The Golden Rule Sails Again
The 30th Anniversary Veterans For Peace Convention came to San Diego August 5—9, along with the newly rebuilt Peace Boat, the Golden Rule. The convention wrapped around the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9). The Golden Rule, a 30’ sailing ketch, was originally crewed by four Quakers in 1958, with a mission of sailing toward the Marshall Islands to challenge the US atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. The boat never made the Marshalls. Its crew was arrested in Honolulu. But the voyage generated sufficient interest to inspire other peace boats to challenge the madness of nuclear weapons. Greenpeace was a direct descendent of the Golden Rule.
The boat was discovered wrecked and sunken in Humboldt Bay, California five years ago, and painstakingly rebuilt by Veterans For Peace (VFP). The 800 miles from Humboldt Bay to San Diego was the maiden voyage of the new Golden Rule. The last surviving original crew member, Orion Sherwood was on hand to greet the Golden Rule’s dramatic entrance into San Diego Harbor on August 3rd.
The convention was hosted by the Hugh Thompson Memorial Chapter of VFP in San Diego. Thompson (1943--2006) was the helicopter pilot who rescued Vietnamese villagers at My Lai from the US slaughter of old men, women and children in 1968. The My Lai Massacre was exposed by investigative journalist Seymour Hersch in 1969, and it was fitting that Sy Hersch was the keynote speaker for the traditional Saturday night banquet. It was also fitting that US Vietnam vet Chuck Searcy was recognized for his service over the last 20 years, working with Vietnamese colleagues on Project RENEW (Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of War) in their efforts to remediate unexploded ordnance in Quang Tri Province. Quang Tri was the most heavily bombed province in Vietnam, a nation that saw the USA drop 19 million gallons of Agent Orange and 15 million tons of bombs, of which an estimated 800,000 tons remain as unexploded ordnance. This UXO has turned farmers’ fields and children’s playgrounds into killing fields even 40 years after the last US troops left the country.
In keeping with the convention theme: “Peace and Reconciliation in the Pacific,” several Japanese and Vietnamese artists and dignitaries helped preside over convention events. We also had representatives from Australia and Okinawa, where we are building chapters of VFP to join our international contingent of chapters in Vietnam, Korea, Britain, Ireland and Mexico. During the course of our convention, we chartered a new chapter in Tijuana, Mexico, where there is a house of refuge for deported Hispanic veterans. The US Government offers a fast track to citizenship for foreign nationals willing to serve in Uncle Sam’s military, but then finds reasons to deport many of them in order to avoid responsibility to pay out more veterans’ benefits. In a similar vein, the fact that we make beggars out of many disabled vets may account for the tragedy of 22 vets taking their own lives every day!
Yet the US government finds $10 million in military aid to send to Israel every day! Miko Peled, a veteran Israeli Defense Force (IDF) paratrooper addressed the convention on the theme “Beyond Zionism,” which he also describes in his book “The General’s Son; An Israeli in Palestine.” I first met Miko at the Lake Junaluska Peace Conference in 2012. He later had a speaking tour in the NC Triangle. Miko’s father, Matti Peled, had been a prominent Israeli general during the 1967 war that saw the Israelis capture Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the entire Sinai Peninsula. After the war, General Peled counseled Americans NOT to provide unending military aid to Israel, because doing so would eliminate any incentive whatsoever for Israel to make peace with Palestinians, and withdraw from the occupied territories.
Miko’s nephew, Elik Elhanan, another veteran of the IDF, was one of the founders of Combatants for Peace, former IDF and Palestinian fighters seeking nonviolent solutions to conflict. Combatants for Peace is one of those miracles that somehow never find their way into our popular news stories. It would upset too many stereotypes of intractable conflict that justify $10 million/day in US military aid to Israel, and $2 billion/day in US defense (sic) spending . The profiteers don’t want to hear about Palestinians and Israelis making peace. They prefer a different narrative. Miko and Elik are hopeful that a concerted global BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) of Israel will produce the same result that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa. Eventually, they trust, there will be a nation, Israel/Palestine, that will respect the rights of all residents, not just Jews.
The fall of apartheid in South Africa corresponded with the dismantling of that country’s nuclear weapons program. The end of Israel’s apartheid Zionist regime will be an opportunity to dismantle Israel’s nuclear weapons as well. The same applies to the other eight known nuclear powers, Russia, China, North Korea, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, and the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons against civilian populations, the USA.
