Dove of Peace

The Path of Peace and Liberty - Archive

"There is no path to peace. Peace is the path." - Mohandas Gandhi

"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo

The Non-Aggression Principle

This site is about a simple yet powerful idea called the Non-Aggression Principle. Like the symbol of the dove, it is an idea that embodies both Freedom and Peace.

The Non-Aggression Principle, or NAP, is the belief that individuals should be free to act as they choose with the exception that they may not initiate force, or the threat of force, against another person or their property. Like the Golden Rule, the NAP can be a beacon of light to guide each of us through the journey of a lifetime.

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Tales from the Trail: 2017-2019

Observations and meditations on the path of peace.

August 24, 2019: Dr. Paul and the Cure for War

"When one gets in bed with government, one must expect the diseases it spreads." - Dr. Ron Paul

The War Disease

RPI August 2019 Converence

On August 24, the Ron Paul Institute held its fourth annual Peace and Prosperity conference in Dulles, VA. The headline topic was "Washington's Addiction to War". In addition to Dr. Paul, there were a number of other interesting and passionate speakers at the conference. What follows are some of the highlights.

Welcoming the attendees was Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute and co-host of the Liberty Report podcast presented Monday through Friday with Dr. Paul. Opening with the headline topic, Mr. McAdams emphasized the importance of repairing language and calling things by there proper names. He described how economic sanctions are actually just another type of warfare, one that is particularly insidious in that it impacts civilians first and can be as deadly as any shooting war. Contrasting the declining national infrastructure he experienced on his drive from Texas with the rapid growth of office buildings around DC, McAdams stressed the importance of following the money. As companies that benefit from the largess of the Military Industrial Complex grow rich, the rest of America is being hollowed out.

Following Mr. McAdams was Congressman John Duncan, one of just six Republicans that voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Representative Duncan described how unpopular that vote was in his conservative Congressional district. It was delightful to hear that the vote eventually became one of his most popular votes, illustrating the importance of courage and patience in the face of strong opposition.

Next up was David Stockman, former Congressman, Manager of the OMB and, in 1967, antiwar protester. Mr. Stockman called imperial Washington "the greatest threat to world peace". A numbers person, he stated that the actual annual cost of the nation's military apparatus was $1.1 trillion, a number that far exceeds the spending of the next eight countries combined. Just the $80 billion so called "intel" budget was 25% more then Russia's total spending on defense.

Using NATO as an example of military waste, Mr. Stockman recalled the promise President Reagan made to Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989. In trade for Russian support of the reunification of Germany, the United States promised that NATO would not expand east. What has happened instead is that NATO has expanded to the very borders of Russia with the incorporation of former Soviet Republics such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. This has only served to heighten tensions with Russia while extending the commitments of NATA, and by extension, the US taxpayer, with ever diminishing returns.

Nathan Goodman talked about "The Economic Costs of US Empire", highlighting the $5.9 trillion dollars that the US taxpayer has been saddled with for 21st century wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Goodman described how government spending on things such as war lacked a feedback mechanism like that which occurs in the free market through pricing. Instead, we get endless waste and destruction with no one being held culpable. As Mr. Goodman put it, "with great power comes massively reduced accountability."

One of the most powerful presentations of the day for me was that made by journalist Rick Sanchez. Having worked for NBC, MSNBC and CNN, Mr. Sanchez explained that he now has much more freedom as a journalist working for RT America than he ever did at the other networks. Mr. Sanchez suggested this was because of the corporate capture of the networks by defense contractors like Raytheon and companies like Monsanto that seek to control what is reported.

Mr. Sanchez stated that what was important was "what they don't tell you". Sanchez pointed out the hypocrisy of his former employers in their inordinate focus on the now discredited narrative of Russian interference in the 2018 elections while ignoring more than a century of US interference in the elections and operations of countries from Latin America to Asia. US manufactured coups, such as that which occurred in Honduras in 2009, are little if ever mentioned while days and weeks of news cycles are devoted to determining whether a hundred thousand dollars of ads by some Russians may have tipped an election.

Former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson laid out the case of a deep state coup against Donald Trump in the form of Russiagate, outlining the evidence and describing the corruption within the FBI. Mr. Johnson thoroughly deflated the narrative of the Russian hacking of the DNC servers in 2018, outlining the forensic evidence indicating that the leak to WikiLeaks was an inside job.

Col. Douglas Macgregor presented his proposal for "National Security Without Constant Conflict", stating the need to get out of Afghanistan and to sign a peace treaty with North Korea. As other speakers had stated, failure was being repeatedly rewarded. Col. Macgregor closed by stating "We need to stop being an engine of destruction and get back to being an engine of prosperity."

The great Lew Rockwell, one of my personal heroes, gave a moving talk about his dear late friend, Murray Rothbard, and Murray's belief that the single most important issue for libertarians was the war and peace issue.

