Christmas 1914 truces: a brief moment of sanity amidst industrialised slaughter

The text below is re-posted from our friends at Veterans For Peace UK.

 

As classic anti-war dance anthem All Together Now is re-released, Nick Megoran says why commemorating the 1914 Christmas truces is so important.

Britain seems to have gone truce-mad. This year’s Sainsbury’s Christmas TV advert is a hugely-expensive and carefully produced film about British and German soldiers sharing friendship and chocolate in December 1914. The Premier and Football Leagues, with the encouragement of Prince William, have been holding truces themed-matches and photoshoots.

The unofficial truces that spontaneously took place at Christmas 1914 were amongst the most poignant moments of World War 1. Up to 100,000 men the length of the western front found themselves singing the same carols which led to them meeting up, exchanging gifts, and burying their dead. Some stopped to worship or play football together.

‘It was an extraordinary and most wonderful sight,’ recorded 19 year-old Arthur Pelham-Burn, 6th Gordons, of a bilingual Christmas worship service held in no man’s land. ‘One has given me his address to write to him after the war,’ a soldier from Gateshead wrote home about a German he befreinded. ‘They were quite a decent lot of fellows, I can tell you… I am sure if it were left to the men there would be no war.’

Needless to say, it wasn’t left to the men. The high commands of all sides were enraged, and crushed the truces with orders backed by threats, and by replacing men on the front line by those ‘untainted’ with the truces.

The use of these truces by supermarkets and sports franchises has sparked outrage. Historian Neil Faulkner argues that ‘when big corporate organisations like the Premier League and Sainsbury’s talk about the Christmas Truce, they trivialise it. We should condemn their hypocrisy.’ Instead, Faulkner welcomed as ‘excellent news’ the re-release this week of classic pop song about the truces, All Together Now.

A host of music stars under the banner of ‘The Peace Collective have come together to re-record The Farm’s 1990 hit. Originally written by lead vocalist Peter Hooton and guitarist Steve Grimes, the song interprets the truces as a rejection of war – then and now. Going head-to-head with an X Factor creation for the Christmas number 1 slot, with proceeds going to the Red Cross rather than Simon Cowell, the re-release is surely something the peace movement should champion.

Not convinced

But not everyone is convinced. Activist [and VFP UK member. Ed.] Bruce Kent thinks that, ‘The 1914 Christmas Truce is getting a bit overplayed.’ He describes the truces commemorations as ‘Good heartwarming stuff,’ but complains that they leave out bigger questions such as why the war occurred, why there were relatively so few conscientious objectors, and why we are still pushing ahead with the Trident weapons replacement programme at a time of crippling national debt.

Kent has a point. Like the poet-soldiers often revered by the peace movement, the men who took part in the truces didn’t renounce war. However reluctantly, they were fighting again hours or days later, and 15 million people would perish before the mass slaughter was finally brought to a halt by strikes, mutinies, and US armed forces flooding into Europe.

Mark Perryman, of Philosophy Football, has similar concerns. He welcomes the re-release of the song as ‘Anything that celebrates the cause of peace rather than cheers for war has to be good,’ especially when ‘done in the spaces of popular culture rather than on planet placard.’ However he worries that in the process of being supported by the Premier League, ‘it seems to have lost that cutting edge,’ becoming ‘more a celebration than a questioning – and that’s a pity.’

So is All Together Now still radical after all these years?

All Together Now was born as anti-war song. Originally entitled ‘No Man’s Land’, its six verses described the outbreak of the truces, the political embarrassment they caused at home, and the high command’s efforts to crush them and prevent them recurring. When recording it in 1990 for the album Spartacus, four of the original verses were excised, and a chorus added based on Johann Pachelbel’s haunting Canon in D Major. A third verse, beginning ‘Same old story again / nothing learnt and nothing gained… let’s go home’ was added as a searing attack on the upcoming US-led war on Iraq. This was historically-informed, anti-war popular culture at its best: recalling a deeply subversive moment of the past to critically reflect on violence in the present.

