violence.

“We have to change,” our commander-in-chief said in Newtown, Connecticut, where a 20-year-old local resident killed 20 school children, six teachers and administrators, his mother and himself in volleys of shots in a war on the community where he was raised. “We have to change,” the president said, and repeated in subsequent speeches.

Obama could lead off by ending the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. Americans are dying across America of the consequences of waging such violence abroad.

These wars are killing our soldiers and veterans at home. The suicide rate among active duty troops this past year was roughly one death per day, with a big jump in July in the Army, according to military reports. The total number of U.S. military deaths by suicide since 2001 is more than 2,600—eclipsing the 2,000-plus military fatalities in Afghanistan, Time magazine noted in a front page special report last summer.

Meanwhile, military veterans have been committing suicide at a furious clip of about 22 per day for several years, according to the latest Department of Veterans Affairs report. How to stop an epidemic of suicides has baffled military and VA leaders. Everyone from former soldiers to President Obama is now weighing in on a tragedy that for a long time was seldom talked about in public—or reported in the news media.

As anyone with combat military training knows, wartime military culture drums into soldiers that the solution to seemingly intractable problems is to shoot or blow something up and kill somebody. Indeed, the most frequent form of self-destruction by veterans is shooting themselves, suicide reports compiled in Nevada and New Jersey show.

We have got to do more to reach out to our fellow Americans to transform our country’s culture of mindless violence. What would Dave have done? We already know.

This a poem I wrote that conveys the essence of Dave Cline, called

Peace March

"Lift Your Head And Hold It High
Veterans Are Passing By
Tell Them What We're Marching For
Freedom, Justice, No More War!"

Here comes an off-beat, on-beat
Band of graying Veterans For Peace,
Calling out marching cadence 
That rings through city streets.

New York, Chicago, Washington,
Los Angeles, New Orleans, Boston…
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis,
San Francisco, St. Louis, Minneapolis...

San Diego, Albuqueque, Denver,
Gainesville, Fayetteville, Baltimore...
Seattle, Salt Lake City, Cape Cod,
Atlanta, Binghamton, Portland...

Marching "column right" out of Dallas
To the GW Bush ranch by Crawford, Texas...
Then "column left" to the White House
To tell Obama to stop wars' senseless losses...

Recycling military cadence calls
For peace, old soldiers are on the march...
Wall Street, Broadway, Battery Park,
Jersey City, Newark, Teaneck...

"We Are Veterans Against The War
We Know What We're Marching For
Stop The Killing, Stop The War!"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Two Chapter 21 Members Elected to VFP National Board

Two members from VFP Chapter 21, New Jersey were elected to the National Board of Veterans For Peace. I'm happy to report that Michael McPhearson was reelected to another term and I was elected to my first term.

 I would like to thank all my friends from VFP Chapter 21 and the New York Metro Area who supported me. It will be a real honor for me to serve our organization and our noble cause.

 Peace and Solidarity

Ken Dalton
VFP 21, N.J.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vets For Peace Arrested at NYC War Memorial

This account appeared on Facebook and describes an event that several members of VFP Chapter 21 attended along with Vets For Peace members from across the nation.  About 25 veterans and supporters were arrested when they refused to leave the memorial site under police orders to obey a new city directive closing the park at 10 p.m. Jay Wenke served in the US Army in World War II and lives in Woodstock, NY, where he is a member of the Town Board. 

By Jay Wenke

Yesterday, 10/7, was the 12th anniversary of the Afghan war. I was part of about sixty veterans who assembled at the Vietnam memorial on Water St. in Manhattan. We met there to protest this war, to honor the dead vets, and to defy [Mayor] Bloomberg's order to close that Memorial site at 10 PM. Normally, it's open 24/7; the Memorial in DC is also open 24/7. In spite of the cold rain, we were proceeding with our observance; reading the names of the dead, accompanied with a soft sounding gong, and putting white carnations in vases to place at the base of the Memorial.

Shortly after 10, the police started to arrest us, knowing we were veterans of many wars, who had been in harms way for this country. They were polite but firm, the plastic handcuffs bite deeply into one's wrists. Many of them told us that they were sympathetic to what we were doing and that they respected what we had done in the service.

Nevertheless, they were following orders, and we, men and women, were placed in locked cells without shoes, belts and water, for many hours. The police are not responsible for our Police State; those who gave the orders to close down a very peaceful observance of war and a memorial service for those who are killed in those wars are the obscene culprits. Bloomberg, and all the other anti-democratic 'pillars of society' around this land are examples of what is terrifyingly wrong in our country. They use the law as a bludgeon.

We say we are a land of laws, not individuals, but what kind of law is it, what kind of nation is it where some get the benefits and the vast majority of us are hit with unjust law, or supposedly just law used unjustly? It is definitely not a democracy, that's a myth. We are not finished, we will continue to give this Police State the opportunity to display its violence until enough people rise up and say "Enough"!

