Peace Action New York State challenges U.S. militarism in domestic and foreign policies through grassroots organizing by community and student leaders throughout the State. Together, we can work with elected leaders to create a U.S. foreign policy that promotes human needs, not endless war.
News Release: US to Syria Peace and Fact-Finding Delegation
2016 August 9~ A Peace and Fact-Finding Delegation, organized by the U.S. Peace Council (USPC) just returned from a week-long visit to Syria. The delegation met with representatives of numerous NGOs, heads of industry, religious leaders and civil society, high-level leaders of the Syrian government, and it held an extended private meeting with President Bashar al Assad.
The delegation’s findings could not be more timely as the world watched the Obama administration escalating violence and bombing in Libya and threatening to escalate its overt military role in Syria. These violent actions take place while the Syrian government and its allies are closing in on the various foreign-funded terrorist groups that have plagued the people of Syria for over 5 years.
Consisting of seven activists representing various peace organizations the Peace Delegation was led jointly by Henry Lowendorf from the executive committee of the USPC and Gerry Condon, Vice President of Veterans for Peace.
“Almost everything we read about Syria in the media is wrong,” said Gerry Condon. “The reality is that the U.S. government is supporting armed extremist groups who are terrorizing the Syrian people and trying to destroy Syria’s secular state.”
“In order to hide that ugly reality and push violent regime change,” continued Condon, “the U.S. is conducting a psychological warfare campaign to demonize Syria’s president, Bashar al Assad. This is a classic tactic that veterans have seen over and over. It is shocking, however, to realize how willingly the media repeat this propaganda, and how many people believe it to be true.”
Donna Nassor pointed out,
“Contrary to media reports, in eastern Aleppo, as in Medaya earlier, we learned that it is the terrorists who prevent supplies from getting in and civilians from leaving even while the Syrian government creates channels for residents to leave that besieged part of Aleppo.”
“Furthermore, people in the US are unaware of the strangulating sanctions their government is imposing on the Syrian people,” stated delegate Madelyn Hoffman.
“Similar to US sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s that killed over half a million children, this illegal economic war is causing loss of life and unnecessary suffering of the Syrian people. Universally, everyone the delegation talked with asked that these sanctions be lifted.”
The Peace delegation spent nearly two hours in dialogue with President Assad, a soft spoken man with a wry sense of humor who thoughtfully answered questions about the current engagement in Aleppo, his perceptions of the bilateral negotiations between the US and Russia, and the revolutionary policy of ending the war through grass roots reconciliation initiatives. Judith Bello reflected, “Syria’s reconciliation plan is a powerful example of a restorative response to divisive forces spreading violence and chaos in a generally tolerant and peaceful country. .”
“All members of the Delegation returned convinced that Syria’s sovereignty must be respected, that it up to Syrians to overcome whatever problems exist in their country without interference from the US,” said Henry Lowendorf, co-leader of the delegation. “There exists in Syria a strong nonviolent political opposition who are working both inside and outside the government.”
As delegate Vanessa Beeley stated,
“Syria is being invaded by US-allied proxy forces that are torturing, abusing, kidnapping and massacring the Syrian people. We urge that the world start listening to the Syrian people who demand their right to determine their own future and decide who should govern them.”
Joe Jamison concluded,
“We call on the US, its allies in Europe, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Israel to stop supporting the mercenaries no matter what they name themselves, end the war on Syria, end the sanctions and restore normal relations with the Syrian people and their government – immediately. If the US and its allies continue promoting the terrorists, as many inside Syria told us, the fire they lit in Syria in 2011 will continue to engulf more of the world.”
Members of the Peace Delegation:
— Henry Lowendorf (Co-Leader of the Delegation), Member of the Executive Board, US Peace Council
— Gerry Condon (Co-Leader of the Delegation), National Vice President, Veterans For Peace
— Joe Jamison, Member of the Executive Board, US Peace Council
— Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director (not representing the organization), New Jersey Peace Action
— Judith Bello, Member of Administrative Committee, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)
— Vanessa Beeley, Independent Journalist, Member of Steering Committee, Syria Solidarity Movement
— Donna Nassor, Attorney, College Professor, Palestinian Rights Activist
This speech was originally given by PAFNYS Co-Director Kate Alexander at “Know Where You Stand and Stand There”, an event organized by the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, and Great Neck SANE/Peace Action, for the commemoration of the 71st anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I want to acknowledge the difficulty of the world & political climate we find ourselves in today. Because it is so heavy. Because it is so difficult. Because, as is so true in the issue of abolishing nuclear weapons, this is not a political battle fought with moralistic language – it is a battle for our morals, happening in the political field.
