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Peace and War: Supporting the Troops, Part 22

by Rusty Nelson Monday, May 15, 2017 | 6:18pm | Comment on this

Peace and War, March 2017

Supporting the Troops, Part 22

If you were asked for a practical solution to end war, where would you begin? If you had a solution to one of the most troubling problems of 21st Century America, how would you bring it to the attention of an authority with the resources and connections to implement it?

For me, with decades of involvement in PJALS and Veterans for Peace, these questions are not simple, overwhelming or rhetorical. In fact, I’m planning to burden you with some of the answers and ask for your help in finding more answers and more action.

Consider the “Marines United” scandal. Many of the Marines and former Marines involved in this boys-will-be-boys mass cyber-rape are undoubtedly among the loudest and most enthusiastic supporters of “the troops.” A few ring-leaders have lost government-related jobs, but it’s likely that a military investigation will fail to make anyone understand what the exposed women face as they try to recover from a profound and public humiliation. After all, why would a public accustomed to the horrors of war, and casual attitudes about objectification of women be outraged by these macho pranks? One could hardly expect our Commander-in-Chief to find anything wrong with war-weary Marines having a little locker room fun.

A recent New York Times commentary suggested having men and women Marines go through boot camp together would mitigate this flap, but that ignores the fact that more men than women are sexually assaulted in the military. Besides, boot camp is the first official time for military recruits to be totally stripped of dignity and dehumanized in order that they will follow instructions and commit acts outside previous moral boundaries. For most veterans, boot camp was the first injection of the Traumatic Stress virus.

Any genuine investigation of “Marines United” will uncover a multitude of problems for any apologist for the U.S. military establishment. Most distressing will be connectors to the worst nightmares of the dedicated flag-waver: Rape, known euphemistically as Military Sexual Trauma; Suicide, and; Post Traumatic Stress…disorder is officially added to this term to postpone the widespread understanding that PTS is not a disorder, at all. It is an injury that may be incurred by a civilian of any age or class through accident, natural disaster, or domestic violence, but is certain to be inflicted in military training and/or combat.

These problems are ours. They affect us as a nation and as individuals, whether or not we ever isolate or identify them as concerns of politics, security, health care, or economics. It’s not surprising that we observe, even study, some of these problems without recognizing them as such. Most Americans fail to recognize executions as murder, or counter-terrorism as terrorism. We have been taught to see the actions of our own government as benign, at worst, and the actions of our designated enemies as threatening, at best. This is a major building block of the scourge of PTS.

On behalf of Spokane Veterans for Peace, I invite you to join us in making five demands for supporting the troops and securing the future of our country and its people by reforming key elements of our military culture. Larry Shook, one of our own members, has helped us understand the challenge faced by our country and by those who suffer with moral wounds from military sources. His research, his work as an investigative reporter, and his personal struggle over the past half-century have helped him envision a way forward to benefit everyone:

  1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) policy of treatment must be reformed in terms of reporting and benefits given to victims.
  2. Military Sexual Trauma (MST) policy must be reformed in terms of reporting and benefits given to victims.
  3. Reported PTSD and MST must be replied to and ruled upon within 30 days.
  4. Upon exit from the military, all personnel must be trained for the return to civilian life and considered for lifelong support.
  5. The draft or conscription must be reinstated and reformed to include all American citizens. Drafted persons holding positions of pacifism or forms of conscientious objection must be given non-combat options within the military.

Some of us have reservations about reinstating the draft, specific ideas for integrating differently-abled, voiceless, and privileged recruits, and caveats about lifelong support. However, we affirm this list as a profound and achievable improvement for a country muscle-bound by its military spending and clueless about real national strength. And I can confide in PJALS people that we fully intend to undermine public, political, and corporate support for war, the primary contributor to most of the world’s ills. (Larry and I have both written about other ways to end our country’s dependence upon war as its default foreign policy.)

