Friday, December 11, 2009

Journey to Smile

For the last two months a group of us has been communicating with Afghanistan boys who are vigiling for peace. They have been requesting President Barak Obama to bring peace to Afghanistan and the world. They were hoping to have him acknowledge them and their efforts when he gave his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10th. Naturally, they were disappointed when he announced the escalation of war making efforts and did not mention the boys vigil. (Ambassador Eichenberry, a former commander of the US led Afghanistan military forces, did visit them in October.)

Last night (December 10th) I gave a message to the boys through a Gandhi portrayal. I encouraged them to continue their Journey to Smile as they have been by following Gandhi's philosophy and principles. "Cling to Truth," as the meaning of Satyagraha. Live by love. Be courageous. Cast off all fears. War makers use fear to move people to war and to kill. Gandhi: "In nonviolence, courage is in dying, not in killing." These words are the essence of my message to them.

This is a strong challenge to boys who have lost fathers, grandfathers, uncles during the fighting. I thought: What do they face in the near future as the US and NATO add 40,000 more troops and continues to use unmanned drone planes like the Predators to bomb suspected targets? Following Gandhi's path of nonviolence in these circumstances is a call to powerful love. Yet, I know that people in Iraq and other conflict areas are doint the same. Some heartwarming stories have emerged here in Olympia as we have been vigiling in support of these boys and their peacemaking.

I feel too that my words to the Afghanistan boys are also words for me. Have courage to love and to live by truth everywhere and in all circumstances.

The boys website is: See their beautiful videos and messages.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Disarm Now Plowshares

"I will purify you from the taint of all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and make you conform to my statutes." Ez. 36:25-27 introduces the DISARM NOW PLOWHARES statement.

On November 2nd, 2009 five persons entered the Trident Sub Base Bangor on the Hood Canal in the State of Washington, 20 miles from Seattle. The Base houses nine Trident submarines which carry 24 missiles each, which in turn carry multiple nuclear warheads. This is a first strike weapon, in other words it has the capability of wiping out any opposition without retaliation. Nuclear weapons are prohibited by International Law according to a decision of the United Nations International Court in 1996. I believe the weapons are immoral.
The five entered the base at night by cutting through chain linked fenses and walked around the base for four hours before cutting through the third fence which alerted the Marines who proceded to arrest them, putting hoods over their faces and making them lie on the ground for four hours before taking them to booking and questioning by the FBI. But, they poured their own blood on the ground to symbolize the terrorism of nuclear weapons and they carried hamers to symbolically destroy the weapons which were in bunkers a short distance away.
The five were Lynne Greenwald, 60, local member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Ann Montgomery, 83, member of religious order, Bill Bischel, 81, Tacoma Jesuit priest, Steve Kelly, 60, Jesuit from Oakland, California, and Susan Crane, 65, from Jonah House in Baltimore. They were booked and released, pending further charges by the Federal Prosecutors.
The Plowshares movement began in 1980 and has grown into an international effort. The Plowshares name is from Isaiah 2:4, "God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes of many people. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

More information can be acquired from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My 2009 India trip: Gandhi facing the 21st Century

I traveled to India from September 23rd to October 14Th and want to report a sense of India from this trip. The trip has two general levels of experience: my itinerary to five cities portraying Gandhi and my observations about the radical changes in India happening at this time.

I was invited to the Youth Peace Festival in Chandigarh from September 27Th to October 1. Here, 500 youth from 10 countries, including Pakistan, Shri Lanka, the Philippines, UK, US, and India, participated in the Festival. I gave the "Inaugural Address" as the American Gandhi and presented the youth with the opportunity to be the change that the world demands today in the light of resource depletion, climate change, nuclear weapons, poverty, and violence. As Gandhi, so they can change themselves to face courageously the realities of today's world.

After the Festival, I traveled to Delhi to participate in first "All India Rally" against nuclear power on October 2ND, Gandhi's 140Th birthday. My Gandhi appearance fit right into the occasion to lead the rally at Raj Ghat (memorial site of Gandhi's cremation) and walk through the streets of Delhi. I connected my anti-nuclear work in the US and UK with that of India.

From October 5Th to 8Th I presented Gandhi in the Rajsamand area under the sponsorship of ANUVRAT at the Children's Peace Palace. We visited numerous schools, universities, and teachers' educational institutions.

On October 10Th and 11Th, I presented Gandhi in Aurangabad with the aide of Dr. Chavan who had invited me originally to India in 2005 to portray Gandhi. Among the appearances was a lively discussion among activists, doctors, scientists about the serious needs of the day. As at the Children's Peace Festival, the escalating shrinkage of water was the dominant topic. Chavan picked up on the "American Gandhi seeking 79 truth seekers" flyer from my book, THE AMERICAN GANDHI, My Seeking Truth With Humanity at the Crossroads." Chavan promised more to come from the encounter.

