My Journey to Peace

My journey to Peace started when I was 13 years old. My older brother was in Vietnam in the Marine Corps, when my best friend’s older brother came home in a casket from there. The impact on my friend’s family was misery like I could have never imagined.

I went to the funeral in the big white church on the town common in our idyllic New England town, but I didn’t have the courage to go inside. The doors were open and the despair that poured from those doors was too much for me to bear. So I stood outside next to the big tree and cried alone. For many years I was ashamed that I didn’t have the fortitude to go inside and pay my respects. I think this experience did more to turn me away from religion than any other event in my life. I couldn’t understand why people gathered in that church to share such terrible misery. Nothing could be gained, so how was it possible that they could find solace?

My older brother did come home after his second tour in Vietnam, and a good thing too. Because if he had been killed I think it would have destroyed me.

By the time it was my turn to go to war I had already convinced myself that political idealism was the only justification for war, and so I volunteered to fight the Communists. But when in the military I found myself surrounded by other volunteers. Christians, that were there as students of the prince of peace. I found it shocking that a Christian was volunteering to kill people, and I even mocked them at times.

But what I didn’t understand was that we were all wrong about war.

I fixed the weapons systems on planes that were being launched 24 hours a day 7 days a week. One day two aircrews came back from a mission elated that our bombing computer was so wonderfully accurate. One plane had a 500 lb. bomb left after their mission and they had to get rid of it before they could return to base, so they used our bombing computer to drop it on a man on a bicycle. His wingman gleefully stated that the bomb had hit the man in the back, and shook our hands in gratitude. There we stood the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, killing innocent people.

Not much later we were pulled into an intelligence briefing where the man from DC told us that we were losing the war. He figured that we already knew that, but asked us to keep the war machine going so that the North Vietnamese would be forced to the peace table, and America could exit the war with good face.

We walked back to work, the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, so we could kill more innocent people.

Later still we had an alert pad in Taiwan where our planes were loaded with nuclear weapons. Richard Nixon, our President at the time, was under political siege and seemed visibly unstable to me on TV. The Israelis and Egyptians were at war and Nixon called a DEFCOM 3, putting the military one step from war. We had already killed 3 million mostly innocent civilians in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. If Nixon had commanded a strike I am convinced that we would have killed another 10 Million Chinese. And there we would have stood the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, mass murderers.

It took me a long time to rid myself of my ideology, but the final straw was broken when we invaded Iraq. I was shocked that we would do this again and I found Veterans For Peace. We placed crosses on the beach first by the hundreds and later by the thousands, one for every US military person killed. Then we read their names, often with family members and friends listening. Their tears and expressions gave me the same feelings of despair and misery that poured from that church in New England long ago. Nothing had changed.

Also standing there listening to us reading the names of the fallen were the young students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, with their short military haircuts. Shoulder to shoulder and at the ready. Just like us, at the ready to kill innocent people.

This is why I work for Peace.

By Dave Patterson, San Diego Veterans For Peace

Look at ‘Liberated’ Libya and Despair

Welcome to the new Libya, a country ‘liberated’ by NATO which now finds itself without the oil revenues which could make it rich, with no security, no stability and assassinations and corruption at unprecendented levels.

Last Friday, the Economist magazine published a report about the implosion of Libya. My attention was caught by the pictures that illustrated the piece – particularly one of some graffitti on the wall of a sea front cafe in the capital Tripoli. ‘The only way to Heaven is the way to the airport’ it read.

The joke is indicative of the troubled state of Libya nowadays following ‘liberation’ by NATO warplanes in the sky and the revolution on the ground which toppled the dictatorial regime of Muammar al-Ghadaffi.

Recently I have met many peope who are visiting London from Libya and they tell stories of life there which are hard to believe.

The capital Tripoli had no water or electricity for a whole week.

The armed militia dominate and rule the streets in the absence of a workable government, a national security establishment and basic municipal services.

Onoud Zanoussi, the 18 year-old daughter of Abdullah Zanoussi, the former chief of Ghadaffi’s security establishment, was kidnapped on her release from prison following seven months behind bars accused of entering her country illegally. She was abducted in front of the prison gates and the abductor was one of the guards!

Two years ago, the British and French business community sharpened their teeth and rubbed their hands with glee in anticipation of their share of Libyan reconstruction. Now there isn’t a single foreign businessman in Tripoli, all of them ran for their lives after the assasssination of the American Ambassador and attacks on several foreign Embassies and Consulates.

During the NATO bombardment, news from Libya dominated the front pages and was the first news item on every Western and Arabic television station. There was 24-hour coverage about the Libyan Liberation miracle and the great victory achieved by NATO and the revolutionaries. Nowadays it is very rare to find a Western reporter there and even more rare to read a decent report about Libya and what is really going on there.