Not surprisingly, this plan has been dismissed by Sen. Patty Murray. Almost any member of Congress would find it difficult to comprehend this as something to make our country safer and stronger. Elected officials universally declare their unwavering support for military members and veterans of U.S. armed forces, but when faced with changing violent, sexist, and racist government cultures, or even saving hundreds of millions of dollars, they follow the military dictum, CYA. That doesn’t mean, “Cover Your Allies.”

We are making our demands public to gain attention and respect from status quo lovers in Congress, the VA and Defense Department. Here’s where you come in. Help us mount a compelling social media campaign. Mary Kay McCollum, an emerging voice in this struggle whom you may know from our workshop at PEJAC, will be blogging on her story of MST and stories from other victims and survivors. VFP will have other reports and commentaries to spread. We need your suggestions for placement and correspondence, as well as your messages to our congressional delegation and contacts with their own stories about being set up for failure by the military juggernaut.

You may be ready to act, or you may wish to gather more information or start reading Mary Kay’s blog. Alert! Do not read her blog if you wish to maintain the popular, sanitized image of a U.S. military lovingly staffed by self-sacrificing heroes who have no personal ambition beyond the protection of our diverse and grateful population and carrying out the wishes of our flawless government. Otherwise, feel free to ask any member of Spokane VFP. We have a one-page rationale for the five reforms, resources for a closer look at policies and practices on PTSD and MST, and articles and books we think everyone touched by PTSD should read.

Spokane VFP #035 is a small group, but we cannot afford to think small. We are no longer willing to kill or injure anyone, but we are fighting for our lives and for others who don’t know, yet, what hit them. Most of us support PJALS and other social justice organizations and insist upon having a good time, even if we are saving the world. Find us at spokaneveteransforpeace.org or on facebook at SpokaneVeteransForPeace#35.

Besides this project and preparing to release our second book, Vet Lit 2: So It Goes, around Memorial Day, we are trying to attract new people, veteran and associate members.  We just barely avoid the spectre of being a bunch of old white men, but we’re grateful for members of every demographic, whether they show up every time or faithfully support our efforts from home.  Membership is through www.veteransforpeace.org, headquartered in St. Louis.   – RN


Remembering 13 Years of War in Iraq

by Maddie Tappa, PJALS intern Friday, Apr 1, 2016 | 10:10am | Comment on this

resistance of the heart against business as usualThis month marks the 13th year of war, occupation, death, and fear in Iraq. Yesterday we held a rally to commemorate this unfortunate anniversary, with the theme being, “resistance of the heart against business as usual.” As a 21-year-old college student, this theme resonates especially strongly for me. Over half of my life has been spent fighting this war. In fact, I can hardly remember a time when America hasn’t been in war – and that is not how it should be. Our young people should grow up knowing peace and understanding, instead of assuming that war and violence is just “business as usual.” It was a sobering occasion as we listened to speeches calling for action and powerful poems against violence, sang a song of dissent, and let up a dove-shaped balloon for every year of war. As we watched each of the 13 balloons float up into the sky, the number of deaths each year was read aloud. The mood of the event can best be summarized with the lyrics of the song that we chanted together: “We’re gonna rise with the tides of freedom. Truth is the rock that will break our chains. We will stop the powers of destruction. Healing is the fire running through our veins.”


Truth in Recruitment and Militarism Awareness Workshop

by Jessica Silva Friday, Mar 4, 2016 | 6:18pm | Comment on this

 

Truth in Recruitment and Awareness WorkshopDuring the annual Peace and Economic Justice Action Conference; Jessica and Monce held a workshop about Truth in Recruitment and Militarism Awareness. The objectives of this workshop were too identify a shared definition of militarism and its impacts around the world, identify ways to talk about Truth in Recruitment with high school students and identify ways that the community can get involve with PJALS’ work on this topics.  The audience consisted of twelve people in which the majority were Veterans and educators. With the help of George Taylor from Veterans for Peace Spokane the facilitators gave information on the targeted populations for enlistees, lies that recruiters tell, statistics on life after the military. The audience were engage at all time; participating in the group discussions and asking questions. The most important thing that I take from this workshop was the information given by the audience as a facilitator it was powerful to see that this group of people seek peace and unity.