Although an anti-war song, its very popularity as a dance anthem led to its radical political message being watered down. The low point of this was its 2006 re-recording by Atomic Kitten for the football World Cup. A computer-animated version featuring Goleo and Pille, the ‘official mascots’ of the corporate jamboree run by corrupt and unaccountable FIFA, removed all references to the First World War and the truces. Worse still, Atomic Kitten’s own video version entirely depoliticised the song, transforming it into a sordid eroticisation of the female body.

Political edge

The 2014 re-recording recaptures the original political edge: not only the name Peace Collective, but also its donation of profits to the Red Cross makes this intention clear. Peter Hooton explained that initially, ‘there was talk of doing it with the British Legion, but we wanted a non-political, humanitarian organisation doing work in conflict zones around the world to help victims of war. The Red Cross has a historic link to the First World War, helping all sides.’

Hooton is scathing of the Sainsbury’s advert. ‘The First World War was about market share – the rise of German industry. Sainsbury’s is worried about losing market share to German companies – Lidl and Aldi. It is ironic that the ad uses the Christmas truce in a sentimental way to protect market share against German companies today.’ The advert, he admits, ‘is brilliantly produced, but it doesn’t put anything in context.’ In contrast, as the opening words of the song insist, in thinking about the truces it is vital to ‘remember (boys) that your forefathers died/ lost in millions for their country’s pride.’

This is ultimately why commemorating the truces is so important – memory. The way we remember the past is not neutral, but informs how we understand the present. The military-political establishment has colonised so much of civilian space. Innumerable monuments in town and village centres, and countless plaques in hospitals, universities and churches, confuse sacrifice for slaughter and hide mass murder behind memorials.

There is nothing innocent about the government’s programme of funding or encouraging World War 1 commemorations, from local schools researching the names on war memorials to the ‘Tower of London Remembers’ poppy-fest. David Cameron indicated the political intent here when in 2012 he unveiled massive funding plans for the commemorations, saying he wanted ‘A commemoration that captures our national spirit in every corner of the country… like the Diamond Jubilee.’

Why remember

That’s why it is important to remember the truces, because – if only temporarily – ordinary men recognised their common humanity and implicitly rejected the nationalistic belligerence of their superiors. ‘We were cursing the generals to hell,’ wrote Sergeant George Ashurst of the Lancashire Fusiliers about the officers who restarted the fighting. He was infuriated that people in Britain were sanctimoniously condemning him and his comrades for fraternising: ‘…We want them here in front of us instead of Jerry so we could shoot them down,’ he stormed.

And that is also why the Christmas truces in particular are worth marking. In spite of the capture of the season by corporations producing drinks and toys, the basic Christian festival of Christmas contains images and messages that the military-political establishment find deeply unsettling.

Welcoming the release of the song, Dr John Heathershaw, a politics lecturer at Exeter University and a leader of Pinhoe Road Baptist Church, which is marking the truces this year, said, ‘The Christmas truces give us hope that the senseless violence that is perpetrated by all governments, including our own, can be ended if we recognise Christ’s call to love God and one another, not worship our nations.… Those who either valorise or sentimentalise war today do so in the vain hope that it makes us safe. Jesus told us that was nonsense and his birth, death and resurrection mean that our hope lies in living without violence.”

Likewise, Jill Segger, of progressive Christian think tank Ekklesia, said that All Together Now reminds us that the Christmas Truces ‘face us with uncomfortable facts – that officers on both sides had to force the men back to their guns, as high commands were terrified that fraternisation made them ‘more aware that [in the words of the WW1 socialist slogan] “A bayonet is a weapon with a working man at each end of it.” No wonder the military has found it hard to colonise Christmas.

We should commemorate the truces. They were a brief moment of sanity amidst the horrors of the industrialised slaughter of trench warfare, and enraged the elites who benefitted politically and financially from the war’s continuation.