Oil was the main objective and the real reason for the NATO intervention; but oil producation has all but ceased due to a strike by security guards on the oil fields and export terminal. The ostensible reason for this strike is the demand for a pay rise but there is another, equally powerful, motive – they are protesting the demands of various separatist movements who are calling for self-rule for oil-rich Barca (Cyrenaica) with its capital in Benghazi. Most of Libya’s oil reserves are situated here.

Rather than the local or national government, a militia is in control of most of the oil fields and the export terminal; it has started to sell huge amounts of oil on the black market and is trying to expand these activities leading Ali Zidan, the Prime Minister, to threaten to bomb any unauthorized oil tanker going anywhere near these sites.

The irony is that the same thing is happening now in Eastern Syria where the militia and local tribes are in control of the oil fields in Deir Al-Zour, refining the oil themselves by hand and selling it on illegally. The same thing is still happening in the south of Iraq.

Iraq and Libya, of course, have ‘benefitted’ from Western intervention and Britain and France have been proud to repeat what the mother of the West (the US) used to say about Iraq; first in Libya and now – of negotiations fail – in Syria. That is: intervention will bestow great sophistication on the affected country which will immediately become a model of prosperity and stability and lead the way for other Arab countries, which are ruled by dictators, to invite and welcome military intervention. In fact, this model has produced the worst kind of anarchy, failed security, political collapse and disintegration of the state.

Chaos rules in Libya. The assassination of politicians and journalists has become normal news in today’s Libya to the extent that Colonel Yussef Ali al-Asseifar – who was charged with investigating a rash of assassinations and arresting the people behind it – was himself assasinated on the 29 August when men from an unidentified group put a bomb under his car.

On the anniversary of 9/11 last week, a huge bomb ripped through the Foreign Ministry building in Benghazi.

Human Rights Watch has highlighted another atrocity in Tripoli on August 26, 2013, at the Main Corrections and Rehabilitation Institution, known by its former name al-Roueimy, where around 500 detainees, including five women, were being held. The prisoners were on hunger strike to protest the fact that were detained without charge and in the absence of a fair trial. Unable to produce its own security detail, the government called in the Supreme Security Committee – composed of former anti-Gadaffi militiamen – to put down the uprising. Militia forces stormed the prison and shot the prisoners with live ammunition, wounding 19 people.

The Prime Minister of Libya – Awadh al-Barassi resigned on 4 August and was replaced by Ali Zeidan. Then, on 18 August, the interior minister, Mohammed al-Sheikh, resigned after only three months in post. He cited lack of support from Ali Zeidan and the government’s failure to deal with widespread unrest and violence, to gain the people’s trust, or to adequately fund state agencies to provide the most basic services.

Libya is simply disintegrating along tribal and geographical fault lines. Most of its people are in state of fury, including the Berbers in the south, and national reconciliation is a distant prospect.

Popular frustration is at its peak; yet when demonstrators took to the streets outside the barracks of the powerful ‘Libyan Shield Brigade’ to protest the unwarranted power of the militia, 31 people of their number were shot dead. The militia act completely outside the law.

Suleiman Kjam, a member of the parliamentarian committee for Energy, told a Bloomsberg reporter that the government is now spending its financial reserves after the production of oil dropped from 1.4 million barrels per day earlier this year to less than 160,000 bpd. He warned that if this situation continues, in the next few months, the government will not be able to pay the salaries of its employees.

The Gadaffi regime – and we say this for the millionth time – was an opressive dictatorship but Libya nowadays, with corruption at it peak and security non-existent, is difficult to understand or accept. Especially when we remember that Libya was liberated by the most sophisticated and advanced countries on the planet, according to Western criteria.

Mr Mohammad Abdel Azziz, the Libyan foreign minister, surprised many in the West and Arab world alike on 4 September when he objected to imminent US air strikes on Syria at a special meeting of the Arab League he was chairing to discuss possible intervention.

Maybe Mr Abdel Azziz, like many of his Libyan people, has formed his opinions as a result of the experiences of his own countrymen after Western military intervention

We hope that the people of other Arab countries, and particularly Syria, will learn from the Libyan example.

It is true that some suggest that this is a temporary state of affairs for Libya and that following this transitionary period, stability will reign. They advise us to be patient.

We hope their prophecy will prove to be correct but remain extremely skeptical with Iraq and Afghanistan also before our eyes.

By Abdel Bari Atwan, Edit in Chief of Alquds Alarabi Neswpaper

Caramel Valley News: Local Peace Activists Prepare for Battle

While the federal government contemplates military action against the regime in Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war there, a number of local residents are already mobilizing to take action.