US Army Reserve Colonel (ret) Ann Wright, the highest ranking of three US diplomats who resigned from the State Department in 2003 in protest of the US invasion of Iraq, recounted her extraordinary journey with 30 other women peace activists from North to South Korea in May. This was a plea to end the Korean War and reunify the country and families that have been separated for over 60 years. The US maintains 28,500 military personnel in Korea. Military exercises regularly bring an additional 30,000 military personnel to engage in live fire and simulated nuclear attacks on North Korea. This intimidation concerns the North, and its paranoia is understandable. But there are more peace activists in jail in supposedly “free” South Korea than in the north.
The reunification of Germany was addressed by Ray McGovern, US Army and CIA veteran who gave daily national security briefs to presidents Ford, Reagan and G. H. W. Bush. When Bush Sr. approached USSR Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev about the reunification of Germany, Mr. Bush’s entreaty came with a caveat that, if the USSR would agree to German reunification, NATO would not advance ONE INCH toward Moscow. Unfortunately for Mr. Gorbachev and subsequent Soviet and Russian leaders, the US betrayed that promise and began an encirclement of Russia, with missile defense (sic) stations in a noose around Moscow.
McGovern elaborated on the notion of the USA being the so-called “Indispensable Nation,” the implication being, according to this American Exceptional delusion, that all other nations are dispensable. A prime example of this arrogance was the assistant US ambassador to Europe, Victoria Nuland, who bragged about spending $5 billion to pry the Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence. When push came to shove, Ambassador Nuland remarked “F**k the European Union!” That’s how “indispensable” works. When you are indispensable, everyone else becomes dispensable. The Latin nations eventually got fed up with being dispensable, and are fighting back with their own genuinely democratic movements.
Other discussions included the need to stop the US from flooding the world, especially the Middle East, with weapons, and supporting the proposed treaty with Iran. The Iran treaty is supported by military, diplomatic and scientific circles worldwide, especially in the US and Israel. The only voices opposed to the Iran treaty are the same voices that brought you the cakewalk in Iraq. The “cakewalk” for any Rip Van Winkles out there, witnessed the death of thousands of US servicemen and women, wounded and maimed tens of thousands more; hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, and millions driven from their homes, and turned the entire region into a cauldron of sectarian violence. Ann Wright recounted in “Dissent: Voices of Conscience,” the stories of government insiders who risked their careers, reputations, and their freedom to challenge the official deceptions that led to the invasion of Iraq. The architects of the estimated $3 trillion Iraq War are the same voices calling to reject the treaty with Iran. The war advocates are powerful. They need to be restrained by “We the People!”
We had 10 North Carolinians in San Diego, from the Eisenhower Chapter in the Triangle and Chapter 099 in western NC that hosted the 2014 Convention in Asheville. Sam Winstead was invited to speak at our Saturday banquet, representing WW II vets and Sam’s Ride for Peace. Sam launched his Ride in 2012, and in 2013 addressed 2,600 delegates from 56 nations for the Rotary International Peace Forum in Hiroshima, Japan. This May16 he finished his 4th bicycle Ride for Peace from Raleigh to Washington DC. This year he had 57 fellow riders, and invitations to bring the ride to Japan and Russia. Sam turned 90 years old on May 22. As he opened his remarks to the VFP convention, he recounted that his family took him out to dinner for his birthday. Sam told his waitress she would earn an extra $5 on her tip if she could guess his age within 5 years. When she said “67,” Sam said “That’s close enough.” She earned her extra $5.
Former VFP president Leah Bolger led a workshop on a new initiative, World Beyond War, working to overcome the widespread belief that war is inevitable, and a permanent fixture of our age. But war is always a choice, a bad choice that makes the next series of wars more likely, and only rewards the war profiteers. We can stop this war machine if we are determined enough.
There were many serious issues discussed in San Diego, but for all the seriousness, the dominant feeling for this participant was immense joy, to once again, be in the company of veteran peacemakers.
References: http://www.vfpgoldenruleproject.org; www.veteransforpeace.org; www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org; www.worldbeyondwar.org; www.landmines.org;
Submitted by John Heuer 8/16/15