If the schools, churches, and football teams in our locality have overlooked them, encourage them to mark them next year or at any other Christmas during the centennial commemorations. Free resources such as those created by the Martin Luther King Peace Committee make this easy. But The Farm’s original admonition in the song is vital: only do so if we are prepared to change the way we live now.

Ben Griffin, of Veterans for Peace, welcomes the re-release of the song and puts its challenge well: ‘It is important to remember the truces today only if we are willing to foster in the present the spirit of those who on Christmas Day 1914 put down their weapons and walked out to meet the enemy.’

So regardless of where you shop for your Christmas goodies, buy All Together Now and after a year marked by the sinister glorification of the war, this Christmas let’s really celebrate something worthwhile – peace. Even if that peace only lasted a few hours.

This article first appeared on the NO GLORY website.

Veterans Day Again

The one thing I never want to see again
is a military parade.

— Ulysses S. Grant


We’ve seen far too many military parades
with their missiles, marching bands
and mechanized young men.

We’ve witnessed enough high-stepping
soldiers in their polished black boots
marching to the sounds of brass.

Spare us the old men dressed in uniforms
with their sorrowful hats and sewn-on patches.
Spare us the slippery words of politicians.

Let’s return to basics: On Armistice Day
the soldiers laid down their arms on the 11th hour
of the 11th day of the 11th month.

A generation was lost.
The survivors had had enough of war.
The 11th hour is here again, the sky clear blue.

by David Krieger

Reclaim Armistice Day and Honor the Real Heroes

by Arnold Oliver

More then a few veterans, Veterans For Peace among them, are troubled by the way Americans observe Veterans Day on November 11th. It was originally called Armistice Day, and established by Congress in 1926 to “perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, (and later) a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.” For years, many churches rang their bells on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the time that the guns fell silent on the Western Front by which time sixteen million had died.

To put it bluntly, in 1954 Armistice Day was hijacked by a militaristic congress, and today few Americans understand the original purpose of the occasion, or even remember it. The message of peace seeking has vanished. Now known as Veterans Day, it has devolved into a hyper-nationalistic worship ceremony for war and the putatively valiant warriors who wage it.

Here is a news flash. Most of what goes on during wartime is decidedly unheroic, and heroes in war are few and far between.

I have to tell you that when I was in Vietnam, I was no hero, and I didn’t witness any heroism during the year I spent there, first as a U.S. Army private and then as a sergeant.
Yes, there was heroism in the Vietnam War. On both sides of the conflict there were notable acts of self-sacrifice and bravery. Troops in my unit wondered how the North Vietnamese troops could persevere for years in the face of daunting U.S. firepower. U.S. medical corpsmen performed incredible acts of valor rescuing the wounded under fire.

But I also witnessed a considerable amount of bad behavior, some of it my own. There were widespread incidents of disrespect and abuse of Vietnamese civilians including many war crimes. Further, all units had, and still have, their share of criminals, con artists and thugs. Most unheroic of all were the U.S. military and civilian leaders who planned, orchestrated, and profited greatly from that avoidable war.

The cold truth is that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Vietnam had next to nothing to do with protecting American peace and freedom. On the contrary, the Vietnam War bitterly divided the United States, and was fought it to forestall Vietnamese independence, not defend it.

Unfortunately, Vietnam wasn’t an isolated example. Many American wars — including the 1846 Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War in 1898, and the Iraq War (this list is by no means exhaustive) — were waged under false pretexts against countries that didn’t threaten the United States. It’s hard to see how, if a war is unjust, it can be heroic to wage it.

But if the vast majority of wars are not fought for noble reasons, and few soldiers are heroic, have there been any actual heroes out there defending peace and freedom? And if so, who are they?

Well, there are many, from Jesus down to the present. I’d put Gandhi, Tolstoy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the list along with many Quakers and Mennonites. And don’t forget General Smedley Butler, who wrote that “War is a Racket”, and even Robert McNamara who came around in the end.

