August 16, 2016

2016 Peace Prize to VFP

Veterans For Peace


2016 Peace Prize
The US Peace Memorial Foundation has awarded its 2016 Peace Prize to Veterans For Peace “In recognition of heroic efforts to expose the causes and costs of war and to prevent and end armed conflict.”

Michael Knox, Chair of the Foundation, presented the award on August 13 at the Veterans For Peace national convention banquet, held at the University of California, Berkeley.  In his remarks, Knox said, “Thank you, Veterans For Peace, for your tireless antiwar work, creativity, and leadership.  Your organization is an inspiration to peace loving people throughout the world.”

The Peace Prize was accepted by Michael McPherson, Veterans For Peace Executive Director; Barry Ladendorf, President of the Board of Directors; and by Doug Rawlings, a VFP Founder, to loud applause from an audience of about 400.

President Ladendorf commented, “For 31 years, Veterans For Peace has been the only veterans organization that has consistently led the peace movement in an effort to abolish war, eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, expose the real costs of war, stand in solidarity with veterans and victims of war, and to keep our nation from interfering overtly and covertly into the affairs of other nations.  This award is a great honor for Veterans For Peace and is a testament to the foresight, wisdom and dedication of our founders and to the thousands of VFP members worldwide who have led us in our non-violent struggle for a peaceful world.  We are indeed grateful and honored to receive the 2016 US Peace Memorial Foundation Peace Prize.”

See photos and full details at:

In addition to receiving our highest honor, the 2016 Peace Prize, Veterans For Peace has been designated a 
Founding Member of the US Peace Memorial Foundation.  They join previous Peace Prize recipients Kathy F. Kelly, CODEPINK Women for Peace, Chelsea Manning, Medea Benjamin, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, and Cindy Sheehan.

Distinguished Americans and nationally prominent U.S. organizations that were also nominated and considered for the award this year include Center for Global Nonkilling, Lynn M. Elling, Colman McCarthy, and Psychologists for Social Responsibility.  You can read about the antiwar/peace activities of all recipients and nominees in our publication, the US Peace Registry.

The US Peace Memorial Foundation directs a nationwide effort to honor Americans who stand for peace by publishing the US Peace Registry, awarding an annual Peace Prize, and planning for the US Peace Memorial in Washington, DC.  These projects help move the United States toward a culture of peace by honoring the millions of thoughtful and courageous Americans and U.S. organizations that have taken a public stand against one or more U.S. wars or who have devoted their time, energy, and other resources to finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts.  We celebrate these role models to inspire other Americans to speak out against war and to work for peace.

Please help us continue this important work.  
Have your name permanently associated with peace by joining the list of individuals, organizations, and Peace Prize recipients who are Founding Members.  Founding Members are listed on our website, in our publication the US Peace Registry, and eventually at the US Peace Memorial.

If you haven't yet become a Founding Member or made your 2016 contribution, please do so today!  Thank you very much for your support.
Lucy, Charlie, Jolyon, and Michael
Board of Directors
The IRS has determined that US Peace Memorial Foundation, Inc. is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity.
Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by U.S. law.  A receipt will be provided.

Copyright 2016, US Peace Memorial Foundation, Inc.

February 11, 2016

The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change

The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
By Fred Nagel

The Bernie Sanders campaign is a welcome respite from the perpetual quandary facing the Left in the United States. His run for the Democratic nomination allows us to come together and cheer for social, economic and racial justice without making the difficult choices about where to put our efforts for progressive change.

Without a political campaign, it's hard to tell whether to protest the drones flying overhead or the fracking fluid being injected deep beneath the ground. Should the Left be resisting the "New Jim Crow" incarceration of African Americans, the indefinite detention of innocent "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo or the arrest and torture of Palestinian children by the US supported Israeli Defense Force?

As political activists in separate American communities, we make our choices as best we can. We attend small rallies and meetings. We write letters to the editor. We stand by the side of the street holding signs about peace, about the environment, about the big banks, about campaign finance reform, about cuts in Social Security. We blame the media consolidation, the lack of campaign finance reform, or the repeal of Glass–Steagall Act. We call attention to the blowback from six decades of imperial warfare, the "Cross of Iron" that the last real general we had as president warned us was at hand.

Articles in the progressive media reinforce the separation of one issue from the next. Each story begins with an historical analysis, usually involving systemic collusion between business interests and greedy elected officials. Then comes an examination of the present day mess, with innocent people suffering and no end in sight. Finally, each piece includes a couple of paragraphs about resistance: petition drives, strikes, and civil disobedience. That's it, and we are on to the next story. 

The overwhelming number of issues presented leads activists to concentrate on one where we can "really make a difference." If a determined enough movement can stop the XL Pipeline, they reason, progressives can start the process of fundamental change in the US. One decisive victory is all that's needed for a new day.