And, just as so many holes were being made in the barriers that have kept privileges invisible and the suffering of the marginalized away from our consciousness – we have politicians brazenly working to reinforce those barriers, and millions of American choosing ignorance & hate and the security of an unchallenged world view, over informed empathy & compassion and love.
Tonight, we will make a few more holes in the barriers that have kept us separated from each other, the barriers which have shielded us from the consequences of our actions, and especially, the consequences of our militarism.
Because, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are easily among the most devastating consequences of our militarism in U.S. history.
And yet, somehow, having nuclear weapons in the U.S. is conscionable. And proposals to modernize our nuclear weapons are heralded as essential. .
And I think that is because, we do not sit with the discomfort of war.
We do not sit with the moral discomfort of nuclear war & its damage.
We throw around words like catastrophic, cataclysmic.
But that’s not how you describe what this really is. That’s not the language the communities affected by nuclear war use.
They use the language of loss & heartbreak.
Kunihiko Bonkohara : “My father was blown away by the blast and his body was pierced by shards of glass and wooden rubble… My father went to a nearby river to wash his body, and when he came back home the black rain began to fall… Years later, My father was diagnosed with stomach cancer and my mother with breast cancer, and they both passed away. Because I was in Brazil, I was not able to meet with them at the end.” –
Shoso Hirai: “Mr. Hirai was exposed to the atomic bomb at his friend’s house, 4 kilometers from the epicenter, while going to a munitions factory as a mobilized student. He entered into the city center the following day to look for his father who had gone to work and his younger brother who was also a mobilized student. He only found his father’s bones and his younger brother is still missing”
We must sit with these stories. We have to. It is our moral duty. Because we have to recognize war for what it is & eliminate the language of grand conquest. We have to use a different language.
We have to use this language of loss & grief. Because that is the way it is expressed by communities who have actually had to survive what war has done to them, what our nation has done to them, what we in silence – more afraid of protests and protestors than of maintaining weapons of war and endless war – what we have done to them.
We have to break down the barriers that keep us secure in our place in the world & welcome with open arms the informed perspectives of others, that challenge us, and demand better of us.
In this same way, allies for racial justice, allies for black lives matter, must listen and take leadership from the communities directly affected. They must listen to the needs of the families of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, and Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Korryn Gaines. As allies, we must listen to the cries and protests and anger and expertise from the community impacted by our domestic wars if we are ever going to end them.
And, we must listen to the cries and grief and anger of communities impacted by our foreign wars – by our nuclear weapons – if we are ever going to end them.
But first, before we can stand with these communities and for their demands, we have to listen to them:
Shigeko Sasamori: “Shigeko Sasamori san was 13 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Hearing the sound of a plane, she looked up to see a B-29 flying overhead — seconds later she was knocked unconscious by the blast. When she came to, she was so badly burned that she was unrecognizable. Shigeko repeated her name and address over and over until she was finally found by her father.”
Heartbreak & grief.
If we recognize this as loss – loss that is caused by us – I think we would recognize and expect of ourselves better.
We would begin to exercise moral leadership for nuclear abolition.
Just because it is the right thing to do.
For the same reason little kids say “this isn’t fair”
Nuclear abolition is just, simply, unequivocally, and essentially just the right thing to do.
And it is simple, despite what the pundits tell you. Pundits who by the way, are not the experts in nuclear war, only in military strategy. They are not experts in long-term peace, they are experts in war. But, the only experts in nuclear war are those who lived through it: the Hibakusha.
So it is simple, because we have our experts, and the Hibakusha tell us simply: we must build a world without nuclear weapons. The suffering is to great to risk being repeated.
One nuclear weapon, detonating over a city, would instantly burn away 40-65 square miles. That is roughly the size of San Francisco and 2-3 times the size of Manhattan.
120-200,000 people immediately died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and hundreds of thousands more died in the following months and years from radiation poisoning.
And, the typical U.S. nuclear weapon is 70 times more powerful that the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
The U.S. still has over 6,970 nuclear weapons even though one of our current nuclear weapons is 70 times more powerful that the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
Knowing what we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and what we did to the Japanese at home. All I can think is: what were we thinking? and how close are we to doing this again, but in the Middle East and to our Muslim friends?
If some objective, some mission or goal, requires that kind of destruction
maybe we should re-evaluate that goal?
Nuclear weapons do not root out terrorism.
Nuclear weapons do not discriminate between military and civilians.
Nuclear weapons have not prevented conflict between India and Pakistan.
Nuclear weapons have not prevented North Korea weapons tests.