In Vietnam, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson stopped the My Lai massacre from being even worse.

Another candidate is former U.S. Army specialist Josh Stieber who sent this message to the people of Iraq: “Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.” Ponder a million Iraqi deaths. Chelsea Manning sits behind bars for exposing those and other truths.

The real heroes are those who resist war and militarism, often at great personal cost.
Because militarism has been around for such a long time, at least since Gilgamesh came up with his protection racket in Sumeria going on 5,000 years ago, people argue that it will always be with us.

But many also thought that slavery and the subjugation of women would last forever, and they’re being proven wrong. We understand that while militarism will not disappear overnight, disappear it must if we are to avoid economic as well as moral bankruptcy.

As Civil War General W.T. Sherman said at West Point, “I confess without shame that I am tired and sick of war.” We’re with you, bro.

This year on November 11th, Veterans For Peace will bring back the original Armistice Day traditions. Join them and let those bells ring out.

Arnold “Skip” Oliver is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. A Vietnam veteran, he belongs to Veterans For Peace, and can be reached at soliver@heidelberg.edu.

The Seductions of Manhood: Drone Morality

by Michael Schwalbe on CounterPunch.org

In the fall of 2006 a local anti-war activist spoke to the students in my social inequality class. He criticized U.S. military intervention in the affairs of other countries and the profit-driven “global war on terror.” He was a compelling speaker in part because of his twenty years in the military, including stints in Special Forces as an Army Ranger. No one could dismiss him as a naive pacifist. At the end of his talk, a young woman asked, “If you feel the way you do, why did you join the army?” He said that it had taken him decades to arrive at his views. “Remember,” he said, “in 1970 I was a typical 18-year-old American boy.”

My guest speaker was a typical American boy in the sense that he saw military service as a rite of passage into manhood and a way to live out his macho fantasies. He was also a typical American boy in that he knew almost nothing about people in other countries, about history or geopolitics, or about U.S. imperialism. His ignorance and his desire for manhood status led him into the arms of a vast apparatus of violence from which it took twenty years to extricate himself. The same trap captures many young men today.

Turning adolescent fantasies and the desire for manhood status into collectively wrought horrors would not be possible, however, without the mass inculcation of drone morality, by which I mean a morality that reveres power and control, equates the good with rule-following and obedience to authority, and refuses to extend empathy to those defined as Others.

Military socialization is the paradigm case of instilling drone morality. Every army requires that young men be made willing to follow rules laid down by elites, to embrace the mission of controlling other human beings, and to treat those others as less than fully human. None of this would be possible if drone morality did not displace ordinary moral intuition.

Of course the foundations for drone morality are laid much earlier. Children are taught to obey at home, in school, and at church. In their first jobs, teens learn the importance of following rules and doing what the boss says. By the time many young men reach recruitment age, the habit of suspending critical thought when faced with orders handed down by authorities is well ingrained.

Overt socialization to obey and conform is easy to see. Nobody misunderstands what boot camp is about. But drone morality can also be taught in ways that pass without notice. Consider, for example, the damaging moral lessons encoded in President Barack Obama’s December 14, 2011, speech to soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, following the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.

Obama’s immediate audience consisted mainly of soldiers, but the text of the speech was published in the New York Times, so it was also addressed to the nation. The speech touted the Iraq war as a resounding success, an effort of which all could be proud. It would be fair to say, on the contrary, that the nearly nine-year occupation of Iraq by US forces, far from being a success, was a disaster.

The results of this three-trillion-dollar effort included 4500 U.S. soldiers dead and another 32,000 seriously wounded;150,000 to 400,000 Iraqis killed; and another 2.3 million Iraqis turned into refugees. When the U.S. pulled out in December of 2011, 50% of Iraqis were living in slum conditions (up from 17% in 2000), 4.5 million children were orphaned, and 600,000 of schwalbebookthose orphans were living in the streets. The U.S.-backed government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki reeked with corruption and was creating an authoritarian police state, complete with the use of violence and torture to quash protest and the press. By January 2012, sectarian violence was resurging and threatening to tear the country apart. Today, militant jihadi groups in Iraq are stronger than they were a decade ago. If this constitutes success, the mind boggles to consider what failure would look like.

