Volunteer Readers Needed for Commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King April 3

by James Pandaru, GNH Peace Council

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

The above quote is from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” which he gave on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church, NYC. The following year, on April 4, 1968, while supporting striking sanitation workers, he was assassinated in Memphis, TN.

We will honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Friday, April 3, at noon in front of New Haven City Hall (165 Church St.). Dr. King’s words continue to be as relevant today as they were in 1967.

Volunteers are needed to read excerpts from Dr. King’s speech. Please join us in this event to commemorate Dr. King. To take part contact James Pandaru, (203) 933-4043, jpandaru@gmail.com. Thank you.

In Memoriam, Anne Hall Higgins, 1921-2019

by Lesley Higgins-Biddle

Anne Higgins died on October 21, 2019, at her home in North Haven, Connecticut. Known for her commitment to social justice and racial equity, Anne was active in greater New Haven as a founding leader of People Against Injustice (PAI), with a special concern for prison reform and changes to Connecticut’s drug policy. She was active in New Haven/León Sister City Project after traveling to Nicaragua in her 60s and in the United Church of Christ state conference Peace and Social Concerns committee, which led her to be arrested for protests against nuclear weapons in Groton at the submarine base and in Washington, D.C. As an ordained minister, Anne believed unequivocally in “talking the talk and walking the walk.”

Anne was born in Bridgeport where her grandfather had been a progressive minister at Park Street Congregational Church on the city’s East Side. She attended a new, John Dewey-based elementary school that encouraged young girls to play sports, explore their intellectual gifts, and challenge social norms. She graduated from Smith College (1943) with a major in art and then became one of the first women to graduate from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity, subsequently becoming an ordained Congregational minister. At Yale Anne met the love of her life, Arthur Higgins, with whom she co-pastored small rural churches in upstate New York, Colorado and Maine, at a time when the profession was almost entirely dominated by men.

Anne and Arthur moved back to Connecticut to serve parishes in Chester and Wilton, and raise their four children. While in Wilton they became very active in civil rights, with Arthur attending the March on Washington and Anne becoming active in SNCC and CORE chapters in nearby Norwalk. Anne’s critique of the American power structure was a major inspiration for her art and she created many paintings that expressed both oppression and hope, often at the same time.

Throughout her life, Anne remained indomitably committed, both aesthetically and ethically, to a life well lived and that ‘spoke truth to power.’ From her friend Paula Diehl: “Her last years of ministry took the form of programming for elders in affordable housing. She always tried to increase residents’ world-view and help them to better tolerate and understand those who were not like them.”

Anne is sorely missed by her sons, Bart and Gerry, and her daughters, Lesley and Ethel, who are pictured here with her at an exhibition of her paintings at the New Haven Friends Meeting in 2018. Anne’s friends from PAI, the Nicaraguan Prayer Group, and the Friends Meeting, are grateful for having known her. The sparkle in her eyes will be missed by everyone who knew her.

Why We’re Still Standing Out Here in 2019 (and Will Be Again in 2020)

Sunday Vigil flyer, Dec. 22, 2019

This vigil for peace and justice has been observed every Sunday from noon until 1 p.m. since May of 1999. Twenty years and four U.S. presidential administrations later, we are still here.

Often people ask us what we mean when we say, “RESIST THIS ENDLESS WAR.” What we mean is that the serial wars fought by the U.S. and its allies are one war being waged on many fronts. Men, women, and children are being slaughtered, maimed, traumatized and driven from their homes all over the world so that immense wealth and power can be concentrated in the hands of a very few people.
The weapons of this war are many. Here are just some examples: continued development and production of an ever more deadly nuclear arsenal; drone attacks against human beings many thousands of miles away (targets whose bodies the bombardiers, operating their weapons by remote control, will never have to see); mass incarcerations and deportations of immigrants and refugees (condemning them, in many cases, to a future of torture or death); the systematic dismantling of infrastructure and social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that most of us not only depend upon but have funded with our hard-earned tax dollars all our lives; the destruction of our environment; and the undermining of workers’ rights and the refusal to pass a national minimum wage that is a living wage.