They’re honing the message, enlisting recruits, organizing campaigns and readying to march in preparation of a potential struggle, but not against Syria or any other adversary. Instead, their aim is peace.

“We apply non-violent direct action,” said Jim Summers, a Navy veteran from Solana Beach and a founding member of the San Diego chapter of Veterans for Peace (VFP). “We learned from the military how to be strategic, tactical and logistical. I bet some of them regret teaching us.”

With the country winding down the longest war in its history in Afghanistan, Del Mar peace activist Martha Sullivan believes the conflict currently being proposed can be averted because people are fatigued with military action.

SDVFP members and others waving to cars along the I-5. Photo/Gary Butterfield
SDVFP members and others waving to cars along the I-5. Photo/Gary Butterfield

“Politicians think they’ve figured out what hot buttons will get people on their side,” said Sullivan. “The problem is that you can’t keep using that because it’s shown to make you skeptical. People are increasingly getting wise to that and they’re getting tired of that…Americans are seeing there are no benefits, just sacrifices.”

Sullivan has been involved with a number of local antiwar/peace organizations, such as the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, and the Peace Resource Center of San Diego among others, for more than 10 years and is a founding member of Women Occupy San Diego.

If peace activists take a dim view of just about every call to war, it’s because they take the long view of America’s involvement historically in conflicts far from home. When Gilbert Field, a Carmel Valley resident and past president of VFP, discusses claimed reasons for wars that eventually turn out to be false, he doesn’t just talk about the recent Iraq War but mentions Vietnam (during which he served in the Coast Guard) and others all the way back to the Spanish-American War.

“We seem to do this,” he said. “Every time we’re offended, and even if we’re not, we just seem to do it. We want to do it. I don’t believe we’re a war-like people, but we seem to go to war for the strangest justifications and we seem to do it again and again.”

On the surface, it might seem counterintuitive to organize demonstrations, marches and vigils against war in a city so steeped in the military tradition like San Diego. However, Summers argues that support is garnered almost effortlessly from many of the 250,000 veterans in the county because those who have seen the tragic costs of war firsthand are usually the first to oppose it.

“The easiest place to recruit peacemakers is among vets and the military,” he explained. “They’ve already accepted that making the world a better place is part of their job. Second, by being in the military, they’re used to the BS. They came out seeing what it’s really about.”

While Field agrees with the assessment, he concedes that resistance to antiwar efforts is strong in San Diego because the multi-billion dollar armaments industry still has deep roots — and plenty of employees — here.

“It’s hard to get someone to support peace when their livelihood depends on war,” Field said. “There is no money to be made in peace. So we have a natural support base and a natural hostile group.”

Yet opposing war no longer consists exclusively of marching in peace demonstrations in the age of I-phones, Internet and instant communications, noted Sullivan. Multimedia platforms have opened up the opposition to multipronged actions.

“Organizing now is not just boots on the ground,” Sullivan said. “It’s more a kind of swarm approach. That makes it more accessible to people. For people who are concerned with their jobs or raising kids or taking care of elderly parents, it can be challenging to get them physically out to things, but they can participate on online petitions. [They can] send emails to congress people and senators. They can share it with family and friends.”

Promoting peace can become a full-time job, activists say, fraught with hardships, setbacks and open antagonism. Sometimes those difficulties can spillover into their private lives.

“For the most part, life goes on,” said Field. “But it has made some long-standing friendships strained. Like anything, you find that friendships grow or fade because of what you’re doing at present.”

Having seen some of the worst of it as a Navy hospital corpsman from 1973-77, Summers credits his colleagues and work at VFP with “saving (his) sanity.” With five children and several grandchildren, he finds his peace activism to be one of his most important services to the country and their future.

“A war always leaves the world worse off,” said Summers. “Even the winner is worse off. You can’t win an earthquake…Fear is not the greatest American value. It’s time to show some courage and not be ruled by fear.”

By Steven Mihailovich

Americans United Against Attacking Syria


Pew Research center reports that by a 48% to 29% margin, more Americans oppose than support conducting military airstrikes against Syria.

Even more decisive data comes from – a convenient tool for communicating with Congress. 96% of Americans who contacted congress through PopVox oppose The President’s Draft Legislation Authorizing Military Action in Syria.The above image shows that people are united across the country in opposition (red circles) to that war. Remember this map, for if Congress approves the attack, then what would this say about the condition of our democratic Republic?

Also if you follow the above link you may see which organizations support the attack – you will not be surprised.