National leaders often try to describe defeat as victory. This is not a failing of personal honesty but a matter of necessity for maintaining the support of the populace and the military. Lies are thus to be expected. But lies can be packaged differently, and this packaging matters because of the moral outlook it affirms and privileges.

President Obama’s speech praised the returned soldiers for their demonstration of martial virtues: sacrifice, bravery, resolve, strength, endurance, willingness to bear the pain of loss, and loyalty to each other. Although both women and men are acknowledged in the speech, the qualities that Obama cites are those conventionally associated with male soldiers. Obedience was not explicitly mentioned, though its importance was affirmed in coded language.

Both President Obama and his wife Michelle, who introduced him, praised the soldiers for “answering the country’s call.” It was, in fact, Michelle Obama who most clearly underscored the importance of obedience when she said, “Whenever the country calls, you all are the ones who answer, no matter the circumstance, no matter the danger, no matter the sacrifice.”

To give praise for compliance whenever, no matter the circumstance, is to implicitly affirm the importance of doing what one is told and not thinking for oneself. President Obama also offered praise for “your patriotism, your commitment to fulfill your mission” — which is to say, for the willingness to equate patriotism with following orders and for doing a job as instructed, no matter how corrupt the mission might have been. And lest the notion pass without challenge, it should be said that “the country” did not call any U.S. soldiers to invade and occupy Iraq. The call came from a cabal of war criminals in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Several parts of the speech are worth quoting at length, because they illustrate how drone morality is crafted in ways even more subtle than the implicit valorizing of obedience. After assuring members of his audience that the country would provide them with continuing benefits as further rewards for their service, President Obama told the following story.

But there is something else that we owe you. As Americans, we have a responsibility to learn from your service. I’m thinking of an example — Lieutenant Alvin Shell, who was based here at Fort Bragg. A few years ago, on a supply route outside Baghdad, he and his team were engulfed by flames from an RPG attack. Covered with gasoline, he ran into the fire to help his fellow soldiers, and then led them two miles back to Camp Victory where he finally collapsed, covered with burns. When they told him he was a hero, Alvin disagreed. “I’m not a hero,” he said. “A hero is a sandwich.” (Laughter.) “I’m a paratrooper.”

Audience: Hooah!

Obama: We could do well to learn from Alvin. This country needs to learn from you. Folks in Washington need to learn from you.

Audience: Hooah!

To be clear, the bravery and humility of Lieutenant Shell are not in question. In the immediate context of the attack, his actions were indeed heroic. But what exactly is the lesson that “folks in Washington” need to learn from this episode?

The lesson does not seem to be that it is wrong to invade other people’s countries under false pretenses and put U.S. soldiers in harm’s way, nor that war should be undertaken only as a last resort. After the affirming “Hooah!” Obama draws out the lesson:

Policymakers and historians will continue to analyze the strategic lessons of Iraq — that’s important to do. Our commanders will incorporate the hard-won lessons into future military campaigns — that’s important to do. But the most important lesson that we can take from you is not about military strategy — it’s a lesson about our national character. For all of the challenges that our nation faces, you remind us that there is nothing we Americans can’t do when we stick together.

The lesson, it seems, is that we can continue to get away with this kind of thing — invading and occupying other countries, and perhaps doing so more effectively — if we stick together and embrace the can-do spirit of Americanism.

There is of course another lesson about national character that can be inferred from the behavior of the U.S. vis-à-vis Iraq. A neutral observer might suppose that Americans are a people who feel entitled to exert control over the affairs of other people; who are willing to kill and injure a great many people as they try to exert control; who feel no remorse for the damage they cause to those whom they are trying to control; who cannot honestly assess the consequences of their actions; and who chronically fail to learn from their mistakes.

