Think Armistice Day

armistice_day_mudArmistice Day in Portland

Join Veterans For Peace Chapter 72 for Portland’s annual commemoration of Armistice Day, November 11, 2015 in Pioneer Courthouse Square in southwest Portland. Please bring a bell or a sign, and arrive by 11:00 a.m. At 11:11 everyone will chime bells in unison a total of 11 times. Then Veterans For Peace and other folks will have a chance to speak their peace, and to sing—music provided by members of Soldier Songs & Voices.

In anticipation of November 11th, we republish here an essay by David Swanson from the  World Beyond War blog.

 Armistice Day 97 Years On

By David Swanson

November 11 is Armistice Day / Remembrance Day. Events are being organized everywhere by Veterans For Peace, World Beyond War, Campaign Nonviolence, Stop the War Coalition, and others.

Ninety-seven years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the “war to end all wars.” People went on killing and dying right up until the pre-designated moment, impacting nothing other than our understanding of the stupidity of war.

Thirty million soldiers had been killed or wounded and another seven million had been taken captive during World War I. Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter, with tens of thousands falling in a day to machine guns and poison gas. After the war, more and more truth began to overtake the lies, but whether people still believed or now resented the pro-war propaganda, virtually every person in the United States wanted to see no more of war ever again. Posters of Jesus shooting at Germans were left behind as the churches along with everyone else now said that war was wrong. Al Jolson wrote in 1920 to President Harding:

“The weary world is waiting for
Peace forevermore
So take away the gun
From every mother’s son
And put an end to war.”

Believe it or not, November 11th was not made a holiday in order to celebrate war, support troops, or cheer the 15th year of occupying Afghanistan. This day was made a holiday in order to celebrate an armistice that ended what was up until that point, in 1918, one of the worst things our species had thus far done to itself, namely World War I.

World War I, then known simply as the world war or the great war, had been marketed as a war to end war. Celebrating its end was also understood as celebrating the end of all wars. A ten-year campaign was launched in 1918 that in 1928 created the Kellogg-Briand Pact, legally banning all wars. That treaty is still on the books, which is why war making is a criminal act and how Nazis came to be prosecuted for it.

“[O]n November 11, 1918, there ended the most unnecessary, the most financially exhausting, and the most terribly fatal of all the wars that the world has ever known. Twenty millions of men and women, in that war, were killed outright, or died later from wounds. The Spanish influenza, admittedly caused by the War and nothing else, killed, in various lands, one hundred million persons more.” — Thomas Hall Shastid, 1927.

According to pre-Bernie U.S. Socialist Victor Berger, all the United States had gained from participation in World War I was the flu and prohibition. It was not an uncommon view. Millions of Americans who had supported World War I came, during the years following its completion on November 11, 1918, to reject the idea that anything could ever be gained through warfare.

Sherwood Eddy, who coauthored “The Abolition of War” in 1924, wrote that he had been an early and enthusiastic supporter of U.S. entry into World War I and had abhorred pacifism. He had viewed the war as a religious crusade and had been reassured by the fact that the United States entered the war on a Good Friday. At the war front, as the battles raged, Eddy writes, “we told the soldiers that if they would win we would give them a new world.”

Eddy seems, in a typical manner, to have come to believe his own propaganda and to have resolved to make good on the promise. “But I can remember,” he writes, “that even during the war I began to be troubled by grave doubts and misgivings of conscience.” It took him 10 years to arrive at the position of complete Outlawry, that is to say, of wanting to legally outlaw all war. By 1924 Eddy believed that the campaign for Outlawry amounted, for him, to a noble and glorious cause worthy of sacrifice, or what U.S. philosopher William James had called “the moral equivalent of war.” Eddy now argued that war was “unchristian.” Many came to share that view who a decade earlier had believed Christianity required war. A major factor in this shift was direct experience with the hell of modern warfare, an experience captured for us by the British poet Wilfred Owen in these famous lines:

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The propaganda machinery invented by President Woodrow Wilson and his Committee on Public Information had drawn Americans into the war with exaggerated and fictional tales of German atrocities in Belgium, posters depicting Jesus Christ in khaki sighting down a gun barrel, and promises of selfless devotion to making the world safe for democracy. The extent of the casualties was hidden from the public as much as possible during the course of the war, but by the time it was over many had learned something of war’s reality. And many had come to resent the manipulation of noble emotions that had pulled an independent nation into overseas barbarity.

