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Write, Tinker, Abolish

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War

By the time I wrote my first editorial about the death penalty, Nancy had produced several articles, including a commentary in the Spokesman Review, but Washington had not yet killed Dodd and Campbell. Lethal injection was catching on, but Nevada had resumed executions with a firing squad, Florida electrocuted a man whose crime would have been self-defense if he had not been gay, and Washington was dusting off its gallows. If I had been better organized and more careful, I could compile a book from our experiences, observations and opinions on state killings. And I have a lot more to say. More than I’ll try to cram into this space.

To paraphrase Einstein, everything’s changed about executions in the U.S. but the way we think about them. Two recent developments should affect the way Americans think about capital punishment, but thinking doesn’t change easily. Read more »


Commemoration of What?

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 10:22pm | 3 comments

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War 

Veterans for Peace is such a tonic for me that it seems almost unthinkable there could be sharp divisions among its members and chapters. I remember the thrill of solidarity at the national convention in Seattle a few years ago and affirmation from Spokane vets who attended subsequent conventions. I loved being with Western Washington members last November in Auburn, and in Tacoma in February, not to mention planning, laughing, and solving global problems with our local members.

What disharmony could exist among veterans who agree that war should be abolished as our default foreign policy and that our leaders should be accountable for the devastating costs of war? Alright. That’s a silly question for anyone who’s spent years working in peace and justice organizations.  Peace mongers come in all imaginable types. In fact, it was reassuring to hear VFP leaders talk, at our Tacoma conference, about recent internal squabbles, because they involve disagreements which allow for constructive discourse and encourage independent points of view.

As one who joined VFP about the time I started working for PJALS, I was not drawn to the regional conference to be enlightened by workshops, but to be part of the community-building for our chapter as well as among state-wide chapters. Feeling some success in that, I was caught off guard by one workshop: “Vietnam Commemoration.” Read more »


Over the counter

Monday, Nov 25, 2013 | 12:12pm | 2 comments

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War 

May Americans with some degree of accountability or any inclination for peace please agree to stop pretending that counter-terrorism is something other than terrorism?

It seems to me that the land of the free and the home of the brave used to be a little more squeamish about openly discussing our intentions to terrorize populations in other parts of the world. Today, anyone we want to call a terrorist is considered fair game for murder or torture by our counter-terrorists, and if we kill a few too many bystanders who happen to be elderly, pre-adolescent, and/or female, well, they could hardly have been less than potential terrorists. “Collateral damage” is a specious term and so last war. And if we can’t nail them as terrorists, they must be, at least, insurgents. This is all said or thought, not out of freedom or courage, but out of debilitating fear. Read more »


The Unknown Peace Pact

Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War

Why is it that we – humans, Americans, patriots, progressives, veterans, educators and educated, thinkers and doers – have never been able to get violence out of our system? This question screamed at me, again, as I pondered the unlikely existence of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed by most of the world’s nations in 1928. Read more »


Fretting about Fairchild …and other chronic ills

Friday, Jun 21, 2013 | 10:10am | 3 comments

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War

Long ago, in a time of relative innocence and prosperity, the people of the Spokane area hitched themselves to the star of the U.S. Air Force. It didn’t take much reflection or study, just a simple faith that our country and it’s military establishment had always been noble and right and would never betray our confidence that Fairchild Air Force Base would make us all safer, prouder, and wealthier.

As the USAF celebrates 65 years, many of us have been cynical for a long time, especially we who have done horrible things under military orders and then watched as our safety, pride and wealth are stripped from people and bestowed upon corporations. In spite of hard numbers and unresolved superfund sites, we are expected to believe that Fairchild is the best thing that ever happened to our area’s economy. Read more »


Yelling “Fire!” In A Crowded Bill of Rights

Wednesday, Mar 6, 2013 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War

Cassandra, in ancient Greek stories, has become a more and more compelling character to me as I’ve observed the politics of institutional violence. What curse could frustrate you more than being able to see the future clearly while every other mind is completely closed to any warning or constructive comment you might offer? Watching epic, human-driven disasters unfold was much less painful before I realized two essential facts: The violence residing within me is part of the problem, and there is always an alternative to violence.

Our national conversation is full of presumptions that immutable conflicts emerge from the blue, with no way to anticipate or prevent them. What a waste of talk. Read more »


What I wanted to say…

Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012 | 2:14pm | One comment.

Rusty Nelson“If corporate interests cared about ‘creating’ jobs in the U.S., NAFTA and subsequent greased skids for ‘Made in the USA’ would be dismantled, and Americans would be building solar and wind power components for global energy needs.”

Rusty Nelson on Peace and War

It’s exciting to watch PJALS cram meaningful meetings, public events, and activist opportunities into your monthly schedule.  It reminds me that, halfway through our tenure at PJALS, Nancy and I realized Spokane had undergone drastic changes regarding things to do, places to be, and live and interactive education and information.  These days, of course, I have options. Sometimes, I feel free to simply stay home or even be detached about significant issues.  But there are times I miss the action, being in the trenches or on the street.

One week in December, there were two opportunities I couldn’t resist.  Read more »


November is for SOAW

Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012 | 10:22pm | Comment on this

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War

Remember School of the Americas? School of Assassins? Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation? Some of us will never forget our experiences at Ft. Benning or the U.S.-sponsored atrocities that made us passionate about being there, but we might forget our country still maintains a facility to perpetuate terror against impoverished Latin Americans who dare to act, or even speak, against their own oppression.

SOA Watch

Perhaps you get emails from SOA Watch and know that thousands of opponents of our anachronistic U.S. policy on Latin America gather each November to observe the grim anniversary of the massacre at the University of Central America and try to shame our military into eliminating our own haven for state terrorism.You may know our tax dollars pay for this institution of human misery which has few enemies in Congress and a ‘wall of honor’ for many of our hemisphere’s worst abusers of human rights. Read more »


Rusty on Peace and War: Earning Stripes and PSE

Thursday, Aug 30, 2012 | 3:15pm | One comment.

Rusty NelsonBy Rusty Nelson

How’s your patriotic self esteem (PSE)? I usually do pretty well with that, considering that some observers long ago decided I deserved an especially warm spot in their version of Dante’s Inferno for being (choose one, according to political trends in the Inland Northwest) a traitor, an America-hater, a liberal, a socialist, a godless communist.

One thing I’ve retained as I lost more and more enthusiasm for nationalistic murder and mayhem is a great fondness for the Olympic Games, and now that is interfering with my PSE. Nancy and I watched lots of track and field, gymnastics and swimming, tolerated parts of the infinite matches and promotions of beach volleyball while catching glimpses of other sports. We often root for American teams and individuals, but we have a problem with some announcers and athletes who seem to feel that silver or bronze is for losers. Read more »


Snapshots from the Ruins

Thursday, Jun 28, 2012 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

Rusty Nelson on Peace and War

Rusty NelsonAfter weeks of gawking at genuine antiquities, I returned to my native state and spent a few hours looking at an archive of 20th Century Georgia history. I don’t know whether the contrast or the similarity is more striking.

A massive, new Richard Russell Building for special collections of the University of Georgia libraries holds papers and records from most of Georgia’s significant politicians and political characters from the past century. Far above files for serious researchers, political campaigns and policy struggles involving Georgians are in interactive venues down the hall from a museum of the Peabody Awards, presented for excellence in electronic media by the university since 1940.

As a nephew of the late Senator Russell, a former gopher and receptionist in his office, and a radio news reporter during the administrations of Governors Lester Maddox and Jimmy Carter, I find this library to be part candy store. Read more »