The Superpower Who Cried Wolf

The Superpower Who Cried Wolf

I wanted to quickly lay down my thoughts on Syria. I am strongly opposed to military intervention in this instance. Here’s why:

1. We have no money
We simply can’t afford it. A decade of war has drained our resources and now we can’t afford the luxuries of purported humanitarian interventions, even if it were justified on other grounds. We spent our life savings on the red Ferrari in Iraq, wrecked it, and now we have to pay the consequences of that decision. Our inability to act now is yet another casualty of our ill-advised wars of choice.

2. We have no moral authority
As the revolt in the House of Commons showed last night, the British public simply doesn’t trust the political and security establishment’s claims after Iraq. The hasty nature of the rush to intervention is yet another red flag for the citizens of the UK and US. Even if the claims of chemical weapons use are verified, we still have no moral high ground. Our own use of depleted uranium shells in Iraq, our well-known support of Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against Iran, our legacy of Agent Orange use in Vietnam – these all undercut the claim of our moral authority to act. Especially unilaterally and without the consent of the UN, Congress, or our closest ally. Furthermore we show plenty of support for other repressive regimes including Bahrain and Saudi and never lift a finger against them. Our moral standing here is deeply damaged.

3. We have no legal authority
The Constitution is quite clear. Either Congress must declare war, authorize military action, or the President may repel attack or invasion in the case of an imminent, direct threat to the United States. None of those are the case here. This would clearly qualify as a war of choice. Not only would such action do grave damage to our national institutions, but to international law as well. Flawed though it may be, the United Nations is the agreed upon framework for resolving such issues. Our constant breaking of international law gives a green light for others to do so as well. Assad may have broken international law with use of chemical weapons, but two wrong don’t make a right.

4. We have no credibility
There is a good reason why you don’t use an all-white police force in an all-minority neighborhood. There is a lack of trust and gives the appearance, if not the reality, of discrimination and even occupation. Say what you may, but people tend to listen to and respect the authority more of those they identify with as respected peers rather than “others” who may not share their values, goals, or interests. If there is to be a “world police force”, it should be composed of the whole world, not just one superpower with it’s own interests to defend.

After the Iraq debacle, we also clearly lack credibility in our capacity for strategic planning and post-conflict resolution. Our inability to foresee and react to the aftermath of Saddam’s deposition cost us dearly – and a conflict sold to the American public as a four-month “little war” ended up costing us a decade of blood, treasure, and opportunity cost. There is no evidence that we are any better at these things now than we were a decade ago.

5. We have no strategic interest
The first rule of saving a drowning man is this: Don’t do it if he’s going to pull you under as well. All you have then is two drowned men. Striking Syria now could easily escalate in wholly unpredictable ways into a much larger regional and perhaps global conflagration. Of course that is a worst-case scenario — but is any action with at least a credible possibility of such a spectacular meltdown worth the risk?

6. We have no guarantee it will be humanitarian
This brings me to my final point. Despite all of the above, were there a clear-cut and guaranteed humanitarian benefit to our actions, I could soften my assessment of the merits of intervention. Yet, the Gordian knot that is Syria ensures that any action will have more than 100 unintended and unpredictable ones, that could include the unleashing of forces far more deadly to civilians than the chemical attacks were. We simply can’t lob in a few missiles and hope that this will help things. It rarely (and perhaps never) has.

As a supporter of humanitarianism I feel that I should suggest at least a few alternative courses of action. I would suggest that given the above, we turn attack the problem with the full force and might of the United States. Not with our military, but by providing massive amounts of humanitarian relief, supplies, and bringing a full-court diplomatic press at the UN and elsewhere against Syria and the nations that politically harbor them: Russia, Iran, and China.

Let the world be shocked and awed at our ability to be a force for peace and not further opening the wounds of war. In the words of Martin Luther King let us love our enemies, and strengthen the bonds of peace through our practice of nonviolence. The opposite approach has already failed – why not give peace a chance?

Matthew Patterson

Letter to Congress: No strike on Syria

Dear Congressmen,

I urge you to vote against any kind of military attack on Syria as considered by our Administration. Absent of an attack on our land, the use of military force without approval from the UN Security Council is in violation of international law. Furthermore, the US government, which used Agent Orange in Vietnam and depleted uranium in Iraq, simply has no moral standing for punishing other governments for possible similar violations. An attack on Syria will undoubtedly result in serious repercussions: it may destabilize larger regions of the Middle East, degrade the relationship with Russia to Cold War lows, halt diplomatic efforts toward a nuclear-free Iran, and all the while not ending the civil war.

When the UN investigation is complete, the international community should try the perpetrators of the attack, whoever they are, in the International Criminal Court. If our Administration is interested in building peace, it should lead by example, ending the arms supply to the opposition forces and getting out of the Middle East altogether.