Jay Wenke at Quantico Marine Base demonstration  (photo/Ward Reilly)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Vets For Peace on Peace Mission in Pakistan

Thirty-two U.S. peace activists, including 6 members of Veterans For Peace are taking part in a peace delegation to Pakistan organized by the anti-war group Code Pink.

Wednesday the delegation met with U.S. Charge d'Affaires Richard Hoagland.  U.S. peace activist Robert Naiman asked about reports of secondary attacks on rescuers of drone victims.  Ambassador Hoagland denied that rescuers are targeted, but not that strikes are launched on the same location just struck minutes before.

Hoagland also said that he agreed with President Obama that the number of civilian deaths was near zero, but later seemed to contradict himself when he said that number he believed was accurate was in "two digits."  When asked to be more specific as to whether that number was closer to 10 or 99, he declined.

VFP President Leah Bolger asked:  "Since you know exactly where we intend to go, presumably the CIA and the DoD know as well, so can you guarantee us that there will be no drone strikes in the area while we are there?"  He then gave a 100% guarantee that there would be no strikes on the group.  Bolger followed up with: "So if we just position Americans throughout the region, can we guarantee the safety of the Pakistanis as well?"  He replied that most of the "militants" in the area are foreigners -- not Pakistanis -- and that they come in and take over.  He said that the local people would be very pleased to have them go.

On Wednesday and Thursday the delegation met with drone victims, with more such meetings planned for Friday. The families of the victims related a very different story than that purported by the Charge.  Karim Khan, described the deaths of his son and his brother in a 2009 drone attack, as well as the damaging psychological effects of having up to six drones circling overhead 24 hours a day.  Khan's story is featured in the book "Drone Warfare:  Killing by Remote Control," which was written by the delegation's leader, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin.

The Pakistan National Defense University (NDU) was the site on Wednesday for a presentation by retired U.S. Army colonel and former diplomat Ann Wright, a lead member of the Code Pink delegation against drones.  The delegation was invited to appear by the Dean of the Faculty of Contemporary Studies and was attended by an enthusiastic audience of NDU students as well as several high ranking officers.

Wright emphasized the illegality of the U.S. drone program which violates the sovereignty of other nations, and also allows President Obama to be the ‘judge, jury and executioner’ when he gives the go-ahead for extrajudicial signature drone attacks.

Wright’s anti-drone message resonated with the audience, who were also critical of U.S. policies.  One questioner said that though drones may be an effective tactical weapon, but they were a failure strategically; i.e. the anti-American sentiment created by the deaths and the damage of the drones far outweighs the “benefit” of killing selected targets, even if they are considered “high value,” and that the policy of drone warfare would turn out to be counterproductive.

Following Wright’s presentation, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin presented a copy of her book "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control" to Brigadier General Najam and the Dean, and responded to questions.

Benjamin pointedly noted that the U.S. drone program in Pakistan is run by the CIA, not the military, and is thus classified and sheltered from accountability.  The U.S. government has only recently even admitted that it has a drone program, even though the program has been responsible for the killing of over 3000 Pakistanis since 2004.  Benjamin noted that the Executive branch of the U.S. government subverts the Judicial branch by using the cover of “national security” to protect itself from legal action, and thus undermines the entire governmental system.  One questioner noted that not only were U.S. policies a violation of international law, but also were especially dangerous because they set a precedent…”Bush started it, but Obama has made it worse.”

Bolger said, "In the few days we have been here we have met with dozens of Pakistanis who are outraged about the  illegal murder of their fellow citizens.  We have received nothing but gratitude, admiration and support for our stand against the policies of our own government, and we have been told that our presence here inspires them to stand up against the Pakistani government, which they see as complicit in these attacks."

The six members of VFP who are part of the Code Pink delegation of 32 are Leah Bolger, Bill Kelly, Jody Mackey, Rob Mulford, Ann Wright, and Code Pink's Medea Benjamin who is an associate member of VFP.

(Veterans For Peace news release)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Call for Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in Middle East

Dear VFP sisters and brothers,

On behalf of the Iran Working Group of Veterans For Peace, I would like to urge all of you to sign the Open Letter to President Obama and the Congress (on IWG web site: calling upon them to publicly support the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East as well as the upcoming UN Conference in Helsinki (December 12th) to discuss the issue of establishing a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. I also invite you to join the IWG Discussion Forum on our web site and use its platform to express your views or share your experience on various issues, from war, sanctions, nuclear crisis, and other topics of your choice. I take the opportunity to ask you again to join VFP's Iran Working Group and help us stop the madness.

Faraz Azad, Chair, Iran Working Group
Veterans For Peace