However, the propaganda that motivated the fighting was not immediately erased from people’s minds. A war to end wars and make the world safe for democracy cannot end without some lingering demand for peace and justice, or at least for something more valuable than the flu and prohibition. Even those rejecting the idea that the war could in any way help advance the cause of peace aligned with all those wanting to avoid all future wars — a group that probably encompassed most of the U.S. population.

As Wilson had talked up peace as the official reason for going to war, countless souls had taken him extremely seriously. “It is no exaggeration to say that where there had been relatively few peace schemes before the World War,” writes Robert Ferrell, “there now were hundreds and even thousands” in Europe and the United States. The decade following the war was a decade of searching for peace: “Peace echoed through so many sermons, speeches, and state papers that it drove itself into the consciousness of everyone. Never in world history was peace so great a desideratum, so much talked about, looked toward, and planned for, as in the decade after the 1918 Armistice.”

Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution calling for “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding … inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.” Later, Congress added that November 11th was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

While the ending of warfare was celebrated every November 11th, veterans were treated no better than they are today.  When 17,000 veterans plus their families and friends marched on Washington in 1932 to demand their bonuses, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and other heroes of the next big war to come attacked the veterans, including by engaging in that greatest of evils with which Saddam Hussein would be endlessly charged: “using chemical weapons on their own people.” The weapons they used, just like Hussein’s, originated in the U.S. of A.

It was only after another world war, an even worse world war, a world war that has in many ways never ended to this day, that Congress, following still another now forgotten war — this one on Korea — changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954. And it was six-and-a-half years later that Eisenhower warned us that the military industrial complex would completely corrupt our society. Veterans Day is no longer, for most people, a day to cheer the elimination of war or even to aspire to its abolition. Veterans Day is not even a day on which to mourn or to question why suicide is the top killer of U.S. troops or why so many veterans have no houses at all in a nation in which one high-tech robber baron monopolist is hoarding $66 billion, and 400 of his closest friends have more money than half the country.

It’s not even a day to honestly, if sadistically, celebrate the fact that virtually all the victims of U.S. wars are non-Americans, that our so-called wars have become one-sided slaughters. Instead, it is a day on which to believe that war is beautiful and good. Towns and cities and corporations and sports leagues call it “military appreciation day” or “troop appreciation week” or “genocide glorification month.” OK, I made up that last one. Just checking if you’re paying attention.

World War One’s environmental destruction is ongoing today. The development of new weapons for World War I, including chemical weapons, still kills today. World War I saw huge leaps forward in the art of propaganda still plagiarized today, huge setbacks in the struggle for economic justice, and a culture more militarized, more focused on stupid ideas like banning alcohol, and more ready to restrict civil liberties in the name of nationalism, and all for the bargain price, as one author calculated it at the time, of enough money to have given a $2,500 home with $1,000 worth of furniture and five acres of land to every family in Russia, most of the European nations, Canada, the United States, and Australia, plus enough to give every city of over 20,000 a $2 million library, a $3 million hospital, a $20 million college, and still enough left over to buy every piece of property in Germany and Belgium. And it was all legal. Incredibly stupid, but totally legal. Particular atrocities violated laws, but war was not criminal. It never had been, but it soon would be.

We shouldn’t excuse World War I on the grounds that nobody knew. It’s not as if wars have to be fought in order to learn each time that war is hell. It’s not as if each new type of weaponry suddenly makes war evil. It’s not as if war wasn’t already the worst thing every created. It’s not as if people didn’t say so, didn’t resist, didn’t propose alternatives, didn’t go to prison for their convictions.