On October 12Th and 13Th I presented at a university co-initiated by Gandhi in 1920, Gujerat Vijapeeth, which includes a Gandhi Studies Program. Also, I visited for the first time the Sabermati Ashram, Gandhi's second ashram in India and the site of the initiation of the Salt March. My host took me to a village where I experienced a traditional village undergoing changes due to modern developments.

The trip included 23 Gandhi presentations, two public demonstrations: the Anti-nuclear rally and a disarmament walk in Chandigarh; and numerous media interviews among all the interactions with people along the way.

My second level of experience and observation is about the developments within India as she seeks to take her place as a nation and power (superpower). The new creation of superstructure in roads and airports is most obvious everywhere. What is not obvious is the social upheaval to the peoples. Gandhi's India is disappearing, the India of the 700,000 villages. Creations of dams, roads, cities, and superstructure of all forms as India joins the world market economy is pushing the villagers to the cities. On top to this the rampant grabbing of natural resources (water, uranium, bauxite, etc) is taking place in the tribal and village rural areas. I had two personal encounters with persons and groups facing these daunting challenges. Upon entering Delhi at the airport I discovered Arundhati Roy's new book, LISTENING TO GRASSHOPPERS, FIELD NOTES ON DEMOCRACY. Here, she presents a poetic, passionate account of the effects of these developments on the peoples of India, emphasizing the "terrorist" actions of the first decade of the 21st Century. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for those interested in India and the world today. Her sense is that India's options are boiling down to social justice or civil war.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Citizens' Actions for nuclear disarmament

We at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action have just completed one more citizens' action at Sub Base Bangor on the Hood Canal to commemorate the 64Th anniversary of the Atom bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have been participating in actions with GZ since 1978. We yearn for the end of nuclear weapons, a nuclear free world without the threat of ending life on earth. We must take the threat away. And yet ... And yet.

Today we have the best opportunity to begin the disarmament process, since President Barack Obama has stated that he wants their abolition and has begun a process with Russia aimed at taking the next step in that direction. Both countries have thousands of the weapons on hair trigger alert, although the Cold War ended twenty years ago. Both countries have been involved in the Start Treaty process which have taken thousands of nuclear weapons out of commission. This process was severely stalled by the Bush administration. Now, Obama must hustle just to keep the disarmament protocols in place until new treaties can be negotiated. The protocols are scheduled to cease in December, 2009. While this opportunity beckons us with hope and expectation, several factors hamper the will to do so.

First, the health insurance reform is diverting energy and political capital from disarmament. Second, while the US led administration is stating the intent to disarm, it is also assisting India with nuclear deals which enable India to develop its own nuclear weapons and submarines. Other countries are being tempted to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. Third, the Nonproliferation Treaty has its next meeting in May, 2010. Without serious US leadership that Treaty is threatened by India's and other nations arming. Fourth, the US nuclear weapons establishment has careers on the line with disarmament and true believers in nuclear weapons. This is a formidable force for keeping the weapons in place, not only in place, but also creating new and more diverse nuclear weapons. Fifth, a recent poll showed that a more than 50% majority of Americans support the possession of nuclear weapons. To continue down the road to disarmament the Obama administration needs to take a very proactive posture. The activists and American people must put greater energy in support of US leadership.

This is the situation as I see it. Our best opportunity for nuclear abolition. Our daunting challenge to take advantage of it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A denier becomes an agreer!

For several years now I have been waving the flag trying to catch activists and citizens attention about the serious connection between peak oil, global warming and war making, especially nuclear war. Well, a significant development by a conservative source has now underlined this message. In its 2009 report the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has joined ranks with peak oil folks in its "International Energy Outlook." The report is a radical turnaround, one issuing "gloom and doom" according to one analyst.

In 2007 the EIA report projected the projection of conventional oil to be 107.2 million barrels per day by world sources by 2030. Now, in 2009, the projection for 2030 is 93.1 MB/D, a drop of 14%. The EIA has gone from rosy to cloudy, dark clouds due to compounding factors. The first compounding factor is the surging increase in Asian oil demand expected to resume with the economic turn about in 2010. The second compounding factor are the technical, environmental, and energy demands to produce unconventional liquid fuels. These changes will have huge effects on economic, military, and human issues affecting all nations, beginning with the United States and China.

In 1990 Asia and the Middle East consumed 17% of the world's oil. They are projected to consume 41% by 2030. China is expected to pass the US consumption in the next five years. How will this competition between the US and China play out?