Mr. Rockwell outlined the ways that war destroys a society: First, it deforms us morally. War makes us think that people are disposable. Second, it deforms the economy, killing the freedom of curiosity and the freedom of knowledge needed for an economy to prosper. Third, war distorts reality itself. It does this by wrapping itself in images and symbols of home and family, deluding people and preventing them from seeing its true nature. Mr. Rockwell closed with the straightforward remark "Peace builds, war destroys".

As usual, the Good Doctor, Dr. Ron Paul, closed the conference with his prescription for peace. Dr. Paul captured the audience's attention with his charismatic and passionate support for the causes of peace and liberty. Dr. Paul described how governments try to divide us into groups but that liberty frees us to be able to work together to find solutions. Noting the destructive outcomes of government interference overseas, Dr. Paul stated that "nonintervention is the answer".

After regaling the audience with a number of stories about his time in Congress, Dr. Paul wound down his talk by saying that the answer really came down to following the Non-Aggression Principle. Dr. Paul concluded the conference with his standard reply to those who ask "What should I do to promote Liberty and Peace?" answering "Do whatever you want, and have fun too!"

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Woodstock Poster

August 15-16-17: Lessons from Woodstock

"Three days of Peace and Music." - From a 1969 promotional poster for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

The Woodstock Nation

That was quite a party they had back there in '69. Some 400,000 young people made it to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair at Max Yasgur's farm near Bethel, New York. It was reported that another quarter million more tried to get there but were stymied by miles of nearly impassible roads.

The actual event took place some 60 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock, an artist colony that was home to Bob Dylan, Richie Havens and a number of other musicians at the time. The concert promoters had originally hoped to have the festival at a site close to Woodstock but politicians intervened and the promoters had to scramble to find another location.

From the reports I have read it was a remarkable event, the largest gathering of youth for peaceful purposes in the history of humanity up to that time. For many it was a life changing experience, not only for those in attendance but for those there in spirit.

I was but a small tyke at the time, not quite seven, so it was a number of years after that before I knew much about the event. Over the years, having watched and heard the concert footage and music and having read numerous interviews from those who were there and those that made it happen, I myself have drawn a number of useful lessons from the "gathering of the tribes".

Woodstock crowd

Peace is possible

While the documentary of the festival features a number of beautiful young women in various styles and states of dress, photos show that the audience was predominantly male, and the Vietnam War was undoubtedly on the minds of most of those men. The Vietnam War was running full throttle and, while it was not known at the time, the year 1969 would mark the peak of U.S. troop levels in Vietnam. Over half a million men were stationed there, with over a third of the U.S. troops in Vietnam being there non-voluntarily as draftees.

In contrast to southeast Asia, where young men were being forced to inflict horrific violence, the people in the small towns around the festival reported how peaceful the young people were. Part of this was likely due to the fact that most of the young people in attendance had been brought up in a culture that still taught respect for others and was not inordinately focused on perceived entitlements. Another factor may have been the relative absence of alcohol. While it was reported that a lot of weed was smoked during the festival, along with some use of psychedelics, after the first day there was relatively little alcohol available.

..but politicians often prefer war

22 Percent of the World's Prisoners

Unfortunately, despite its relatively benign nature, the ever paranoid Nixon demonized the use of cannabis in the years following the festival. Associating it with the antiwar movement, Nixon dramatically increased the criminal penalties for its use, igniting a war on drugs that would escalate through the Reagan and Clinton administrations to the point that the U.S. would eventually have the highest incarceration rate in the world. By 2013, with less then 5% of the world's people, the United States had 22% of the world's prisoners.

Politics divides, music can unite

Woodstock era buttons

Prior to the festival, many people had feared, or had been encouraged to fear, that the violence that had occurred the previous year at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago would reignite amidst such a large gathering. What was missed at the time was a full understanding of the divisive nature of politics and the power of music to unite.

Chicago Convention Riots

During the campaign leading up to the 1968 presidential election, candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy had both strongly spoken out against the Vietnam War. Tragically, in the midst of his rising popularity and on the very eve of his primary victory in California, RFK was silenced by a gunman. Incredibly, although the overwhelming majority of Democratic Party voters had voted for an antiwar candidate, at the convention in Chicago it became clear that the apparatchiks of the Not-So-Democratic Party were going to choose the pro war Humphrey, demoralizing the antiwar community and escalating tensions already heighten by the assassinations of RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. the previous year.

Power corrupts

While the festival received overwhelmingly positive reviews regarding its peaceful nature afterwards, the organizers had to deal with an unexpected threat before the concert even began.