In 1915, Jane Addams met with President Wilson and urged him to offer mediation to Europe. Wilson praised the peace terms drafted by a conference of women for peace held in the Hague. He received 10,000 telegrams from women asking him to act. Historians believe that had he acted in 1915 or early in 1916 he might very well have helped bring the Great War to an end under circumstances that would have furthered a far more durable peace than the one made eventually at Versailles. Wilson did act on the advice of Addams, and of his Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, but not until it was too late. By the time he acted, the Germans did not trust a mediator who had been aiding the British war effort. Wilson was left to campaign for reelection on a platform of peace and then quickly propagandize and plunge the United States into Europe’s war. And the number of progressives Wilson brought, at least briefly, to the side of loving war makes Obama look like an amateur.

The Outlawry Movement of the 1920s—the movement to outlaw war—sought to replace war with arbitration, by first banning war and then developing a code of international law and a court with the authority to settle disputes. The first step was taken in 1928 with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which banned all war. Today 81 nations are party to that treaty, including the United States, and many of them comply with it. I’d like to see additional nations, poorer nations that were left out of the treaty, join it (which they can do simply by stating that intention to the U.S. State Department) and then urge the greatest purveyor of violence in the world to comply.

I wrote a book about the movement that created that treaty, not just because we need to continue its work, but also because we can learn from its methods. Here was a movement that united people across the political spectrum, those for and against alcohol, those for and against the League of Nations, with a proposal to criminalize war. It was an uncomfortably large coalition. There were negotiations and peace pacts between rival factions of the peace movement. There was a moral case made that expected the best of people. War wasn’t opposed merely on economic grounds or because it might kill people from our own country. It was opposed as mass murder, as no less barbaric than duelling as a means of settling individuals’ disputes. Here was a movement with a long-term vision based on educating and organizing. There was an endless hurricane of lobbying, but no endorsing of politicians, no aligning of a movement behind a party. On the contrary, all four — yes, four — major parties were compelled to line up behind the movement. Instead of Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, the Republican National Convention of 1924 saw President Coolidge promising to outlaw war if reelected.

And on August 27, 1928, in Paris, France, that scene happened that made it into a 1950s folk song as a mighty room filled with men, and the papers they were signing said they’d never fight again. And it was men, women were outside protesting. And it was a pact among wealthy nations that nonetheless would continue making war on and colonizing the poor. But it was a pact for peace that ended wars and ended the acceptance of territorial gains made through wars, except in Palestine. It was a treaty that still required a body of law and an international court that we still do not have. But it was a treaty that in 87 years those wealthy nations would, in relation to each other, violate only once. Following World War II, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was used to prosecute victor’s justice. And the big armed nations never went to war with each other again, yet. And so, the pact is generally considered to have failed. Imagine if we banned bribery, and the next year threw Sheldon Adelson in prison, and nobody ever bribed again. Would we declare the law a failure, throw it out, and declare bribery henceforth legal as a matter of natural inevitability? Why should war be different? We can and must be rid of war, and therefore incidentally we can and must be rid of bribery, or — excuse me — campaign contributions.

Posted in Events and actions, Recommended reading | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Flags and cranes mark 70th anniversary of atomic bombings

Veterans For Peace Chapter 72 members — an impressive number given that some were away in San Diego attending the national VFP convention — once again turned out for the annual commemoration of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki held at the Japanese Historical Plaza on the Portland waterfront on the evening of Thursday, August 6, 2015. The theme of this year’s event, spearheaded by Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and cosponsored by many others  including VFP Chapter 72: “70 Years After Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Ever-Present Nuclear Threat.”

The Oregonian published an article describing origami artist Cathy Terry’s contribution of 1,000 large-sized paper cranes to the commemoration. Luckily, VFP72 member Rico Vicino was there and captured photos of the birds hanging from the Steel Bridge, plus chapter members marching across the bridge with VFP flags flying, as is our annual tradition.