At present, unconventional fuels (syn fuels) account for 4% of liquid fuel production. The report estimates that this will be 13% by 2030. Don't look now but demand is racing ahead of supply with these slippery projections. Canada's oil sands, Venezuela's extra heavy oil, Brazil's deep off shore oil and biofuels, Arctic oil and natural gas, Colorado's oil shale, every body's coal to liquids (CTL) offer some relief from conventional oil limitations, but at the costs to the environment and energy demands. Think about the changes in international relations implied here. Think about the billions of poor living, existing, fading implied here.

Then, there is global climate change.

You can obtain Michael Klare's full analysis by going to "It's Official - The Era of Cheap Oil is Over -- Energy Department Changes Its Tune on Peak Oil."

Yesterday, I read an insightful piece by Chris Hedges, who said we need to resurrect our emotion and put it behind our rational understanding. Amen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The United States has been found guilty of war crimes.

The following article was submitted for the summer Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action newsletter.

The War That Refuses To Go Away

By Bernie Meyer

June 3, 2009

What weapon of war causes widespread destruction to the environment?
What weapon of war causes massive and horrendous death to all in its path?
What weapon of war marks its victims with a lethal dose for future generations?
Is the use of the above weapon forbidden by International Law?

Of course, nuclear weapons are a correct answer. But, it is not the only one. Agent Orange with dioxin is another.

Agent Orange with dioxin was used in Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. The United States used it to defoliate wide areas of South Vietnam, thus creating the most extensive use of chemical weapons in history. The environmental effects remain in the land, in agricultural soils, where forests were, in waters, in fish and animals for the foreseeable future. Estimates of human deaths run into the three to four million range in 2009, abstracting from the past loss of life, and ignoring the ravages to the “monsters’ born from the womb. Internalized dioxins are claiming the third and fourth generations in Vietnam. Not only in Vietnam. But United States, Korea, New Zealand, and Australia also claim victims who were troops during the war or are children of troops. The Geneva Conventions outlaw targeting civilians.

Catherine Sagan and I visited the victims of Agent Orange and their caregivers from December 23rd until January 10th 2009 in Vietnam to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the DC Nine action of 1969. We were part of the group that went into the Dow Chemical lobbying office in Washington DC to protest the profiting from weapons in an unjust war. Napalmed children and adults were our focus with photos, blood, smashed office equipment, and files thrown out the 4th story windows. Catherine and I pleaded “no contest,” when these photos were not allowed to be shown to the jury and when Vietnam was not permitted to be mentioned, sending us to prison with a felony in 1970.

We were aware of napalm and defoliants, but not of the dioxin component. A post action speaking tour led me to be “educated” by Vietnam students in Boston about the effects of the defoliation with dioxin. I still have the written story which they shared with me. It is only with the last few years that I have been made aware of the extent of the suffering. It is only recently that I have learned about the fact that Dow and other chemical companies, along with certain military personnel knew about the effects of dioxin in the late 1960’s. Only when the Environmental Protection Agency limited the defoliants in the United States did the military end the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam in 1971. (Of course, it still was used by troops when other agents were short in supply.)

When one of the Nine suggested a 40th reunion, I said, “We should do it in Vietnam.” Catherine and I visited The Friendship Village outside Ha Noi where veterans from the North Vietnam Army and the U.S. Army joined together with an international coalition to treat veterans and children suffering from Agent Orange/dioxin in a beautiful community. The Friendship Village witnesses a heart warming reconciliation, highlighted by the story of US Vet, George Mizo, and the General who were opponents during the Tet Offensive. George’s platoon was totally wiped out. George had been evacuated due to wounding. He died in 2002 as a result of Agent Orange effects upon him.

We visited facilities of Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) in Ha Noi, Hue, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Through these and other sites we saw the many victims and their families. Can you imagine yourself caring for one, two, three, four children with any number of effects? Some are bedridden from birth to death. Most are among the poorest. Most are receiving a minimal assistance, if any. “They live with missing and malformed limbs, mental retardation, without eyes, two sets of elbows and knees, cerebral palsy, spinal bifida and internal organs growing on the outside of their bodies. … This book is a tribute to their fortitude.” (my emphasis) Philip Jones Griffiths, AGENT ORANGE, “COLLATERAL DAMAGE” IN VIET NAM. Also, each hospital has a closed room of the “monsters” in formaldehyde bottles. Would that this article was long enough to share Catherine’s and my welcoming experiences!

“So, while Operation Ranch Hand provided no one or short-term military benefits, it also provided neither long nor short-term psychological benefits. If anything, it embittered the civilian population of Viet Nam and drove it closer to the Viet Cong and NVA. And no one yet was sure what eventually would be the effect on the health of those exposed to the chemicals. Operation Ranch Hand was shown by late 1968 to be a bankrupt strategy, one devoid of good sense, good planning or good military strategy.” (Griffiths, 168)

The US Government has not acknowledged the “mistake.” Nor, has the government offered to assist the victims. It took decades before the government made assistance available to US veterans. In March of this year the US Supreme Court rejected VAVA’a suit against 29chemical companies on behalf of the victims after a New York District Court and Appeals Court denied the law suit.