Yippie Button

The Yippies (Youth International Party) were an anarchistic political group that was largely focused on opposing the Vietnam War and decriminalizing cannabis and other drugs. They often used street theater and pranks to draw attention to their cause. While generally nonviolent and having no official hierarchy of leadership, one of its founders, Abbie Hoffman, seemed inordinately attracted to the spotlight. Drawn into the political circus that was the Democratic convention the year before, Hoffman and seven others had been arrested and charged with inciting a riot, a riot which many believed was actually initiated by the police.

While awaiting his trial prior to the festival, Hoffman made a spectacularly ham-fisted attempt to insert himself into the festivities. Joel Rosenman, one of the organizers of the fair, describes what went down:

"I went to see Abbie on his request-an invitation one doesn't refuse. I said, 'Look Abbie, I know you'd like to make a kind of big presentation at Woodstock, but it isn't that kind of a show, it's rock 'n' roll and it's really a weekend of peace and music,' and he said, 'I don't give a damn about that, you guys write a big check to my organization, and we're cool.' 'What are you talkin' about?' 'Here's what I'm talkin' about-$10,000.'"

The Who

To ward off disruption the organizers cut the check. I find this episode particularly appalling as I am actually very sympathetic to much of what the Yippies tried to do. By embracing the growing mass media and using art and street theater, the Yippies had attempted to bridge the gap between the flower children, perceived by many as self centered and hedonistic, with the hard core antiwar and anti-government movements.

Ring of Power

Unfortunately the Ring of Power, in this case attention and fame, proved too difficult for Mr. Hoffman to resist. Apparently not content with the coerced payoff, Hoffman further disgraced himself by jumping onto the stage during The Who's set to harangue the audience for enjoying the festival while a friend of his was in jail for two joints of weed. Displeased by the interruption, Pete Townsend, who later expressed his sympathy for Hoffman's cause, knocked the usurper off the stage for violating, in Townsend's words, "the sanctity of the stage".

The world is not black and white

Magic Bus

While the first Woodstock festival has been called "a gathering of the tribes", some critics over the years have complained that the audience was overwhelmingly white, insinuating that racism was somehow at play. This is a ridiculous notion. While the audience was generally light in complexion, that largely reflected the ethnicity of those in the immediate and surrounding areas. Additionally, the musicians they had come to see and hear were a diverse lot representing a number of different musical styles and heritages. The music portion of the fair was bookended by acoustic guitarist Richie Havens and electric guitar marvel Jimi Hendrix, with stellar performances from Sly and the Family Stone and Carlos Santana. The first day of the concert featured classical Indian music by Ravi Shanker, interspersed among a number of folk acts such as Joan Baez whose husband had recently been jailed for resisting the draft.

B.B. King

In contrast to that time, the recent outrage over cultural appropriation is puzzling. Musicians, painters, writers and other artists have long borrowed bits and pieces from numerous cultures. In the 1960's George Harrison became intrigued by a musical instrument, the sitar, while on the set of the movie "Help" and ultimately introduced millions of Beatles fans to Indian music. Likewise members of the Rolling Stones, the Animals and numerous other bands in the U.K. were huge fans of African American blues music and integrated elements of that music into their style of play. This in turn generated a greater audience for a number of older blues players in the United States.

Earth From Apollo 11.jpg

Additionally, like music, science and technology progresses from new discoveries and inventions from people all over the world. The Apollo moon landing that had taken place just weeks before the Woodstock festival had benefited greatly from contributions by German and other European scientists. To criticize someone for embracing positive elements of another culture seems unnecessarily belligerent, intentionally provocative and contrary to a spirit of peace and brotherhood.

Be prepared

The producers of the show had hoped that more than a hundred thousand people would show up for the festival but told the locals they only expected 50,000. In the end more than a half million people either made it to the site or got stuck in traffic trying to get there. Needless to say, food, water, sanitation and other services were quickly overwhelmed. Torrential rains added to the discomfort.

"Be Prepared" is the Boy Scout motto. While I was never a fan of the uniforms and other paramilitary elements of the organization during the years I was a member, there were a number of useful skills and values that I either learned or had reinforced by that group. Being self-sufficient was one of those skills, and it is something that can be a benefit not just to oneself but to others as well. Those that arrived early with tents, sleeping bags and supplies likely faired far better then later arrivals. Not only were they better prepared for the rain, they were in a much better position to help others in need, to share a blanket and a meal.

Volunteer

VoluntarySociety

No, I don't mean join the military. In fact, I prefer you not do that. What I am talking about is extending a hand to help others in need, whether they be your neighbors or cold hungry strangers.

During the course of the festival there were numerous examples of people pitching in to help. In an interfaith effort a number of ladies from the Jewish Community Center of Monticello joined together to pay for and assemble 30,000 sandwiches which were then distributed by the Sisters of the Convent of St. Thomas. Meanwhile members of the Hog Farm commune, relying on numerous volunteers and funds from the concert promoters, did their best to provide "breakfast in bed for 400,000". In addition to staffing the kitchen and distributing food, other volunteers helped to staff the medical tents, providing basic first aid and calming those tripping for the first time.