«  »


Posted in Events and actions | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Please Come to Our Summer Fundraiser

Rovics_July25_FINALYou’re invited!

Saturday, July 25th, 2:00–5:00pm
at the Peace House
2116 NE 18th Avenue, Portland

This outdoor benefit for Veterans For Peace Portland Chapter 72 features food and drink, music, talk, and a silent auction. $10 admission (no one turned away).

Renowned folksinger-activist David Rovics will entertain along with a special musical guest from England.

Lloyd Marbet, a Vietnam veteran and expert on nuclear issues, will talk about what it means to be “Upside Falling Down.”

Click here to download flyer PDF.

Posted in Events and actions | Comments Off

Advice for those considering joining the military

Posted in Recommended reading | Tagged , | Comments Off

This Memorial Day, gather with Veterans For Peace

vfp flag against blue sky with drone

VFP flag waves against a backdrop of desert mountains and a far-off drone in blue sky. Taken at a March 2015 protest at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. Photo by Mike Hastie.

Veterans For Peace Chapter 72 invites you to join us on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2015 for a memorable gathering.

WE ASSEMBLE at 10:30 a.m. at the WWII Memorial Wall at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 300 N Winning Way in Portland, for a brief program.

Featured Speaker: Will Pool, World War II veteran
Music: Marianne Flemming, Soldier Songs and Voices

Participants will share remembrances of those who have died and read letters addressed to the The Wall (Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C.)

Following the ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, WE WALK to the Peace Memorial Park for a concluding program.

Featured Speaker: Angie Hines, post 9-11 veteran
Music: Marianne Flemming, Soldier Songs and Voices

For additional information, contact Marion Ward at 503-224-0097.

PLEASE NOTE: The WWII Memorial Wall is downstairs on the lower level of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. ADA access is available through main doors on main level. From there, take elevator to lower level. There is complimentary parking off of Interstate Avenue with ramp leading to main level.


Posted in Events and actions | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

HeroRats Save Lives

This April 18, 2015 New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof tells the story of Apopo’s HeroRat program. By sniffing out landmines and other unexploded ordnance in former war zones, clearance of these areas can be done more swiftly, and more safely. HeroRats save lives. VFP Chapter 72 has been the proud sponsor of a HeroRat for several years now, to the tune of $10 a month (or less). Currently we support a rat known as “Blossom.”


Posted in News | Tagged , | Comments Off

Veteran Artists featured at OCAC event


Veteran artists Drew Cameron, Jesse Albrecht, and Aaron Hughes are featured in an Artist Talk at the Oregon College of Art and Craft on Tuesday April 7th. The event takes place from 6:00 to 7:30pm in the Centrum at OCAC, which is located at 8245 SW Barnes Road, Portland, OR 97225.

A related special event: Saturday, April 11 from 7-10pm is the opening of Deconstructing the Divide: Conversations through Collaboration, a pop-up art show at Ash Street Projects, 524 SE Ash Street in Portland. This show features works from “This Just In…Endless War,” a residency and Justseeds/Combat Paper workshop at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) and the Celebrate People’s History: Iraq Veterans Against the War portfolio. Look forward to a short talk from the artists, local veteran artists and activists, IVAW members, and poetry from Warrior Writers.

The Facebook invite is

Posted in Events and actions | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Peace Park Garden Looking Great, Thanks to Many Hands

Sunday’s Peace Park gardening (March 15th) was enjoyable and productive! We had only one brief episode of rain at the start of our work; followed by a great day for gardening despite predictions of heavy rain. A hard working crew made short work of our 4 yards of bark. Many thanks to Chuck, Jamie, Claire, Heidi, Scott, Tedine, Barry, Malcolm, Chris and Harvey for their efforts. Also two people passing by stopped and helped out for about an hour. All the paths are barked and the peace sign shows up really well. We used the extra bark to mulch the planted area. Moving bark takes a lot of enegy and everyone’s effort was greatly appreciated! Since the weather held, we had the opportunity and enough time to dig out the dandelions and other weeds that were crowding our plantings. Plants are filling in really well. Can’t wait to see the garden when the flowers are blooming–which should be in a couple of weeks. Voodoo donuts and Peets donated generously. Extra coffee and donuts went to the SHARE House in Vancouver.