It was an interesting coincidence that The International People’s Tribunal of Conscience in Paris concluded “that the use of dioxin by the US military in Viet Nam from 1961 to 1971 was a war crime against humanity,” on March 18th, the same date as the DC Nine reunion. (I was unable to attend due to eye surgery. But, I was present through my Vietnam power point about the trip and about the causes of human victimization and through my book!) According to the Viet Nam News, the Tribunal conducted this process:

“After examining evidence and the testimonies of 27 victims and experts, the tribunal found that the US Government and chemical manufacturers were well aware of the fact that dioxin is one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man, capable of causing prolonged serious consequences not only to humans and the environment but also to the Vietnamese economy.

“The tribunal concluded that the US Government was guilty of using dioxin and damaging the environment, defined as ‘ecocide’. The chemical companies were also found guilty of colluding with the US Government’s actions.

“The tribunal asked the US Government and the chemical companies who manufactured and supplied Agent Orange, to fully compensate victims and their families. The tribunal also demanded they rehabilitate the environment and eradicate any dioxin from Viet Nam and its waters, especially hot spots around former US bases.”

The story goes on: Every US resident has dioxin within their bodies causing lethal effects. This should be the topic for another article for action. Peace.

My Vietnam Power Point: “Paradigm of War” can be accessed on my web site, or have me over to share it.

Bernie Meyer has been active with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action since 1978.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Friends and readers, I've been through a disconnect with this blog due to a disconnect in my eye, a detached retina, which occurred at the end of April. I had surgery on April 28Th and am still under the surgeon's care. It's been an amazing experience, though threatening to vision. Detached retinas can lead to blindness. The surgery places a bubble of nitrous oxide in the eye to assist the retina which covers the back of the eye ball. After five weeks I still have the bubble in my eye which is gradually being replaced with natural fluid by the eye. In four or five weeks I hope to have my full vision returned with disappearance of the gas bubble. It will be a miracle for which I am deeply thankful.
During the initial 17 days I was required to keep my head facing the floor 24/7. With my good eye I was able tor read a broad spectrum of books and articles, about the most abusive violence today to the most sublime insights about life and existence. This is a forced retreat, again which I have come to appreciate. Vision is a wonder. The April issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN presents an article about the evolution of color vision in primates which our eyes reflect. The retina is a layer of nerve cells at the rear of the eye, which transmits visual information to the brain via the optic nerve. Color vision depends on cones, tapered sensory cells containing light-activated pigments. Along with rods, which together are called photoreceptor's, the cones tailor the color vision. Most mammals have two pigments to transfer color information, humans and some primates have three. These determine the color that the brain "sees."
As I reflect upon my reading about the human condition from the sublime to the tragic and ridiculous, I think about the information that the brain receives as the culture and/or self selection transmits information. I think of Jesus' comments about the 'blind leading the blind." I think too about his appeals about his being the "light of the world."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The deciders' price of US way of life

I read the following article with this in mind: The Middle East has the bulk of the world's remaining oil supply. The United States is laying claim to this fuel for industrial society and the military power to control it. The price is what you read. And, the world is not at the "peak", let alone on the slide down the other side. The continuing price will only grow if this is the way the deciders choose it. Bernie