I should make a distinction at this point between volunteering as a charitable act and Voluntaryism, a philosophy that I also support. Voluntaryism is based on the Non-Aggression Principle and holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary. A purely voluntary free market, with its demonstrated ability to benefit millions without coercion and violence, is a great example of Voluntaryism in action. Likewise, when difficult circumstance arise, as they inevitably do, Voluntaryists believe that the best response is a charitable response, not one that relies on the harsh hand of the State.

There is no free lunch

VoluntarySociety

While many of the multitude received free food, medical attention and other services, it still had to be paid for. This was done through the generous donations of labor by thousands of volunteers and by financial contributions from hundreds of supportive townspeople. Additionally, while hundreds of thousands of concert goers were pleased when the promoters declared it a free concert, John Roberts, the chief financial backer of the festival, found himself $1.5 million in debt at the end of the festivities. In addition to all of the unexpected costs and the lost revenue from not charging for tickets, the backers faced dozens of lawsuits from surrounding dairy farms for the interruption to their milking and delivery schedules. In the end, although it took eleven years, Mr. Roberts made sure that all debts were paid in full.

I love Gravy, as long as it is Wavy

Wavy Gravy at Woodstock

"We must be in heaven man!" - Wavy Gravy at the Woodstock festival

While Abbie Hoffman had seized the microphone at center stage to berate the audience, co-emcee Wavy Gravy, member of the Hog Farm and the "Please Force", embodied the spirit of the festival and projected a feeling of harmony, cooperation and happiness. He made people understand that we are all in this together, and that we can all benefit by helping each other out. While preparation is certainly important, being able to appreciate and enjoy the present, no matter what the conditions, is vital to living fully. We should always make now the best possible now.

Further Explorations

An excellent book on the trials and tribulations of the medical staff charged with keeping 400,000 people healthy can be found in the book Woodstock '69: Three Days of Peace, Music, and Medical Care.

The book Woodstock: Three Days that Rocked the World by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsury, provides a great summary and set lists for each of the artists that performed at the festival along with historical context and a discussion of the impact of the festival on later events.

Notes

Quote from Joel Rosenman, page 139 of the book Woodstock: Three Days that Rocked the World by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsury, forward by Martin Scorsese.

Picture Credits

Woodstock promotional poster at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko

The crowd at Woodstock. Photo by Derek Redmond and Paul Campbell, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

"US Justice" - image by Andrew Lesko.

1960's era buttons on display at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko.

Chicago Democratic Convention riot, 1968. Original source unknown.

Yippie! button.Photo by victorgrigas, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

The Who. Photograph by Heinrich Klaffs. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Ring of Power. Composition by Andrew Lesko.

Psychedelic bus display at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko

B.B. King. Public domain photo of B.B. King in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1972. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Earth from Apollo 11. Public domain photo. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Sharing a blanket. Public domain photo by Mark Goff, August 15 1969. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Voluntaryist banner. Public domain image by Marpescz. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Woodstock tickets. Public domain image anonymous. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Image of Wavy Gravy speaking at the Woodstock festival, 1969.

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Buchenwald Liberation

August 6-9: Witnessing

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” - Elie Wiesel

The denial of history

Near the end of World War II, as Nazi concentration and death camps were liberated by the allied forces, nearby townspeople at a number of sites were forced to march through the factories of death and cruelty. Some of the locals were quoted as saying that they were not aware that such a thing was happening in their homeland and, very nearly, in their own backyards.

It seems cruelly ironic to collectively pass guilt on all the German people for the horrors of the holocaust. The belief in group guilt and the infliction of collective punishment are both morally repugnant. The Jews were wrongly and viciously targeted because of a Nazi belief in the collective guilt of all Jews for an atrocity millennia earlier. Homosexuals, intellectuals, political opponents and others were also collectively punished for equally absurd reasons.

In the end we do not know what responsibility any individual townsperson had in the incarceration of thousands of lives and the incineration of many thousands more. As a group, however, they did have have a singular responsibility in the aftermath. Having laid eyes on the horror of these pits of hell, the most important task of the townspeople was to bear witness, to observe and report what had happened to guide future generations from committing similar atrocities. As General Eisenhower said after visiting one of the death camps, “Get it all on record now, get the films, get the witnesses, because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

Nagasaki Bomb

A history of denial

August 6 marks the anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. On that date in 1945, within a matter of seconds, tens of thousands of people in the Japanese city of Hiroshima were incinerated. That atrocity was followed just three days later, on August 9, by the detonation of a second atomic bomb over the city of Nagasaki. A mere four months after the atrocities of the Nazis had been revealed to the world the United States had committed its own terrible acts of collective punishment.