Nuclear weapons have not prevented the U.S. from provoking Russia, or vice versa.
Nuclear weapons only destroy.
The destroy our environment.
The destroy our economy.
They destroy public health.
They destroy families.
And as the people creating them
The destroy our hearts & minds.
They destroy our standing in the world.
And they serve none of today’s threats in international peace & security. They are one of the greatest threats in international peace and security today.
And keeping them, maintaining them, wastes our resources.
And yet, the current administration is proposing spending $1 trillion over 30 years to modernize our nuclear weapons arsenal.
$1 trillion. or 348 billion in over ten years.
on a weapons system we are never supposed to use.
For that same amount of money, for 10 years, we could:
Provide 39.2M homes with renewable energy
Give 10.48M students four-year scholarships to a public university
Support 3.37M veterans receiving VA medical care
Give 9.93M low-income persons health care
Get 4.12 M children enrolled in the head start program
Pay the salaries of 464 thousands elementary school teachers
Education, health care, veterans medical care, renewable energy, or even criminal justice reform….or nuclear weapons.
It’s pretty clear where we should be spending our money.
On programs we need, not on weapons we should never use.
But, instead of thinking about what we could spend with that money, think for a minute about what we will lose because we have to find the money for this modernization program.
Education, health care, veterans medical care, renewable energy.
These are the programs that lose funding because we fund endless war, endlessly.
For students here, for those of you with children, and for the students whose peace activism we encourage at peace action – and for me – the question is simple: “how can we afford these weapons without bankrupting my future?”
But there’s more at stake here than money:
even though these are the investments that will shape our future.
What we’re also trading in for nuclear weapons, is our morality.
Because how can we listen to Shigeko’s story, and remind ourselves that she was so badly burned she could not move, and then tell her: we are building more nuclear weapons.
How can we listen to Shoso Hirai, whose brother is still missing, and tell him: we need these weapons because we might have to use them again.
How can we listen to Kunihiko Bonkohara, who lost both his parents, and tell him: these weapons will protect us.
President Obama made history this year when he became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima.
There he said: “Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 in Japanese men, women and children; thousands of Koreans; a dozen Americans held prisoner. Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become. “
I couldn’t agree more, Mr. President.
So when our pundits – and our adminstration- tell us that nuclear weapons are necessary for security, we must shout back: You may be experts in military strategy, but you are NOT experts in nuclear war.
The HIBAKUSHA are experts in nuclear war.
The HIBAKUSHA know the costs of nuclear weapons.
Our CHILDREN will know the costs of nuclear weapons, when you defund their future.
And I have LISTENED to them.
And I have GRIEVED for them.
And I have LEARNED from them.
And today, we STAND with them,
We MUST rid the world of nuclear weapons.
On August 6th, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first nuclear bomb used in war – and on August 9th, we dropped the second. The two bombings killed at least 120,000 people instantly, and hundreds of thousands more died in the months and years following, from toxic radiation poisoning.
Every year, peace communities across the United States come together to remember this lesson of history, and to advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons, so this dark chapter in American and World history, will never be repeated.
Below is a collection of resources as you mobilize communities across New York State to remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and to ask why on earth we still have nuclear weapons on this earth.
Interested in attending an event near you? Find our chapter events across the State on our calendar,
CLICK HERE to find an event near you.
Posters + Palmcards: 8.5x11 + 5x7
You can view our poster and palmcard on the right. You can download them by clicking the links below:
Click HERE to download posters sharing stories of the U.S. narrowly avoiding nuclear disasters.
Click HERE to download palmcards sharing stories of the U.S. narrowly avoiding nuclear disasters (print double-sided).
Download a physical copy of our petition to President Obama, calling on him to keep his promises & work towards a world without nuclear weapons. Click HERE to download this petition, which you can circulate in your Peace Action chapter, community or school.
You can view our postcards on the right. You can download them by clicking the links below:
Click HERE to download postcards to the Japanese Consul General, apologizing for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Click HERE to download postcards to President Obama, calling on him to work towards a world without nuclear weapons.
Make Your Own Resources: Quotes
“Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. And as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it. So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. “
~ President Barack Obama, April 5, 2009, Prague
“We simply cannot allow the 21st century to be darkened by the worst weapons of the 20th century.”
~ President Barack Obama, Nov 29, 2012, National Defense University, Washington, DC
“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And no matter how great the obstacles may seem, we must never stop our efforts to reduce the weapons of war. We must never stop at all until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the Earth.”
~ President Ronald Reagan, 1984 State of the Union Address
“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”
~ President John F. Kennedy, Address Before the General Assembly of the United Nations, New York City, September 25, 1961
“I think the fate not only of our own civilization, but I think the fate of world and the future of the human race, is involved in preventing a nuclear war.”