Iraq in Fragments
Sunday 12 April 2009
by: Dahr Jamail Visit article original @ Foreign Policy In Focus
Iraqi children, (L-R) Rebaz, 12, Omer, 7, Muhammad, 12, Hussein 7 and Imad, 11, who were injured during the Iraq war. (Photo: Reuters Pictures)
"[W]hat lengths men will go in order to carry out, to their extreme limit, the rites of a collective self-worship which fills them with a sense of righteousness and complacent satisfaction in the midst of the most shocking injustices and crimes." -Love and Living, by Thomas Merton
On Wednesday, March 25, Major General David Perkins of the U.S. military, referring to how often the U.S. military was being attacked in Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad, "Attacks are at their lowest since August 2003." Perkins added, "There were 1,250 attacks a week at the height of the violence; now sometimes there are less than 100 a week."
While his rhetoric made headlines in some U.S. mainstream media outlets, it was little consolation for the families of 28 Iraqis killed in attacks across Iraq the following day. Nor did it bring solace to the relatives of the 27 Iraqis slain in a March 23 suicide attack, or those who survived a bomb attack at a bus terminal in Baghdad on the same day that killed nine Iraqis.
Having recently returned from Iraq, I experienced living in Baghdad where people were dying violent deaths on a daily basis. Nearly every day of the month I spent there saw a car bomb attack somewhere in the capital city. Nearly every day the so-called Green Zone was mortared. Every day there were kidnappings. On good days there were four hours of electricity on the national grid, in a country now into its seventh year of being occupied by the U.S. military, and where there are now over 200,000 private contractors.
Upon returning home, I experienced the disconnect between that reality, lived by roughly 25 million Iraqis, and the surreal experience of living in the United States - where most media pretend the occupation of Iraq is either not happening, or uses the yardstick of decreased U.S. military personnel deaths in Iraq as a measure of success. In the words of Major General Perkins, "If you take a look at military deaths, which is an indicator of violence and lethality out there, U.S. combat deaths are at their lowest levels since the war began six years ago." But it's a less useful metric when one looks at the broader picture inside of Iraq: the ongoing daily slaughter of Iraqis, the near total lack of functional infrastructure, the fact that one in six Iraqis remains displaced from their homes, or that at least 1.2 million Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their country.
Seventy-two months of occupation, with over $607 billion spent on the war (by conservative estimates), has resulted in 2.2 million internally displaced Iraqis, 2.7 million refugees, 2,615 professors, scientists, and doctors killed in cold blood, and 338 dead journalists. Over $13 billion was misplaced by the current Iraqi government, and another $400 billion is required to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure. Unemployment vacillates between 25-70%, depending on the month. There are 24 car bombs per month, 10,000 cases of cholera per year, 4,261 dead U.S. soldiers, and over 70,000 physically or psychologically wounded soldiers.
There 's no normal life in Baghdad. While it's accurate and technically correct to say there is less violence compared to 2006, when between 100 and 300 Iraqis were slaughtered on a daily basis, Iraq resembles a police state more than ever. U.S. patrols consisting of huge, lumbering mine-resistant vehicles rumble down streets congested with traffic. It's impossible to travel longer than five minutes without encountering an Iraqi military or police patrol - usually comprised of pickup trucks full of armed men, horns and/or sirens blaring. Begging women and children wander between cars at every intersection. U.S. military helicopters often rumble overhead, and the roar of fighter jets or transport planes is common. There's no talk of reparations for Iraqis for the death, destruction and chaos caused by the occupation.
Neighborhoods, segregated between Sunni and Shia largely as a result of the so-called "surge" strategy, provide a blatant view of the balkanization of Iraq. Neighborhoods of 300,000 people are completely surrounded by 10-foot high concrete blast walls, rendering normal life impossible. The fear of a resurgence of violence weighs heavy on Iraqis, as the current so-called lull in violence feels tenuous, unstable, and possibly fleeting. Nobody there can predict the future, and to hope for a sustained improvement in any aspect of life feels naive, even dangerous.
The title of the film "Iraq in Fragments" by James Longley, which was nominated for Best Documentary Oscar at the 2007 Academy Awards, best describes Iraq today. The country has been destroyed by decades of U.S. policy that has plagued Iraqis. Looking back only to 1980, we see the U.S. government supporting both Iraq and Iran during their horrible eight-year war. In 1991 we see George H. W. Bush's war against Iraq, and his, Bill Clinton's, and George W. Bush's oversight of 12-and-a-half years of genocidal economic sanctions that killed half a million Iraqi children. Today, under President Barack Obama, what is left of Iraq smolders in ruins, with no real end of the occupation in sight.
All of the recent talk of withdrawal from Iraq is empty rhetoric indeed to most Iraqis, who see the giant "enduring" U.S. military bases spread across their country, or the U.S. "embassy," the size of the Vatican City, in Baghdad. The gulf between the rhetoric of withdrawal and the reality on the ground spans the distance between Iraq and the United States, while the reality is pressed in the face of the Iraqi people each day the occupation continues.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Remembering and Lamenting

As we journey the road to peace and justice, new expressions of the human heart and mind blossom. The Veterans for Peace have been creating memorials for US soldiers killed in Iraq over the recent years by placing religious symbols in open public grass areas like a military cemetery. These extensive memorials are impressive, stimulating a sense of the numbers of people who have been killed fighting for the nation. The loss of life can move the soul to appreciate the reality of war.

Now, we had the Iraq Memorial to Life. Here in Olympia Washington on the anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, we created a symbolic memorial to the Iraq persons killed since March 20, 2003. The memorials were in the form of markers which identified the person, often unknown by name, date of death, location. Each marker was handmade on authentic burial cloth shaped like a tombstone and laminated. These could be staked into the ground with a metal wire and spaced like a cemetery. We had nearly 4,000 markers, a mere fraction of the more than 90,000 deaths from the war which have been identified from newspapers, hospitals, or other documents in Iraq. The intention was to create one marker for each, but that was beyond our means at this time.