Throughout the war the United States government was quick to publicize German and Japanese atrocities but worked overtime to hide its own barbarism. Shortly after assuming the role of Viceroy of Japan, General McAuthor imposed total censorship on journalists wishing to report the aftermath of the atomic bombs, either confiscating or destroying nearly all photographic evidence taken at the two sites. We now know that, by a single act, the U.S. government had murdered at least 80,000 civilians at Hiroshima, including 20,000 conscripted Koreans forced to work for the Japanese. In addition to the tens of thousands that died instantly, many tens of thousands more died slow agonizing deaths from radiation poisoning and other injuries. At Nagasaki the civilian death toll was at least 60,000. Ironically, the all-Christian crew of the second bomber managed to do what various Japanese governments had been unable to do for centuries: by dropping the bomb on Nagasaki, they annihilated the largest Christian community in Japan, a community of thousands that had been forced to go underground in the 1600’s and survived in secret for over two centuries before the ban on Christianity was lifted in 1873.

While we have long been told that the use of nuclear weapons was necessary to end the war, a number of high ranking officers, including General Eisenhower and Admirals Halsey and Leahy, thought that they were not needed. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, had in fact advised the Truman administration against using the new weapon.

Unfortunately, here in the United States we continue to live under a veil of ignorance, both with regard to World War II and to the seven or more current wars that the U.S. is either leading or participating in. In this hyper-connected world that provides billions with the access to instant information, there seems to be little knowledge in this country of the damage and suffering caused by decades of war and political and economic interference by the U.S. government.

Worth the price?

Is the Price Worth It?

In 1991, after a massive 42 day bombing campaign that resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, in part due to the targeting of water treatment plants, George H.W. Bush proudly proclaimed that the U.S. had "kicked the Vietnam syndrome". In doing so Bush tortured the English language to mock the natural and rational reluctance of the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens to insert themselves into new wars while deliberately hiding the war crimes that the U.S. government had committed. The following President, Bill Clinton, added to the misery in the Middle East by enforcing brutal economic sanctions against the Iraqi people, sanctions that the United Nations estimated resulted in the deaths of 500,000 children, more than had died at Hiroshima.

The cost of ignorance

Ignorance is not bliss. While the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens may not know the full extent of the war crimes committed in their name by their "representative government", the people of the Middle East certainly know. In addition to recognizing the human and monetary costs of these wars, we who are opposed to war also understand the principle of blowback, a term coined by the C.I.A. to describe the unintended consequences of covert actions by the U.S. government in other countries. Having opened Pandora's Box in the 1850's by forcing open Japanese ports through the threat of naval bombardment, the U.S. reaped what it had sown decades later, with devastating consequences for much of east and southeast Asia as well. What will the ultimate consequences be for U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen and other countries not yet reported?

Further Explorations

Additional discussion of the futility and ultimate costs of war can be found in the chapter Dead Ends in the Beginner's Guide to Peace.

Notes

Picture Credits

Buchenwald survivors, including Elie Wiesel, quoted above. Instead of piles of bodies, I choose this picture of the survivors of the Buchenwald death camp to illustrate not just the horrors of the State but also the dignity and strength of the human spirit. Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Nuclear cloud over Nagasaki. Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons, with modifications.

Is the price worth it? Screen capture of Iraqi victims of U.S. economic sanctions, from Leslie Stahl interview of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the 60 Minutes news program, May 12, 1996. The dialog is as follows - Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it."

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May 28: Memorial Day - Remembering and Forgetting

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

Remembering

Fog of War

I have visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. a number of times and it has never failed to move me. As you enter the southwest end of the memorial you first come upon bronze statues of three U.S. servicemen. Atypical of many other memorials commemorating war, these soldiers look dazed and weary as their eyes look forlornly towards the main memorial. Following their gaze, you walk towards a "V" shaped trench gouged out of the earth, reminiscent of the trenches that are all too often the homes of soldiers in battle. As you enter the trench, you are exposed to the names of the first U.S. military deaths of that war, dated 1959, carved into cold black rock. As you move forward the trench gets deeper, the slabs of stone get higher and the listings of fatalities grow longer. As you near the point of numbness, having been exposed to tens of thousands of names, each a cold mark in stone of a live once lived, you reach the deepest part of the trench, marking the darkest years of the war. Looking up ahead, you see the names of tens of thousands more. By the time you exit the trench, emotionally drained, you have walked past the names of over 58,000 U.S. military. Exiting the memorial and heading due south, you discover another memorial, this one dedicated to the U.S. women of the Vietnam war.

Sisters of Mercy

The Forgotten

Of course, like most memorials, the site tells only part of the story. While it provides a powerful memorial to the U.S. veterans that lost their lives, they were but a small fraction of the total deaths caused by that atrocity. The toll of Vietnamese fatalities, both military and civilian, was far greater and would require another 20, 30 or even 40 more trenches to commemorate. Using conservative estimates we find that over 440,000 Vietnamese servicemen died on both sides of that conflagration along with at least 627,000 civilians. Even that is not the full story, however, as the U.S. government expanded the war into Laos and Cambodia in the late 1960's, ending the lives of another quarter million civilians.