In the case of U.S. military intervention, learning from mistakes is hard because those who make the mistakes do not bear the costs. It is thus important that others be induced to bear those costs. Obama’s speech performs precisely this function. After telling the troops that they — the “9/11 Generation,” as he identifies them — have earned their place in history, he goes on to say:

Because of you — because you have sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny. That’s part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right. There can be no fuller expression of America’s support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people. That says something about who we are.

This passage breathtakingly inverts reality. It portrays the brutal invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation as a selfless humanitarian project reflecting nothing more than a love for democracy and a desire to help strangers in need. It is this sort of portrayal that leads people around the world to see Americans as dangerously delusional.

In fact, what U.S. soldiers participated in was not a mission to protect America or free the Iraqi people; it was a mob hit that killed thousands of innocent bystanders and ignited local turf wars. It is fair to say, however, that the invasion inadvertently created an opening for the Iraqi people to “forge their own destiny” — mainly by organizing themselves to drive the U.S. out.

What is made explicit in the passage of Obama’s speech that invokes “old empires” is American exceptionalism — the idea that the United States, unlike all other nations and empires throughout time, does what it does not out of a desire for resources or control, but because of transcendent values and a commitment to do what’s right. This theme of exceptionalism is underscored a few sentences later when Obama says this:

So here’s what I want you to know, and here’s what I want all our men and women in uniform to know: Because of you, we are ending these wars [Iraq and Afghanistan] in a way that will make America stronger and the world more secure. Because of you. That success was never guaranteed. And let us never forget the source of American leadership: our commitment to the values that are written into our founding documents, and a unique willingness among nations to pay a great price for the progress of human freedom and dignity. This is who we are. That’s what we do as Americans, together.

As post-war speeches to soldiers go, this is standard fare. The Romans, it is worth remembering, never fought a war they didn’t publicly claim to be in defense of civilization. In another respect, this passage is remarkable for its unabashed distortion of reality and callous disregard for the costs borne by the Iraqi people, whose freedom and dignity were not advanced but rather trampled by foreign invaders.

Obama’s speech constructs a malignant myth about what it means to engage in mass violence as a member of the U.S. armed forces. “Never forget,” Obama said, “that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries.” “All of you here today,” he continued, “lived through the fires of war. You will be remembered for it. You will be honored for it — always. You have done something profound with your lives. … You will know that you answered when your country called; you served a cause greater than yourselves; you helped forge a just and lasting peace with Iraq, and among all nations.” The legacy of their efforts, Obama told members of his audience, “will endure … in the freedom of your children and grandchildren.”

Those with knowledge of history or even of daily world news might find the line about a just and lasting peace among all nations to be risible. But a person who survived combat and saw comrades hurt and killed could hardly be blamed for embracing the idea of having fought heroically for noble goals. Among those who had suffered, or had witnessed great suffering that they had helped perpetrate, who wouldn’t want to set aside doubts and believe?

The need for national and personal self-justification made the moment of Obama’s speech ripe for seeking comfort in drone morality — constituted here by unquestioning belief in the rightness of U.S. attempts to control other peoples, the rightness of rules and orders handed down by elites, and the rightness of limiting the circle of empathy to fellow Americans, lest feelings for the Iraqi people continue to leave consciences troubled.

Speeches like Obama’s can reverberate across generations. Just as the soldiers he addressed at Fort Bragg took comfort in being described as heroes, so will the next generation seek its own accolades, its own claims to timeless heroism, in the next invasion, occupation, or whatever is defined as “war.” Members of these generations to come — more young American males, knowing little about history, other peoples, or geopolitics — will want manhood status equal to that of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and older brothers.