The Memorial did impress me and many others for its stark reminder that the war has been a horrendous experience. Each marker personalized a death, enabling the imagination to ruminate over a life cut short and relationships changed by the loss of a mother or father, son or daughter, grandparent, and friends.

I led meditations on both mornings of the Memorial. During the evening Vigil, the American Gandhi expressed the search for the real truth and the desire to express authentic love in this situation. This was a radical act here in the United States, which is still occupying and in some ways still at war with Iraq. I tried to put a face on the markers. Since the mainline media does not bring the faces to our attention because journalists are not going out to the Iraq communities, I went to the narrations of Kathy Kelly in her book Other Lands Have Dreams. Here are the first hand stories of the sick and dying during the sanctions which the UN says were killing 5,000 children each month. Kathy and other volunteers from Voices in the Wilderness were there and they were there when the invading troops arrived in Baghdad in 2003.

The Iraq Memorial to Life is now available to be transported and shown in other cities. We must be made aware of war and its consequences in this age of modern weapons which kill at the rate of 90 % civilians, a reversal of the 10 % killed at the turn of the 20Th Century. More information can be had by going to

Having recently returned from Vietnam where I saw the continuing effects of Agent Orange and dioxin to the third generation, I felt very sensitive to the fact that our memorial was showing only a part of the death scenario. We did not highlight the sanctions effects between the 1991 Iraq war and the 2003 War. Further, we did not mention the effects of depleted uranium which will go on killing indefinitely.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Merton's Peace, Our Peace

Thomas Merton quoted Clement of Alexandria in his autobiography, Seven Story Mountain, published in 1947 stating that Christians are "an army shedding no blood." Merton was therefore on record that he was part of that army, consequently a peace advocate, a soldier for peace. Merton's story grew impressively over the years as he found that he was called as a monk to love the world, to love nature, to love all people. The monk does not flee the world, although that motivation can be mixed into the original thoughts at the entry of the monastery. The monk is a human finding a way to God and life through contemplation in solitude so that he or she can find truth about all creation in love and compassion. Merton's classic on peace, Peacemaking in a Post Christian World, was published in the 1990's. He died in 1968. He journeyed as the world grew deeper and deeper into the nuclear age. He became a light in the darkness.

That light still burns brightly as people seek the insights and wisdom from Thomas Merton's journey. I attended the Thomas Merton Society of Canada's annual conference on "Peace -- A Transforming Vision" last weekend. Jim Forest gave two keynote addresses beginning with the Clement of Alexandria quote. The weekend was full of workshops and presentations by people who carry on Merton's broad range of relationships and insightful communications. I attended a workshop on Merton and Rilke poetry, "at the Pivot of Silence," and "Thomas Merton at Gaza." The one a vivid exercise on the common contemplative expressions drawn from the wordless and the other a piercing presence into the anger, rage, frustration of Israel and Palestinian confrontation sum up the influence of Merton's life.

My journey has been guided in no small way by the wisdom of Thomas Merton.

The International Thomas Merton Society will conduct a Conference June 11-14 at Nazareth College in Rochester New York: BEARING WITNESS TO THE LIGHT, MERTON'S CHALLENGE TO A FRAGMENTED WORLD.

Maria Rilke's Poem

Breath, you invisible poem!

Pure, continuous change

with all that is, flow and counterflow

where rhythmically I come to be.

Each time a wave that occures just once

in a sea I discover I am.

You, innermost of oceans,

you, infinitude of space.

How many far places were once

within me. Some winds

are like my own child.

When I breathe them now, do they know me again?

Air, you silken surround,

completion and seed of my words.

A Poem by Merton:

"Love Winter When the Plant Says Nothing"

O little forests, meekly

Touch the snow with low branches!

O covered stones

Hide the house of growth!


Vegetal words,

Unlettered water,

Daily Zero.

Pray undistracted

Curled tree

carved in steel--

Buried zenith!

Fire, turn inward

To your weak fort,

To a burly infant spot,

A house of nothing.

O peace, bless this mad place:

Silence, love this growth.