In 2016, we had a presidential election in which the issues of war, peace and economic justice were never seriously addressed. The state of endless war was accepted as the norm. Now we are dealing with an administration that, during its nearly three years in power, has exponentially escalated on all fronts this war that we have been describing and resisting for two decades and more. The 2018 “mid-term” elections largely ignored these issues.

With its bloated military budget, its blatantly racist and xenophobic rhetoric and policies, its utter disregard for the U.S. Constitution and international law, its attempt to roll back even the modest attempts at addressing the climate crisis that are embraced by the Paris Agreement, its utter disregard for human rights at the borders, and its unapologetic war against poor, working-class and non-white people on behalf of the billionaire class it represents, the Trump ad-ministration has made transparent the existential threat of the 1% to all our lives and to the future of our planet.

RESIST THIS ENDLESS WAR

As this year draws to a close and a new one begins, and as we enter another election cycle, we ask you to think about the issues this vigil has been trying to address in a very modest way over the past 20 years. The war we now face on all fronts transcends partisan politics, and we didn’t get here merely as the result of one terrible election. Simply voting, while important, will not resolve this existential crisis or lead us to a just, peaceful and healthy world. Only a truly engaged citizenry, able and willing to think critically and to use every nonviolent tactic we can muster, will be able to make the serious, deep, systemic changes that are so very long overdue, changes upon which our very survival depends.
We invite you to join the conversation any Sunday, here at Broadway, Park and Elm Streets in New Haven, noon to 1 p.m. http://newhavensundayvigil.wordpress.com.

Nuclear Weapons and Democracy — Do they co-exist?

by Marge Van Cleef, former New Haven resident and member of CT Peace Coalition. In Philadelphia, she organizes a monthly Death Walk Against Drones, participates in the Brandywine Peace Community and WILPF. This article first appeared in the monthly Catholic Peace Fellowship newsletter.

We continue to call ourselves a democracy, “rule by the people.” A monarchy means “rule by one,” a state or nation in which the supreme power is actually or nominally lodged in a monarch. Monarchy has existed since the earliest history of humankind and was often established during periods of external threat or internal crisis because it provided a more efficient focus of power than a democracy, which tended to diffuse power. Apparently, the U.S. considers its possession of nuclear weapons justification for one-person rule, that of the President.

Elaine Scarry, Harvard Univ., has written a book entitled “Thermonuclear Monarchy” (2014) based on her extensive research into U.S. nuclear weapons and who decides when and how they are used. The facts are alarming. She has undertaken a serious study of the U.S. Constitution and what it says about who can declare war. She provides many examples of the situations in which U.S. Presidents, since WW 2, have been the sole decision-makers regarding going to war and possibly using nuclear weapons.

In August 1945 Pres. Truman himself made the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first time nuclear bombs were dropped on a population, without any warning. This first use of nuclear weapons caused the death and permanent radiation illnesses for hundreds of thousands of civilians. That decision changed our country and the world. It was mass extermination, and there’s been no apology from any U.S. President in office since 1945.

On July 25, after receiving Stalin’s pledge to join the U.S. in the war against Japan in the Pacific, Truman casually informed the Soviet leader that the United States had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. Although Stalin did not appear to be impressed by the news, Truman hoped the information would increase the pressure on Stalin to concede to the Allies’ demands regarding the post-war agreements. But Stalin asked Truman to turn the bomb over to the UN and put it under international control. Truman refused to surrender US control so Stalin went and got his own bomb. And the arms race was on.

But there is useful background information to this story –

The United States had successfully tested the world’s first atomic weapon near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. Truman received the news while in Potsdam, Germany, conferring with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin on post-World War II policy in Europe. On July 17, Truman told Churchill of the test’s success and the two agreed to put off telling Stalin about what Truman called the dynamite news until later–Truman first wanted to get Stalin to agree to enter the Pacific war on the Allies’ side with no strings on it. To that end, the Soviet Union maintained an active espionage program to follow the military activity of the country’s rivals. Through these channels, Stalin became aware of the Manhattan Project’s existence before future President Harry Truman. The first Soviet bomb was completed in 1949.