Truelove

In addition to the costs in human lives there were the financial costs. At least three million refugees were forced to flee war zones in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Millions of acres of farmland and forests were defoliated, increasing the misery of the local people. The costs of the Vietnam war to the U.S. taxpayer for military operations alone was over $111 billion, or over $2400 for every man, woman and child living in Vietnam at a time when the average annual wage there was under $100. The $111 billion in combat costs, however, is but a small fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars in medical and other costs expended to repair the damage to families, farms and businesses shattered by the war.

As strongly as I am opposed to Communism and its restrictions on life, liberty and property, given the enormous waste of lives and treasure, surely there must have been a better way to "help" the Vietnamese people then to go to war. It was not, as one U.S. Major claimed during the Vietnam War, “necessary to destroy the town to save it”[19].

Picture Credits

Photos of soldiers at the entrance the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Women's Memorial, and names of deceased U.S. Vietnam war vets by Andrew Lesko, with modifications.

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Motherhood - Love, Life and Loss

"In times of peace the young bury the old. In times of war the old bury the young." - From Herodotus*

Turmoil

Mom

I came of age during the Vietnam War. It was a tumultuous time, a time for raising questions, challenging injustices and seeking new paths forward. It was also a time of great pain and suffering for many people. Millions of lives were shattered or utterly destroyed, both in the United States and across the Pacific. In beautiful distant lands the U.S. military, in a furious rage, seemed hell bent on destroying the very people it was supposedly there to protect.

During the depths of that senseless war my mother discovered that she had Multiple Sclerosis. It hit her young and it hit her hard. Within days of her 37th birthday, she was gone. As painful as that is to say, as painful as that was to experience, I cannot imagine the pain a mother or father must feel to lose a child.

Vietnam Refugee

The original quote from Herodotus, referenced above, is "In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons". War in modern times does not limit itself to destroying the lives of brave young men, however. It destroys women, children and entire families, annihilating the foundations of civilization itself.

Disease and Destruction

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a type of autoimmune disease where the body's defenses misidentify its own cells and attempts to destroy them. In the case of MS it is the lining of the spinal cord that is attacked. The individual can lose their balance, mobility, vision and even life itself through the actions of a broken and reckless immune system.

In the United States today we have the equivalent of a broken immune system. The out of control militarism and swelling empire that has coincided with it has not been healthy for the citizens it is supposedly designed to serve. It has created an unbalanced economy inordinately dependent on government spending. It has harmed mobility as passengers wait in long security lines and as goods are no longer freely traded among nations at war. Most disturbingly, it blindly attacks fellow human beings that are no threat but instead creates hatred, fear and blowback, threatening the health and lives of all.

It seems that suffering can either make you more sensitive to pain or make you more callous. The sorrow I experienced and shared with my father and brother certainly made me more aware of the pain of others. That awareness, along with a lifetime’s investigation into the sheer illogic and utter stupidity of war has led me to where I am today, passionate for peace and driven to ending the out of control militarism infecting this country. Although we live in turbulent and challenging times it is also a great time to be alive and I am thankful to my parents for bringing me into this world. I think my mother would be proud.

Picture Credits

Mom, photographed by my dad in 1967; Vietnam refugees (1963) - Photo provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

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Good Friday

Note: This is a reprise of an article written in 2017. Not much has changed.. – A.L.

Today marks the anniversary of a particularly gruesome murder.

The Passion Of Christ

A ritualized killing that is still recalled after many centuries, it was a desperate attempt to destroy the ideas of one man, a man who dared to question the morality and authorities of his time. This man certainly committed no crime that any compassionate person today would put him to death for. His death was a human sacrifice to demonstrate the power of the State.

The crucifixion of this man was a particularly cruel method of death. It was targeted to anyone who dare challenge the State. The execution was slow and brutal, designed to demonstrate the strength of the Empire and its ability to snuff out human life at will.

Has much changed in the past two millennia? It certainly seems today that many still worship the State. What has undeniably changed is that the latest Empire wields a power unfathomable by the Romans. The new Empire encircles the globe with hundreds of army, air and naval bases, commanding an arsenal of thousands of nuclear warheads powerful enough to remove any trace that the Romans ever existed.

Yet, as powerful as it is, the Empire is cracking. Its current nominal leader is rudderless, without core beliefs or even a map to mark less treacherous roads. Is there any place safe from the beast as it flounders about, seemingly at random, blind to the consequences of its own reckless behavior? Are our own moral compasses strong enough to guide us through this storm?