O silence, golden zero

Unsetting sun

Love winter when the plant says nothing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The victims of nuclear weapons tests

On March 1, 1954 the United States military tested a thermonuclear weapon on the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands which was the most powerful nuclear weapon ever exploded by the US and exceeded the five megaton blast expected by the scientists by ten megatons. US military personnel, Japanese fishermen, and Island residents still suffer the effects of that weapon. The environment will carry the radiation and scars indefinitely.
On March 1, 2009 eleven of us were arrested at Sub Base Bangor on the Hood Canal in Washington State to commemorate the 55Th anniversary of the Bikini Atoll blast and to express our concern about the victims and the environment. The Navy base at Bangor houses the most powerful nuclear weapon on earth, the Trident Submarine., nine of them and 1500 nuclear bombs.
The Pacific Life Community held its retreat during the weekend and concluded it with this citizens intervention on behalf of life for all people, every species on earth. We commit ourselves to nuclear abolition, abolition of war, life as life is intended.
Next year, 2010, the United States has the opportunity to participate in the United Nations Non Proliferation Treaty meeting. At the last meeting, the United States maintained a token presence which told the world the US did not support nuclear abolition. Next year, either the US will support the Treaty or other nations will proliferate nuclear weapons in response.
We, citizens of the United States, must tell the government (and the world) that we want nuclear abolition.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Here we are over a month into the new year, 2009, and going on three weeks since Obama's inauguration, and now four week since I've returned from Vietnam. So much is happening, these weeks seem like a lifetime. Just keeping up with events and coping with actions and possibilities is a stretch. The main thing for me is that I have recovered from the Vietnam trip! Not really, but it feels good to be recovered.

Several threads make up my present involvements, all in keeping with my mission/message of the last few years. Working towards an end to War making, especially nuclear war; overcoming Global Climate Change; and the effects of Peak Oil remain my top three priorities. I have raised up Climate Change and Peak Oil to just a little over war making. These humanly caused realities vie with each other for the lead. I don't think you can separate one from the other, as humans intentionally and unintentionally mix them.

Following up from the Vietnam trip, I continue to study and research why humans sacrifice other humans. While I diligently study Ernest Becker's Escape From Evil with its piercing insights, I find other complementary sources for insights. One interesting one is that Becker reflects on William James' essay "The Nonviolent Equivalent to War," written in 1906. That is the same year that Gandhi came up with his "satyagraha" method, which he tittled "the nonviolent equivalent to war!" When I finish this study, I will have to decide how I can use the insights. One possibility is to combine some with my photos from Vietnam. Few people realize that the bombing of Vietnam with Agent Orange is massive, the greatest use of chemical weapons in history. 3,000,000 suffer the effects today. I feel deeply thinking about the babies, children, and adults I've seen. Then, this compares with the effects on the peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to mention the victims from all the nuclear bomb testing. We can go on to the radiation of "depleted uranium" in Iraq, the Gaza Strip, and elsewhere.

What about Climate Change and Peak Oil? To make a long narration short, I went to see what Richard Heinberg's latest is. He now works at the Post Carbon Institute (google it). Reviewing the site and the series of videos "Why all the things are going wrong"," has moved me to re prioritize, rather go back to my priorities of the last few years.

So, I'm regrouping and reorganizing. If anyone wants to make comments, critiques, suggestions, etc, go to it. Thanks.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chaos as "Opportunity"

Today is the 14Th day since I returned from Vietnam. I am going through a many faceted reentry. First, of course is the recovery from the jet lag and red eye flights from Vietnam and Korea. This has been complicated by a head cold which started in Vietnam, and which I thought was cured there, but has not ceased. Second, I am still thinking about the whole experience of the victims of Agent Orange. The stated need by VAVA (Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange) is US and chemical company assistance for the victims, including an apology. Third, I am reviewing and analyzing the issue of "sacrifice." Why do humans sacrifice their own people and their enemies as was done with Agent Orange, but is done in all wars? Fourth, the economic meltdown is demanding every one's attention. I have been spending some time going into that since it is affecting me and family members. Back to the first named, my energy is gradually returning.

My sense is that "we are in deep trouble." Analysts, including both the new President Obama and the past President Bush, do not have a handle on the economic meltdown. The word "Great Depression" was mentioned by Bush in his closing press conference (See Tom Englehardt's comments in and creeps into conversations with a number of sources. No one wants to name it with certainty. Yet, the sense of the words that I am receiving is that this may be even more devastating or unwieldy (I'm reaching for the right words here) than the Great Depression. Those who have been reading this blog for the last nearly two years know that things are even more involved than the economy. How do you be "real" or "realistic" in this situation, without panicking or going into pessimism? I'm trying to name the elephant in the living room without the pessimism. But, no one knows the name of the elephant!

I return to Richard Heinberg's hope: After the 21st Century, one hundred years from now, whoever survives could live in a more human world, a more congenial civilization. We have the know how for that due to insights into human nature garnered of late. We also have the capability to continue laying waste to Mother Earth and each other.

I just read an article in the current issue of The Journal of Psychohistory about the effects of the Black Plague in the 13Th and 14Th centuries. The flux in all the facets of the way of life at that time enabled the survivors to make many gains in social relationships and in human life conditions. This was like the Chinese meaning of "chaos", i.e. opportunity. The normal patterns went out the door when the plague entered. Change happened.