That new day, however, never really comes as our present rulers quickly learn another way to exploit workers, poison the environment, or speculate wildly with everyone else's money. In the real world, each travesty of justice is inexorably linked to other corrupt forces that make it possible. 

In fact, systems of oppression are like living organisms. Having evolved into highly resistant power structures, they are too complex for simple solutions. America in the Twenty First Century might be the most sophisticated system of control and exploitation the world has ever seen. Under its banner of freedom and democracy, there is no place on earth entirely free from America's high tech weaponry or its intricate web of corporate pillage. 

We have to look back to the 1930's to see any dramatic improvement in the way our society is organized. And the last remaining victory of that period, our Social Security, has been on the chopping block for years, seemingly defenseless against the onslaught of Wall Street, the corporate controlled media, and both political parties. 

What made the 1930's such a productive era for progressive social change? Often overlooked in the compelling narrative of FDR's life is the underlying role that questioning the state's legitimacy had to play. Even early in Roosevelt's first term, most people believed that the system was no longer functioning. And it wasn't just the working class that felt that way. It wasn't functioning for anyone, even the very wealthy. 

To restore the system's legitimacy, Roosevelt began experimenting with the country's laws and structures, trying to create something new that people could once again trust. For anything can happen when enough citizens doubt the basic legitimacy of their government.The police and the military can stop defending a system they no longer believe in, and the door opens to the possibility of real change. 

That is why Occupy presented such a danger to the entrenched oligopoly in the US. Occupy wasn't offering solutions like writing elected representatives, or voting for Democrats. The overall consensus was that the system didn't work and something new was needed. Most of Occupy's energy went into grassroots decision making, free food distribution, and political consciousness raising. The starting point was always the same, the system was corrupt and dangerous. It had stopped working for the 99%, and was no longer legitimate. 

As millions across the country started absorbing the lessons of Occupy, our national security state, working hand in hand with corporate America, used force to dismantle the encampments. At the same time, the Democratic Party started its own "99% Spring" to funnel discontent back into the voting booths. Ever the populist huckster when he needed to be, Obama promised to end the wars, control the big banks, tax the rich, and support economic fairness for working people. Once Obama was reelected, he went back to appointing the nation's highest paid CEO's to draft economic policies for his second term. 

Occupy was first smashed by our police state and then co-opted by the type of publicity campaign that has come to replace genuine electoral choice in America. Despite these reverses, the Occupy movement represents one of the most serious challenges to the state's legitimacy since the 1930's. "Why don't they offer any solutions?" lamented the establishment media, reflecting the fear of the elite that the encampments targeted the entire political system. 

The monied establishment has been almost as upset about Bernie Sanders and his insurgent run for the Democratic nomination. Sanders seems always on the verge of characterizing our governing structures as hopelessly broken, yet stops short by affirming that our two party system can indeed fix the mess. Moreover, if his populist candidacy is ultimately drowned out by hostile corporate media and billionaire funded super PACs, he plans on supporting the elites' choice for the White House, Hillary Clinton. Back to the zero sum game of supporting the lesser of two evils. 

More importantly, Sanders can't really talk about the American empire and its sixty some years of military expansion and world devastation. Our two party, corporate funded political system is incapable of even identifying where all our money has gone, much less articulating an alternative to the empire's reckless war making. The same is true for a discussion of our imperial colony, Israel, whose racism and war crimes are but reflections of our own. 

Sanders has certainly moved the debate on economic justice and corporate control. But his followers will soon want much more, a real democracy that allows all its citizens to have a say in the direction of their country. He said in Iowa, "given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.” Yet Sanders is part of that system, and pledges to remain so by promising allegiance to the Democratic Party. Like Occupy, before it, the Sanders campaign has broadened the national debate. But even were Sanders elected, would he be able to accomplish the types of changes that America really needs?

The drive to expose our government's current lack of legitimacy must never take a back seat to short term fixes that don't really change the entrenched power structure. Our Declaration of Independence shocked the world by defining a government's legitimacy as based on its ability and willingness to grant fundamental rights to its people. Moreover, it states that the people themselves will decide when a government has lost its legitimacy, claiming the moral authority to "alter or abolish" ruling systems that don't meet their inalienable rights. 

Progressive campaigns in the Twenty First Century must similarly challenge the state's legitimacy. The American Empire, with its invasions, torture and assassinations abroad, and its destruction of workers' lives at home, is an abysmal failure when it comes to meeting even our most basic needs. The environmental apocalypse slowly coming over the horizon adds another dimension altogether. We are faced with an existential crisis, a fight for our very survival that will eventually sweep all pretensions of our present system's legitimacy before it.