While U.S. Presidents have clearly pondered their decisions to declare war, including the use of nuclear weapons, some of their personal statements are alarming and indicative of their cynicism and distance from the outcomes, even if nuclear weapons were used. Pres. George H. Bush, “I’m the commander—see, I don’t need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being president.” (Bob Woodward 2002)

This is not how the Constitution was intended to be interpreted, but how it has been ignored or “misinterpreted” in the case of declaration of war. In fact, every war since WW2 has been declared by a U.S. President acting alone. Yet the Constitution states that Congress alone has that right.

Scarry includes remarkable facts on the weapons and carriers in the U.S. arsenal, and frightening quotes by former Presidents Eisenhower, Bush, Kennedy, Nixon, et al regarding their power to make decisions to go to war, even deploying nuclear weapons.

In 2019-20, Pres. Trump could make the decision to use nuclear weapons without consulting Congress. Yes, in 2019 with Pres. Trump’s personality defects, his politics, and lack of interest in who might die, who he personally wants to kill, or what happens to the climate, we are facing a very dangerous period for any one person or President, to possibly make the decision to use nuclear weapons.

The last time Congress made the decision to declare war was against Japan on Dec. 8, 1941. Since then, the United States has only issued five other war declarations: against Germany and Italy (on December 11, 1941) and against Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania (on June 4, 1942). Countries that have nuclear weapons include, China, India, Pakistan, UK, France, No. Korea, U.S., Russia, Israel (not declared). Whether they are called democracies or something else, it is likely that their leaders will make solo decisions on the use of nuclear weapons.

U.S. military drones are used at the will of the President in consultation with the CIA so that they are not included in a state of undeclared war. The people targeted by a drone commander receive no warning and thousands of civilians have been killed by U.S. drones. Those in the U.S. military who control the drones and decide on targets, sit at computers thousands of miles away. They suffer the psychological damage of being the deciders. Ralph Nader recently said, “… you [can’t] keep allowing presidents to run away with illegal presidential power, decide they can send drones, armed drones, special forces anywhere, killing anybody in the world, becoming in the White House their own prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner… ”(2019).

And yet the U.S. will continue to build new and more powerful weapons, i.e. 12 new Ohio-class Trident submarines, each armed with 16 nuclear-armed D5 missiles with the explosive power equivalent to 1,825 Hiroshimas. The total cost of building 12 new Tridents will be $100.2 billion dollars. Who decides to build them? The defense industry and the Pentagon. Again, not a specific decision of Congress, though they approve the defense budget, and they will not decide when and where Trident missiles will be fired. THE TRIDENT STORY today…..

In Brunswick, GA on October 24th, the King’s Bay Plowshares 7 were found guilty on four counts in a jury trial. They committed acts of civil disobedience in attempting to symbolically dismantle a Trident submarine, of which there are six stationed at Kings Bay Naval Station in GA. They could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. They sacrificed their freedom to bring to our attention the destructive power of a nuclear-armed Trident submarine, the most powerful weapon on the planet, and in the U.S. arsenal. The nuclear missiles from one Trident submarine could obliterate any nation on earth. Each missile can travel 1370 miles in 15 minutes.

What would a democratic decision look like for the U.S., militarily the most heavily armed country on the planet? What would a vote to say that for our survival, we must resist starting more wars, and not settle for “never-ending” wars. Whether or not we call our system a “monarchy” it functions like one, to our peril, particularly in regards to warmaking and the control of nuclear weapons.

The UN will be holding meetings in 2020 to reconsider the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which entails a major decision for nations holding weapons and those who might be targeted by them. Pres. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the Treaty. Presently, there is no official Supreme Court ruling on whether the President has the power to break a treaty without the approval of Congress. The courts declined to interfere when President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the United States from the ABM Treaty in 2002.

In summation, we must pay attention to decisions to go to war made by U.S. Presidents without the officially required approval of Congress, as stated in the Constitution. Otherwise we are living in a “monarchy”, one-person rule.