Further Explorations

Reporters of war crimes are reviled, jailed and even murdered while war criminals roam free, spreading fear and lies in the media and halls of power. How did things get so distorted? More importantly, how do we find the courage and strength to break through the walls of deceit? More on this topic can be found in the chapter Dead Ends in our free online book Beginner's Guide to Peace.

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Freedom From Want

November 16, 2017: Failure to Communicate

A recent survey of Americans revealed that 69% would skip holiday gift giving if their friends and family would agree. Most of those surveyed opined that they would have more time with loved ones if they weren’t so busy shopping.

To quote the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we got here is failure to communicate.” Over two thirds of Americans are doing something they do not want to do yet they could easily remedy it by openly talking to those they are closest with. What is the cause of this communication breakdown? Is it possible that there are other things that people are not talking about, but should?

Sinead

It has become painfully obvious that many in Hollywood knew of the sexual predations of producers and others with power but remained silent for years. Perhaps some of the victims and witnesses saw what happened to Sinead O’Connor. In the early 90’s the young singer tried to kick start a conversation about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church through a song and strong symbolic gesture but was instead harassed mercilessly by those who were either ignorant of the facts or wished not to know.

As serious as these past and current sexual abuse accusations are, there are even more disturbing things afoot. In what is perhaps the most stunning silence of our modern times, there has been a near total absence of discussion regarding the out of control militarization of American culture and its brutal effects on nations across the globe. From Bush to Clinton to Bush Jr and Obama, this moral outrage has remained largely unspoken, and perhaps unknown, by the majority of Americans as the number of wars has continued to grow, costing trillions of dollars and inflicting untold misery.

In this holiday time, in the spirit of those speaking out against sexual aggression, we call on all good people to voice their opposition now to the endless wars abroad and the coinciding attacks against personal freedom at home.

We must work together to be heard. Politicians are masters at silencing the peaceful through evasion, intimidation and fear. They are practiced deflectors, able to distract people with heated discussions of flag burning and arguments over whether to stand for a war anthem. They are merciless against any that would blow the whistle. It is unfortunate that the compliant mainstream media continues to provide them cover, finding it much easier to sell ads by not opposing the State. Ratings do go up, after all, at the start of each big new war while old wars continue to smolder and destroy, largely without notice.

The time for fearlessness is now. We have long been told to never let down our guard yet failed to notice our gradual enslavement to the State. Let’s be brave and be willing to stand together now and endure whatever repercussions come from quickly exiting these wars.

Let’s also be honest. The United States did not end when it withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, and the world will not come to an end when the US inevitably withdraws from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This is not isolationism. We do not need to withdraw from the world but can instead, by withdrawing from militarism, embrace it through the promotion of travel, trade and shared good will.

Picture Credits

"Freedom from Want" by Norman Rockwell, Sinead O'Connor on "Saturday Night Live", October 3, 1992.

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Peace Flag

November 12, 2017: Can we agree on this?

Look, we all want Peace, right?

Why, then, don’t we have it?

Perhaps we are afraid of appearing foolish to want it so much..

Perhaps we are afraid of being perceived as naïve children or uninhibited hippies from the sixties..

The truth is that Peace is a thing to be desired by mature adults as well as children and dreamers. We don’t necessarily need to be covered with Peace signs or wear flowers in our hair to show how much we want it. We just need to live our lives as people who have fully embraced it.

One thing we can surely do is to stop participating in the partisan bickering. We need to escape the deadlock of the two-party duopoly that has tried to silence diverse voices, from Ralph Nader to Ron Paul, that challenge the system and debunk the false narratives. We need to stop pretending there is a real choice between the Democrats and Republicans. We need to recognize that they are dividing us, pitting clan against tribe, city against country, women against men and men against women.

What we need to do instead is to embrace those things that unite us, and surely one of these must be the desire for Peace. Over the course of the coming weeks, I will be reaching out to both natural and unexpected allies, revealing the common elements that unite us through our opposition to war and embrace of the Non-Aggression Principle. Through open letters, I hope to cut through the lies that politicians and other have used to try to divide us and demonstrate the many benefits that a devotion to Peace can provide.

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November 2, 2017: Fragile Democracy

Democracy must be a delicate thing to be so easily damaged by the mere possibly of fake news from foreigners. The mainstream media is all in a tither over the possibility of Russian interference in U.S. elections. As usual I suspect they are probably missing the real story. Let’s take a look for ourselves at some of the electronic ads “the Russians” reportedly paid to promote during the last election cycle.

Electronic Ad #1

Why do I have a gun?

Other than a small grammatical error, what is wrong with this ad? It is a fact, after all, that guns are used as deterrents from crime tens of thousands of times each year in the United States alone. And it is no secret that many in the Democratic party are quite open about their desire to increase gun control. Considering these facts, I think it is clear that the people attracted to this ad would not likely have been supporters of Hilary Clinton.