That is why political campaigns like Hillary Clinton's may be viewed as our country's last bit of lunacy before actual change becomes possible. Backed by all the corporate behemoths, the energy polluters, the weapons makers, the financial speculators, and the media, her campaign of hope and change can be best understood as a clever but apocryphal assertion that our system can correct itself without being dissolved and replaced by something that is actually of the people, by the people, and for the people.

"Few of us," Arthur Miller wrote, "can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied."

It is time for the Left to end our denial. We must turn our efforts to exposing the American Empire and our current political system for what they have become, intransigent and malignant threats to the very future of life on earth.

-Fred Nagel is a US veteran and political activist whose articles have appeared in CounterPunch, Global Exchange, Mondoweiss, War Crimes Times (Veterans For Peace publication) and Z Magazine. He also hosts a show on Vassar College Radio, WVKR (

January 21, 2016

What Are You Going to Do About U.S. Bases?

The Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins (114 left as of last count in 2009)
used to swim around Jeju Island, South Korea every day, but since the
Navy base construction in Gangjeong village has polluted the water
so badly the dolphins now avoid the area.

My Op-Ed about our recent VFP trip to Jeju Island and Okinawa was printed in the Opinion section of our local newspaper today.  The Times Record editor though decided he didn't want people to read one paragraph (see it below in red) and took it out before publishing the piece in the paper and at their web site.  I forwarded evidence from American University Professor David Vine that the U.S. has 1,000 bases around the world so I was even low-balling the numbers with my figure of 800 bases.  It really burns me up to have those who tout 'freedom of the press' censor words that they feel might 'dishonor our troops' - especially in a piece on the 'Opinion' page that is giving voice to people all over the world who suffer from US bases..  


Imagine building a set of twin military runways out into a pristine bay among the beautiful coral reefs and endangered sea mammals (dugong). Imagine 3.5 million 10-ton dump truck loads of landfill being dumped into the bay to build the runways. Imagine the howls of protests if this was being done here in Maine. 

This story is real, and the plan is to do this on Okinawa at Oura Bay in order to build a new US Marine airfield. Few in America have heard about this calamity, but for more than 450 days people in Okinawa have been protesting by blocking the gates of a US Marine base called Camp Schwab.
In early December I co-led a national Veterans For Peace (VFP) delegation to Jeju Island, South Korea where a new Navy base is being built that will port US warships – including the Aegis destroyers built at BIW.  Twelve members of VFP went on the trip – three of us from Maine.  For the first week we sat with Gangjeong villagers on Jeju Island blocking the construction gate only to be picked up and carried out of the way by police several times each day. 

During the second week of the trip our VFP delegation traveled to Okinawa where the US today has 30 bases. One out of every four Okinawans was killed during the American “liberation” of the island from the Japanese in 1945. We’ve had bases there ever since. At two museums we visited I was astonished to see that since 1953 there have been regular protests against our bases. 

On three occasions we went to the gates of Camp Schwab in order to join the daily human blockades. Most of the people being dragged off by Japanese police for sitting in the road were senior citizens. The women were particularly amazing as they held on to one another and cried aloud demanding that this environmental catastrophe be stopped. 

The VFP delegation met with the mayors of two Okinawan cities that will be directly impacted by the new Marine airfield. One evening we were invited to attend an event inside a huge auditorium that drew 1,300 people. At this convocation Okinawan Governor Takeshi Onaga and other leading politicians spoke out in opposition to the construction of the controversial runway. Gov. Onaga has pulled the airfield construction permit, but the right-wing government in Tokyo, which controls Okinawa, overruled him under the clear direction of US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy (she has repeatedly told the Okinawan people to get over it). Gov. Onaga has gone to the Japanese Supreme Court seeking a ruling that respects their local autonomy. In fact, 80% of the people of Okinawa oppose the new Marine airfield.

The Pentagon today has more than 800 military bases scattered around the world. It’s well known that due to the rapes, drinking and violence toward the host people, US troops are not wanted in most of these places.

As the Obama administration ‘pivots’ 60% of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific region in order to ‘control’ China, people in Okinawa and South Korea understand they are key targets if and when a war breaks out between Washington and Beijing. 

Not only is a looming war causing such active resistance today, it is the US’s utter disregard for local sovereignty and democracy that inflames people against Washington. The bases being built on Jeju Island and in Okinawa are environmental nightmares. The people are watching their life source – the ocean where their food and livelihood comes from – being torn apart to satisfy the Pentagon’s demand for ‘one more base.’

When our VFP delegation left both of these islands the people asked us the same questions: What are you going to do when you go home?  When are the American people going to stand up and stop this madness that is killing our environment, our culture, and our peaceful way of life?

On Sunday, February 7 PeaceWorks will host my talk about these trips at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine at 4:00 pm. The public is invited.

       ~ Bruce K. Gagnon lives in Bath and is a member of PeaceWorks and Veterans For Peace  

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. - Henry David Thoreau