A great big THANK YOU TO MALCOLM who has volunteered to coordinate future Peace Park activities and gardening events.  Gardening is monthly every 2nd and 4th Saturday  Next gardening day is Sat, March 28.

Posted in Events and actions | Tagged , | Comments Off

Annual Peace Memorial Park Spring Gardening Event

Sunday, March 15th, 9-2 pm. Help Wanted: Vets for Peace, Annual PEACE MEMORIAL PARK Spring Gardening Event

Please join friends and fellow activists at Portland,  This is one of 2 major gardening events. at the Peace Park. Plan to enjoy a day outdoors and feel good about making this spot look great… There’ll be bark to spread along the pathways, mulching, weeding and seeds to plant for new growth.

Naturally, there’ll be refreshments. As in the past, Voodoo donuts will donate their delicious fare, Peets coffee will be available and other items. Right now the garden looks pretty good and our view of Portland city-scape and the river are fantastic.  If we get this done, especially the mulching, weeding and other work will be minimal this summer.

So Do come, Sunday, March 15th, 9-2 pm.  Help out for all or just an hour or two—every bit helps.

GETTING TO THE PARK: The Peace Memorial Park is just NW of Convention Center, at the corner of NE Oregon St and NE Lloyd Blvd. It is easily accessible by foot or bike from the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. MAX Blue, Red, Yellow, and Green lines stop at the Rose Quarter, about a block away.

MORE INFO: 206-484-3385

Posted in Events and actions | Tagged , | Comments Off

Spend Valentines Day morning with Chris Appy

Brunch & Book Talk with American Reckoning Author
February 14, 2015 • 11am – 1pm
Architectural Heritage Center, 701 SE Grand Ave., Portland

author photoCelebrate acclaimed historian and award-winning author Christian Appy, professor of history at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, upon the release of his new book, American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity.

Join Veterans For Peace Chapter 72 for a Valentines Day Brunch reception in honor of Christian Appy. Professor Appy is the author of two previous books on the Vietnam War, including the oral history, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides, which won the 2004 Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction.

The chapter will present a special Valentines-themed award to the author at this event, along with four other local “truth tellers.” Sliding-scale admission $14-$20 includes catered brunch, talk and discussion with Chris Appy, plus access to the current Architectural Heritage Center exhibit, “Strength, Utility, and Beauty: Architectural Metal in the Gilded Age.” (Doors open at 10 a.m.) Tickets are available in advance through and at the door on the day of the event.

Please note: Some parking is available at the gas station across the street to the north of the Architectural Heritage Center. For more information about this event, call Becky at 503-774-9197 or email For more information about Christian Appy, visit

kbooradioVFP72′s Valentines Day Brunch  is proudly sponsored by KBOO Community Radio 90.7 FM. KBOO’s winter member drive is happening Feb. 4-14. Listen in and if you’re not a member, please consider joining! Discover the power of community radio….

Advance praise for American Reckoning:

Peter Davis, director of the Oscar-winning documentary Hearts and Minds: “Brilliant, beautiful, and painful…an essential book…[It] brightly illuminates the question we all need to ask ourselves: what is America’s place in the world?”

Nick Turse, author of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: “A triumph of originality… American Reckoning offers a fresh lens for understanding the United States in the context of its most controversial conflict as well as its 21st century wars.”

Marilyn B. Young, author of The Vietnam Wars: “Christian Appy…argues persuasively that we must remember the war and its consequences if we are to come to a full reckoning with the past and finally dispel the myth of American exceptionalism.”

Posted in Events and actions | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off