The irony is that manhood in America is often equated with rugged individualism. But this is in fact the opposite of what the military offers and demands. As an institution, the military requires individuals to give up their moral autonomy, to follow rules and obey orders, to repress moral qualms — to function, in effect, as drones. Drone morality nonetheless seduces because it engenders a feeling of power that comes through submission to a larger power: the militarized collective. Young men who are otherwise powerless can thereby imagine themselves to possess magnificent masculine selves, even while acting as the tools of more powerful males.

Obama’s speech, while aimed most immediately at uplifting and comforting those who had been compelled to sacrifice much because of their subordinate status in a larger system of political economy, aimed to make drones of us all.

We are all given to understand that, as Americans, it is right and good to exert control over people half a world away; that it is right and good to accept the rules and orders and definitions of reality handed down by supposedly legitimate authorities; and that it is right and good to commit ourselves to solidarity with fellow Americans and not let this solidarity be undermined by feelings that tell us it is wrong to kill other people’s mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children. We should, Obama tells us, admire those who have shown commitment, through military service, to these ideas of what is right and good.

Soldiers and ex-soldiers can and do break free of drone morality. The veteran who spoke to my class had done so. And so have many thousands of others, though usually only long after they have ceased being typical 18-year-old American boys. This is a hard reassessment to make. It requires facing the possibility that one’s manhood has been built on lies, that it is no more than a satisfying fantasy exchanged for the service of helping political and economic elites exploit the vulnerable.

And what if we don’t accept the faux patriotic notions of what is right and good that are conveyed by post-war presidential speeches? Then we are, by implication, inferior moral actors, bad Americans, unmanly. It is this painful intimation of inferiority that also makes drone morality seductive. By embracing drone morality, we can feel good and strong, even if we participate from a position of weakness in the perpetration of evil.

To resist the seductions of manhood status and drone morality requires rejecting nationalist and gender ideologies, as well as any form of economy that puts the many at the mercy of the few. What we stand to gain through such resistance is reclamation of our full capacities as moral actors. To throw off the chains of dronehood is not to seek manhood but humanity.

Michael Schwalbe is professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. He can be reached at MLSchwalbe@nc.rr.com. His latest book is Manhood Acts: Gender and the Practices of Domination (Paradigm, 2014), from which the above essay is adapted.

About San Diego Veterans For Peace


National Veterans for Peace Organization

National Veterans For Peace Logo
National Veterans For Peace Logo
Veterans For Peace (VFP) is a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis, MO and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. There is an annual convention in August for members from across the nation. Members receive periodic VFP publications.

The organization includes men and women veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, other conflicts and peacetime veterans. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.

Veterans For Peace is an official Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) represented at the UN. Whether or not you wish to participate in chapter activities, please consider becoming a Veteran For Peace member. As an organization, we are what our members make us. You can be part of that effort either as an active local member, or as a registered member of the National Veterans for Peace.

Statement of Purpose

We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace. To this end we will work, with others

(a) To increase public awareness of the costs of war
(b) To restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations
(c) To end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons
(d) To seek justice for veterans and victims of war
(e) To abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

To achieve these goals, members of Veterans For Peace pledge to use non-violent means and to maintain an organization that is both democratic and open with the understanding that all members are trusted to act in the best interests of the group for the larger purpose of world peace.

For more details please refer to the National VFP bylaws.

San Diego Chapter

San Diego Veterans For Peace Logo
San Diego Veterans For Peace Logo
We are a concerned group of patriotic veterans who feel compelled to speak out at this crucial time in our country’s history. While members of the American uniformed services, we were duty-bound and did not ask questions concerning our mission. Now, as discharged veterans and private citizens, we feel duty-bound to demand answers concerning the mission of our current service members, and to ensure that the sacrifices of American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are not taken lightly nor expended on frivolous endeavors.

As veterans with a range of experience and of military service, we act together to help educate our community about the American military culture and concerns. When you talk to one of our members, you know there is a passion and it is not something you will hear or read about in a glossy brochure.