Does not this remind us of what is happening on a small scale at this time, so far? A black president promising change has been elected and his/our opportunity has been "enhanced" due to all the issues raining down upon us: economic melt down, global climate change, wars, resource depletion.

I am still taken up by the human and environmental sacrifice due to Agent Orange in Vietnam and will do what I can to support the peoples there and here (our veterans and their families.) However, I must connect that reality to the others. This is our "opportunity." For me, the opportunity requires forming a deeper faith and discipline of will.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

War Museums

Today, January 5th, we begin our next to last day in Ho Chi Minh City and on our tour. I have not shared the War Museum experiences in Hanoi, Hue, and here in HCMC. The museums go back to the historic 1000 year period of Chinese control of Vietnam, from the beginning of AD to 1000 AD, and they touch uppon the various exploits in the second millemium. But, the major emphasis is the Indochinese war with the French, the post WW II peiod when the French were supported by the United States until they were defeated in 1954; then, the United States exploits culminating in the Vietnam War ending in 1975. The museums show the histories from a Vietnamee point of view as is expected.

For me, the visits are a review, almost a reliving of the history, especially from 1965 to 1975 when I was becoming involved in social activism, moving from supportive to US policy to radical desent and resistance. As the museum show quotes of US Senators that US policy of Vietnam violate the Geneva 1954 Peace Accords, the UN Constitution, and US Constitution, I also feel like "this is just like the Iraq war." Not really a surprise.

The museums begin outdoors with huge displays of captured US weaponry, aircraft, and tanks, and go to documemtaries, photo exhibits, models, etc of all types. There are even prisons and tiger cages. And, some were from the Diem regime in South Vietnam. Of course, the role of Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnam military are given central focus for saving and liberating Vietnam. (We will return to the HCMC museum today to see the Agent Orange documentary.)

The self immolation of the Buddhist Monk protesting the oppression of the Buddhists by the Diem regime is shown with photographs which I remember from 1967. The execution of the Viet Cong prisoner by a South Vietnm officer in Saigon, and the girl stripped by napalm are captured by historic photos, among numerous other experiences are also shown. However, there is no mention of the witness of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk who spoke against both sides in this conflict, advocating peaceful resolution, and being sent into exile in 1966, only to return to Vietnam for the first time in 2005.

Yesterday, we visited the Co Cui tunnels outside of HCMC where the villagers lived from 1954, resisting first the French, then the Americans, until 1975. We crawed through a tunnel and saw a way of life that harrassed the militaries in amazing, and grusome fashion. Now a tourist site, the transformation exploits the war situation for economic and "educational" purposes. Our tour guide is from this area and is a sincere Buddhist. We enjoyed our visit to his home and fine lunch served by his family.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Agent Orange visits

From Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, this entry will bring up to date our tour of Vietnam to visit Agent Orange victims and support. HCMC is the last location of five. Our reception has been full of gratitude and appreciation. In Danang, we have been given a certificate and marble plaques, along with ginger. This was very emotional. We donate US dollars at each place, solely a token amount. We represent only ourselves, no NGO, no government program. I feel hesitant even to ask for the opportunity to meet with VAVA leaders. Yet we have met with them in Ha Noi, Hue, Danang, and will meet them today in Ho Chi Minh City. We offer a few things, our efforts to tell the story back in the US and to seek some help. We even want to approach Dow Chemical Company to enter the caring community. And, we share our resistance to the use of Agent Orange by the US in 1969 by our citizen's action and imprisonment.

The need is great. 3,000,000 victims of Agent Orange. Add to that the families and friends who try to care for them. Our visits have taken us to a rehabilitation center, The Friendship Village, a day shelter, and to several homes of victims and their families. These are very modest places. They expose only a few views into the complexity of the millions. The physical effects range from total deformity and incapacity to inability to walk, to a modicum of normal functioning. The mental effects can cover the same range, total mental disability to moderate mental presence. Some have both physical and mental issues. We find sisters and brothers caring for their adult siblings who at times lay in bed 24/7 and at times roam the neighborhood returning when they find their way home. The families we visited live in the most basic of homes. Our three day visit in the Hue/Danang area was in continuous rain with flooding conditions. (The sun shines on our first morning in HCMC.)

The spirit and dedication of the families and volunteers is very heartening. They have been in for the long haul, and will continue. They want and need our help. They need and want the US help. And the chemical company's support. They want us to return.

Why do the people have such good feelings for us from the United States? Why do they continue with such care? At least part of the reason is indicated in the observation of a monk we visited two days ago in this Buddhist country: "The past is no longer real, the future is not yet, the present is now."