Our priority areas for 2016-17

by pjals Friday, Nov 27, 2015 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

As determined by our member priority survey responses and our Steering Committee!

  1.  A Just Society: Smart Justice and Police Accountability
  2. Peace: Truth in Recruitment, Consciousness-Raising about Militarism, and Mobilizing against War!
  3. Human Rights Community Organizing: Building collective power with targeted communities.
  4. Ending the Death Penalty in Washington as our top legislative priority.

Exposing & transforming systems of violence & oppression to create beloved community and build a just and nonviolent world.

 


We stood strong: “Invest in People –Not the Pentagon!”

by pjals Thursday, May 28, 2015 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

Global Day of Action on Military Spending, Spokane

A dedicated team of PJALS members gathered on Tax Day to make our values visible:

When we spend more than half of our federal budget on the Pentagon, it doesn’t make us more secure. Let’s stop pouring money into defense contracting, and look for comprehensive solutions that address the root causes of conflict. Our security requires investment in education, good jobs, infrastructure, nutrition, health care, affordable housing and other services that provide economic security to our families and a brighter future for our children.


Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: Trying to Support the Troops

by pjals Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: Trying to Support the Troops

               It must have been several years ago because the signs we held said “Free Bradley Manning,” and we Vets for Peace didn’t have to defend Chelsea Manning’s transgender rights while bringing attention to the persecuted, military whistle-blower Americans were trying to ignore. At an event in Riverfront Park, I was approached by two burly young men who said they were active duty military and considered Manning to be a traitor. They thought the army intelligence analyst’s reporting a massacre by U.S. helicopter crews was insignificant compared to the release of other classified information to Wikileaks. At least they knew something about the case. But then, they issued a challenge they might like to have back, now. “If you want to do something for an American soldier, put our government to work to free Beau Bergdahl.”

How things change. Private Manning, known now as Chelsea, is serving a 45-year prison sentence while the soldiers she reported remain uncharged and unpunished. Sgt. Beau Bergdahl is back in the U.S. after a controversial hostage/prisoner exchange, awaiting a decision on whether he will be charged with a crime. The story is different from the one several years ago, and several men from his unit want to see Bergdahl punished for being a deserter and putting them at risk. Read more »


Warrior Songs Spokane hosts retreat and “A Public Listening”

by pjals Friday, Sep 19, 2014 | 11:11am | Comment on this

There are so many unacceptable costs of war from human life to the “demonic destructive suction tube” draining resources from our federal budget. While we continue to oppose each and every act of war, let us not also tell the truth about the costs incurred by veterans, their families, and our communities resulting from these acts. Please spread the word about this great healing opportunity for veterans with PTSD to anyone you know who may benefit from it. There is also a public event on Saturday Nov 22 for community members to learn more and show support.

Warrior Songs Spokane:
A healing retreat for veterans with PTSD

November 19-23, 2014 Read more »


Director’s reflection: How to build peace

by pjals Friday, Aug 29, 2014 | 11:11am | Comment on this

This spring, as we sat down with our 2013-2014 community organizing interns to talk about their experience with us, we realized that somehow none of them had led chants into a bullhorn, none of them had held banners while we marched, none of them had managed sign-in at a rally. We were shocked when we realized we hadn’t held a major march or rally since our rapid response in September which was part of the successful national push-back against US war on Syria.

Stop the Spiral of Violence: End these Endless Wars

Stop the Spiral of Violence: End these Endless Wars

This summer has looked far different! Starting with a Global Day Against Military Spending action, we’ve mobilized in April rain, May sun, June heat, July 4th weekend traffic, and late July wildfire smoke for actions calling to “End the Spiral of Violence: End these Endless Wars” with a focus on opposing increased US military presence in Iraq, extending our occupation of Afghanistan into 2016, and US-funded military attacks on Gaza.

Repeatedly as we get ready to mobilize, I look for the writings of thought-leaders and opinion-makers on what to call for instead of the latest proposal to bomb. This is especially necessary because the pro-war extremists have been pretty consistent about adding a humanitarian talking point to their list of reasons war is the answer, and that talking point is effective. Read more »