It is without a doubt that our activism stems from a deep love of our country, but also with a connection to humanity. It is from this background that we have all come together in the San Diego area to join in one clear voice. We will work toward a world of peace and justice, and we will continue our commitment toward security, national and global, using nonviolent means. For more details please refer to the chapter’s by-laws.

The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits: Who Will Speak for the People?

This article was originally published by The Hill.

The U.N. just concluded the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee with representatives from the 189 signatory nations and of civil society. The meeting was in preparation for next year’s NPT conference and to discuss the current status of fulfilling the obligations under the treaty and in particular, the mandate of the nuclear weapons states for global disarmament. The outcome was a continued foot dragging by the nuclear states motivating a demand for meaningful steps and progress toward disarmament by the other 184 nations in view of current international events.

Recent scientific studies by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War on the humanitarian consequences of limited nuclear war have shed additional light on the danger these weapons pose. Describing a hypothetical conflict between India and Pakistan using less than ½ of 1 percent of the global nuclear arsenals, the studies confirm 2 billion people would be at risk of dying due to global climatic change.

Combined with recent scandals involving U.S. ICBM missile controllers and a growing accounting of nuclear mishaps and near misses in our nuclear forces over the years, the sense of urgency for disarmament is greater than ever. It has become a question of who will step forward and speak for humanity.

On April 24, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) filed the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits in the International Court of Justice against all nine nuclear-armed nations, as well as against the United States in U.S. Federal District Court. RMI claims that the nuclear weapon states are in breach of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force 16,121 days prior to the filing. In this David vs. Goliath action this tiny island nation has found the voice to speak on behalf of the world and the other nations signatory to the Treaty.

The case for the Nuclear Zero Lawsuit comes directly from the NPT where Article VI states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

This was the grand bargain that convinced many non-nuclear weapon states to sign the treaty and agree not to develop nuclear weapons of their own. Forty-four years later, with no meaningful negotiations on the horizon and no end in sight to the “step-by-step” process heralded by the permanent five members of the UN Security Council (P5), the RMI has stepped in to change the discourse on nuclear disarmament.

RMI is seeking declaratory relief from the courts that will compel the leaders of the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) to initiate good-faith negotiations for an end to the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament. They are challenging the leaders of the NWS to answer, on the record, why 44 years have passed and nuclear arsenals continue to be modernized, national security strategies continue to place nuclear weapons at the top of the list, and the P5 don’t even expect to have a “Glossary of Key Nuclear Terms” to talk about nuclear disarmament until 2015.

In addition to the five Nuclear Weapon States named in the NPT, the lawsuit also includes the four nuclear weapon states that are not parties to the NPT – Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea – which, RMI argues, are bound to Article VI obligations under customary international law.

The RMI is a small sovereign nation, among the smallest in the world. However, their courage could not be greater. Having been a testing ground for 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958, the Marshall Islanders have seen their land, sea and people poisoned from radiation. These tests had an equivalent explosive force greater than 1.5 Hiroshima bombs being detonated daily for 12 years. The Marshall Islanders paid a heavy price in terms of their health and well-being for these destructive tests. They have experienced firsthand the horrible destruction caused by nuclear weapons and those that possess them. They are willing to stand up to the nine nuclear giants and say, “Never again. We have seen the destructive impact of these horrific weapons and vow to do all we can so the world never sees such atrocities again.”

The RMI does not act alone in this action. A consortium of NGOs working to highlight the legal and moral issues involved in the Nuclear Zero Lawsuit has come together around the world coordinated by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in Santa Barbara. Respecting the courage of the plaintiff in bringing these lawsuits against some of the most powerful nations in the world they have developed a call to action.

The consortium urges everyone to join them by raising your voice in support of the Nuclear Zero Lawsuit. Go to www.nuclearzero.org, where you can read more about the lawsuits and sign the petition encouraging leaders of the Nuclear Weapon States to begin good-faith negotiations.

Williams received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the International Committee to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and is chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Dodge is a family physician on the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Physicians for Social Responsibility – the U.S. affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War – recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.