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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


Our priority areas for 2016-17

by pjals Thursday, Sep 15, 2016 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

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

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

Exposing & transforming systems of violence & oppression to create beloved community.


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.


Truth in Recruitment and Militarism Awareness

by pjals Wednesday, Feb 24, 2016 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

by Jessica Silva

On February 4, 2016 the pre re-launch meeting was held in the lobby of the Community Building; concerned people came and expressed what they wish people knew about the military. What stood out to me was that everyone agreed that militarism and war are causing terror among countries and most of the people being affected by war are innocent people. The meeting also discussed ways PJALS members can get involved in creating militarism awareness among young people. We want adolescents to know before enlisting that there are other alternatives to joining the military and that before enlisting they should understand the pros and cons of militarism. During the Annual Peace and Economic Justice Conference, Jessica and Monce, interns at PJALS, will be offering a workshop on What is militarism and how does the ideology of militarism impact our world and our communities? During the month of March PJALS will be hosting a rally remembering the 13 years of war in Iraq.  Mark your calendars and come out and support the PJALS rally on March 31 (location TBA) 2016 and to the conference on February  27.


PJALS Receives Fellowship of Reconciliation Local Hero Peace Award

by pjals Wednesday, Jan 27, 2016 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

PJALS received FOR’s Local Hero Award for outstanding service to the community in Nov. 2015 in New York City. The January issue of The Fig Tree features a story about long time PJALS member Mark Hamlin’s trip to NYC to accept the award on behalf of PJALS.

“As part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) in New York City in November, Mark Hamlin of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) was on hand to receive FOR’s Local Hero award for PJALS as one of its affiliates.

PJALS is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015-2016.

Mark not only gave an acceptance speech on the importance of PJALS work for peace and justice in the region, but also learned about FOR’s history at a centennial exhibit at Union Theological Seminary’s James Chapel.”


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.

 


A Time for Nostalgia

by pjals Tuesday, Nov 17, 2015 | 11:11am | Comment on this

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson: On Peace & War

There was never time for nostalgia, here, even when I wrote this column every month. Just as PJALS was so often derailed from local projects by global violence and the siren call of war, my plans for a 40th anniversary recollection have been curbed by horrible attacks in Paris. Curbed, but not cancelled.

Here’s what must be said in November, 2015: The established powers of the earth continue to prepare for the same war, thinking we’ve learned from every tragic human sacrifice offered in the names of peace, panic and greed. Now, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our outraged allies to prove we have not yet learned the lesson of the Trojan Horse, never mind Vietnam or Iraq. Read more »