At the risk of being naive, I recall this song and I think of “the people” deciding on war including, nuclear attacks… “Last night I had the strangest dream….I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war……And the people in the streets below were dancing round & round while swords and guns and uniforms were scattered on the ground.” ~ Ed McCurdy, 1950

Bolivia in Crisis! Another Military Coup in Latin America

by Henry Lowendorf, GNH Peace Council

US-supported rightwing fanatics just orchestrated a military coup against the constitutional government of Bolivia headed by Evo Morales. We must view this coup as one in a long train of US-engineered coups in Bolivia, throughout Latin America and the world.

Bolivian voters on Oct. 20 gave President Evo Morales a substantial plurality, 47.1% of the vote, enough to forestall a runoff, but the opposition refused to accept the results. Rightwing opposition gangs torched the homes of Morales and other government leaders, destroyed government buildings, assaulted a socialist female mayor. Then military generals demanded Morales step down. He and some other leaders fled to Mexico, others took refuge in the Mexican embassy.

“Bolivian coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho [can be described] as a far-right multi-millionaire who arose from fascist movements in the [largely white, affluent fossil-fuel rich] Santa Cruz region, where the US has encouraged separatism.”

“Bolivia’s self-proclaimed president Jeanine Áñez Chavez is on records as having said, ‘I dream of a Bolivia free of satanic indigenous rites. The city is not for Indians; let them go back to the highlands or the Chaco.’ Apart from everything, this was a racist coup.” President Trump immediately recognized Chavez.

WHY DID THIS COUP OCCUR NOW?

Bolivia has been one of the poorest countries in South America. The election in 2006 of Evo Morales began to change that. His government is of course not above criticism. But the military deposed him without a doubt at the instigation of the US 1%, not because of his failures but because of his successes.

Morales is the first indigenous leader of Bolivia – indeed any American state – a country whose majority is indigenous. Since Morales’ first victory in 2006

  • “…Poverty plummeted from a boggling 60% to 35% by 2018, with those in extreme poverty declining from nearly 38% to 15% in the same period.”
  • “Bolivia has seen per capita income increase threefold and has rapidly transitioned from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country in the eyes of the World Bank. Inflation and the exchange rate have remained exceptionally stable. And all the while, Bolivian levels of inequality went from well above the Latin American average to well below it.”
  • “Redistributed [land] to landless peasants. He placed the natural gas, oil, telecommunications and electricity industries under state control. And he continually raised the minimum wage, which has tripled since he entered office.”
  • “Dramatically increased social spending. He poured money into building roads, schools, and hospitals, an expansion of infrastructure that was particularly transformative in the countryside.”
  • Bolivia contains the world’s largest reserves of the mineral lithium that is used in electronics and batteries. Morales nationalized Bolivia’s incredibly valuable lithium deposits. The rich despise the idea that the vast expected income from sales of lithium would under Morales be fairly distributed to benefit all Bolivians.
  • The corporate media have, as always, described this coup according to the perspective of the billionaires.
  • President Donald Trump has threatened Venezuela and Nicaragua with similar coups.

RESISTANCE:

“Huge demonstrations in el Alto, La Paz [the capital], Cochabamba and other places, thousands and thousands of indigenous people in the streets proudly displaying the Wiphala [checkered rainbow flag]. Some police and military appear to have disobeyed their officers and joined the pro-Evo demonstrations.

The self-proclaimed President Jeanine Áñez Chavez has legalized free-fire zones and military forces have been shooting demonstrators from bridges and helicopters.

“The Bolivian congress, in which Evo’s MAS party has a two-thirds majority, is refusing to recognize the coup government. [It has] chosen one of [its] own to head the Congress.”

Trade union leaders internationally, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, have denounced the coup and the military’s role. They urge an end to political repression and violence. Political leaders Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK have denounced the coup. Too many others, including our own Congressional representatives, are silent.

ACTION:

  • Hands Off Bolivia; Hands Off Venezuela; Hands Off Nicaragua; Hands Off Cuba; No Sanctions, No Wars.
  • Letters to the Editor or Op-eds.
  • Utilize social media to call for the coup to be reversed and Morales safely reinstalled.
  • Call Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro: Condemn the coup, begin an investigation into the US role: (202) 224-3121.

References: The Nation; The Grayzone; The Tricontinental; The People’s World; Fair.org. For exact issues and websites, please contact the author at gnhpeacecouncil@gmail.com.

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