By the way, I think I should start putting quotes around the “Democratic” party brand to emphasize the irony of the name, especially considering how the DNC short circuited the democratic process internally to bend the election towards HRC in the last primary.


Electronic Ad #2

Is this ad considered dangerous because it is factually inaccurate?

HRC and Vets

I find it hard to believe that Hilary Rodham Clinton only had a 69% disapproval rating among veterans during the last election cycle. I would have thought it was much higher than that, considering how she contributed heavily towards getting U.S. troops involved in new wars, this time with the Libyan and Syrian peoples. HRC also had a bad reputation among veterans for minimizing issues being reported by injured vets and their families at US VA hospitals. I doubt the people who identified with this ad would need much reminding to not vote for Hillary.

With regards to the picture in the ad, it seems odd that Social Justice Warriors, among HRC’s biggest supporters, seem more concerned with perceived social slights to a rotating selection of victim groups within the U.S. than with the wholesale assault and destruction of families, tribes and entire nations across Asia and Africa caused by a militarized U.S. foreign policy, one that HRC seemed quite comfortable with.

Electronic Ad #3

Bernie Sanders

Was Bernie Sander’s misquoted? If not, what is the “problem” with this ad?

There is certainly plenty of published evidence of “pay to play” deals and the use of Clinton Foundation funds to help pay for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.

Perhaps this ad was produced to remind Bernie Sanders supporters of what was done to their candidate by the HRC dominated “Democratic” Party during the 2016 primaries.


Russian Interference?

Were these and other ads enough to tip the balance towards Trump? Was the will of the people denied by interference from the Russians? Did any of this have any measurable effect at all on the last U.S. election?

The Russians certainly didn’t interfere with my "democratic rights". I was appalled by both major candidates, and finding no anti-war candidates among the other parties who were also committed to economic and social freedom, I decided to once again stay home on election day.

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April 1, 2017: Good News or Bad?

~ Were the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election good news or bad news for lovers of peace and liberty?

When the 2016 US presidential election results were finally revealed there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Some less experienced survivors of the election process decried the results as the “worst thing ever”, conveniently ignoring two world wars, the bubonic plague and other minor occurrences.

Lao,Buddha,Confucious

The youth, of course, can be forgiven for their tendency towards hyperbole. Wiser, more traveled folk, however, must observe these things with a calmer, wider perspective. One beautiful illustration of this is the following Chinese parable:


There was once an old Chinese farmer who had the apparent misfortune of having his best stallion run off. His neighbor came over to express his regrets, but the farmer just said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The next day the stallion returned bringing with him three wild mares. The neighbor rushed back to celebrate with the farmer, but the old farmer simply said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The following day, the farmer’s son fell from one of the wild mares while trying to break her in and broke his arm and injured his leg. The neighbor came by to check on the son and give his condolences, but the old farmer just said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The next day the army came to the farm to conscript the farmer’s son for the war, but found him invalid and left him with his father. The neighbor thought to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.”


So was the election of Donald Trump good or bad? For someone with a libertarian perspective, the past election cycle was just another repetition of an endless process where the most vile and power-hungry gnaw their way to the top. There was certainly no peace and liberty candidate amongst the two major parties, with both the Republican and the Democratic nominees trying to outdo each other with their blatant militarism. At best, Trump was perhaps 4% less belligerent with respect to foreign policy, offering some skepticism of the Iraq war and making some overtures towards improving relations with Russia.

The Green party candidate at least got points for proposing a position for Edward Snowden in her cabinet. Unfortunately, her economic proposals were the typical socialist nostrums that have proved a failure in countries throughout Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment, though, was the Libertarian party candidate. The candidate and his running mate may very well have confused and turned off perspective libertarians for a generation. With a seeming disregard or misunderstanding of property rights, their proposals, other than the legalization of marijuana, had seemingly little connection to the Non-Aggression Principle, one of the foundations of libertarianism.

Augustus Caesar

Was the election of Donald Trump good or bad? The power that is now in the President's hands is both vast and dangerous. This would have been the case whichever candidate had won. The fact is that governments at nearly all levels have grown excessively powerful, wielding the ability to destroy life and liberty with little or no restriction, let alone justification.

If more people have awoken to the enormity of state power and its ability to disrupt the lives of people throughout the world, it may be a good thing. If more of us are willing to push back, reclaiming the right of all people to liberty and peace, it may be an even better thing. And if more people can see past the artificial divisions created by partisan politics and unite to press for both a containment of and rapid halt to the spreading flames of war, it may be the best news of all.


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Traveler Advisory

War-Biohazard

War is threatening to become pandemic across several large regions of the globe and there are signs that we are on the verge of a world wide epidemic. Careful planning and extreme caution are advised.

The war disease continues to shorten the lives of hundreds of thousands each year, both directly and through destruction of basic social services.

Please check back for additional information.



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