~ (Senator ) John F. Kennedy, Third Nixon-Kennedy Presidential Debate, October 13, 1960
“Nine nations still cling firmly to these ghastly instruments of terror, believing, paradoxically, that by threatening to obliterate others they are maintaining the peace. Quite unaccountably, all are squandering precious resources, human and material, on programs to modernize and upgrade their arsenals — an egregious theft from the world’s poor.”
~ Desmond Tutu, CNN editorial, Feb 13, 2014
“The sheer folly of trying to defend a nation by destroying all life on the planet must be apparent to anyone capable of rational thought.”
~ Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan
“Our collective efforts to move away from the nuclear abyss have remained too modest in ambition and brought only limited success. Nuclear weapons should be stigmatized, banned and eliminated before they abolish us.”
~ President Heinz Fischer of Austria, Sept. 26, 2013 at the UN
“Obama should visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, see the reality of the atomic bombings for himself, and take a determined step toward nuclear weapons abolition from the atomic bombed sites to the world.”
~ Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, April 29, 2014 at the UN..
“We are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe. We must run faster.”
— Former Senator and Nuclear Threat Initiative co-founder Sam Nunn ~ Nov 11, 2013, address to the American Nuclear Society
From our partners at United for Peace and Justice:
On July 6, President Obama announced his intention to maintain 8,400 troops on the ground and in harms way in Afghanistan.
UFPJ’s Coordinating Committee
PEACE ACTION STATEMENT, JULY 7, 2016
By Kevin Martin, President
Jon Rainwater, Executive Director
Once again, we are horrified by sight of tragic police killings, this time in Louisiana and Minnesota. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and we stand in solidarity with their communities in mourning and outrage.
Mr. Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, has called this “a silent war against African American people.” That is a sadly accurate indictment of U.S. society, from police murders of African Americans to the obscene level of incarceration of people of color to the astonishing wealth gap between whites and people of color to institutionalized racism in its many insidious forms.
As a peace and social justice organization, we recall the Triple Evils of American society enunciated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – racism, militarism and extreme materialism. As a people, we must urgently address these sicknesses, and develop concrete policies and actions to transform and overcome them in order to build the Beloved Community.
This work includes not only creating racial harmony and justice but at the same time working in a targeted way to dismantle all forms of institutional racism in our criminal justice system. It also means ending the militarization of policing with weapons of war provided by the Pentagon to local police agencies.
Today, we join with Americans from all communities in sorrow, anger and determination for racial justice, for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and all victims of violence and racism.
One action we can take immediately is to make our solidarity visible in communities across the country. This evening and in the coming days there will be many protest actions in cities from coast to coast and our physical presence together can speak volumes as we say NO to a continuation of this type of violence. The more of us who mobilize, and the more sustained our activism is, the larger that statement will be.
As we protest for justice and peace we also have the opportunity to push for specific changes that can bring about real justice. This fight for justice will take a nationwide movement of political organizers pushing for specific policy changes that can take down the walls of institutional racism brick by brick. Many of our local Peace Action chapters are active in the criminal justice reform movement. You can be too.
Our current criminal justice system is built up through local, state and federal level policies and practices. All of us can take action at whatever levels we see fit to push for positive changes that can transform policies in ways that can save lives. We can all pick up the phone and call our City Council members. We can ask them: “Are you active in pushing for criminal justice reform?” We can do the same thing with our state legislators and Members of Congress. We can get to know what policies are in place in our communities to hold police departments accountable and prevent police violence – and push for what is missing. We can demand that those who want our votes address these issues – or we can even run for office ourselves.
Here is a list of potential changes communities can make. It isn’t meant to be exhaustive, and you may not agree with everything on the list, but it gives some examples of concrete changes we can personally push for:
Ensure Community Oversight
The justice system must serve the community and not the other way around. To make that a reality, civilian oversight measures can both prevent problems and aid in accountability if there are violations of people’s civil rights. Oversight mechanisms can include technological measures such as body cameras and structural governance measures such as all-civilian oversight boards that are formed for by and of the community independent from the police department.
Make Lethal Force the Enemy, and De-Escalation the Focus of Policing in Tense Situations
Strong standards and policies need to be in place to prevent the egregious use of lethal force. Policies should ensure the use of minimal force so situations do not escalate and should hold police accountable for decisions that involve the use of force, especially lethal force. Significant increases in training in de-escalation are needed. Currently police receive much more training time in the use of firearms than they do in de-escalating tense situations.
Put in Place Rigorous Policies to Fight Racism & Protect Against “Implicit Bias”
Blatant racism in police departments exists far too often and needs to be rooted out by firing or disciplining offending officers. But racial prejudice isn’t always conscious. Studies show that unconscious racism impacts police behavior including whether a specific type of target is likely to be shot in a tense situation. Many criminal justice reform advocates believe training about implicit bias is needed for police leaders as well as for the rank and file. But training is only the start. Solid policies like those suggested by the National Center for State Courts need to be in place to protect against deep seated biases even after training.
End the “Broken Windows” Approach to Policing
Policing based on profiling and a focus on minor infractions can lead to escalations with deadly consequences. How many times has a broken taillight, or a person selling CDs or cigarettes senselessly escalated into a tragedy where a family loses their beloved brother, sister, father or mother? There is no evidence this popular style of policing with an aggressive focus on “quality-of-life” crimes has reduced more serious crimes. We need police departments to train police with a new less aggressive approach.
End For-Profit Policing, Prosecution and Incarceration
A profit oriented culture runs through the U.S. criminal justice system. It’s there in quotas for tickets, in municipal budgets funded by fines, in so-called civil forfeiture laws, and in mega-corporations profiting on mass incarceration. Instead of creating the proper culture of serving and protecting the community, these policies force certain communities to serve the system in a position of submission. The profit motive must be driven out of our criminal justice system.
Demilitarize Police Departments
Peace Action has seen the horrible pain created by an overly aggressive approach to “stability” in war zones the U.S. is engaged in. We don’t need that approach in communities here at home any more than we need them abroad. Peace Action is calling for an end to the Pentagon’s 1033 program (where surplus military gear is given to local police departments). Military or swat-style techniques like no-knock raids and forcibly entering private homes should also be avoided. Our police departments should not look like, or act like, occupying armies.
Create New Independent Investigation and Prosecution Mechanisms in Cases of Police Killings
It is unreasonable to expect local prosecutors to maintain their independence given how close they are to the local police force. There is an inherent conflict of interest. That’s doubly true when police are put in the position of investigating themselves. New mechanisms that allow for independent prosecution need to be built through changes in local practice and in state and federal law.
Finally, here’s one immediate action you can take right now: Please sign the petition by our colleagues at Color of Change calling for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to bring charges in the Alton Sterling case. When we all work together we can make the change needed. Let’s let the sadness in our hearts for the loss suffered by the communities of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile motivate us to make that change.
Black Lives Matter!
Our 20 New York student activists were among the most prepared lobbyists in D.C. After two days of meeting with peace action activists from across the country, they met with their Representatives’ offices to lobby for peace & share their wisdom with our politicians.
Then, they shared their feedback with us…
“First, thank you for making these past few days possible. Jordan and I had an amazing experience learning about the Peace Action national network, meeting other student leaders, learning about the issues, and lobbying on Capitol Hill. We came back from the conference with a lot of fresh ideas and enthusiasm for next year.” – Caleb, Binghamton
“I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in Peace Action National’s annual meeting and discussion, as well as join everyone in lobbying. It was a truly invaluable experience, and I really appreciate the effort you put in to have us there! Everyone from PANYS has been so supportive, and I am grateful to be a part of the PANYS family!” – Michaela, Albany
“It was awesome !! I am so grateful I had this experience and met so many wonderful people.”
– Emilie, Long Island
“I was a little concerned to get involved with Peace work and a humanitarian work because I guess I am a little pessimistic. I’ve taken so many courses on human rights and they don’t discourage people to be a part of humanitarian work, but they do talk about how organizations have not always been successful or conducted themselves well. In this society, everything is about getting an end product, but what I’ve realize now is that human rights work does not always produce an immediate product. One doesn’t get a nuclear-free world from one night to the other. Also, if no one does it now, then when? If not me, then who else will?
After meeting so many students that initiated chapters years ago. I am shocked that Syracuse U didn’t start sooner! A school that prides itself on human rights activists. I just sent Diane an email telling her that I feel more confidant and excited to go back on campus to spread what I have learned in the conference. Its not enough to just learn about humanitarian work, because its not the same when you’re actually in the organization. The movement is also full of so many wonderful and optimistic people that work towards peace despite all the opposition, and that is so inspiring.
Finally, I want to thank you for being there. I think it was Michelle who said that your work is really important and she is right. You are impacting the lives of people and the world! I hope you know how much your students love and care for you. We all appreciate you in so many ways.”
– Whitney, Syracuse
“This was a great experience and I learned a lot and I’m so grateful to have gotten this opportunity!” – Jordan, Binghamton