Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

Christmas day is fast approaching and many are wondering if their Christmas wishes will come true. Retailers are hoping for a boost in sales, Senate Democrats are hoping to keep their act together and pass health care legislation, children are hoping they were good enough for Santa and families in Minnesota are bracing for a major winter storm and hoping it won’t totally ruin their Christmas celebrations.

For some families, a winter storm is the least of their worries. Last week  I struck up a conversation with a recently hired co-worker. He was a short fellow with an ever-present smile and eager to do his share of work. His english was broken but still good enough that we could converse. A recent immigrant to the U.S., he and his wife and many other families have relocated to Worthington from a refugee camp in Thailand where he spent the last ten years of his life. He is a native of Karen, a region in southeastern Burma bordering Thailand. His two sons are in Canada and he still has a daughter in a refuge camp in Thailand. Other family members are now in Australia. Of course our conversation turned to politics and government and he did not hesitate to show his disdain for the Burmese government and the military junta control over virtually everything. He also made sure that I understood that he was Karen, proud of it, and that there was a difference.

The Karen people have sought independence from Burma since 1949. Charges of ethnic cleansing and religious persecution have been leveled at the Burmese government, now known as the Republic of Myanmar. The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) has been documenting the plight of the Karen people for over 17 years and has a wealth of information in the form of reports, pictures and video on its website. KHRG also can be found on Facebook and Twitter. 

My Christmas wish? Health and happiness to all my family and friends, a world without war and a future where my new union brother will be able to reunite his entire family.

Kawthoolei is the name used by the Karen people for the state they wish to establish. It has several possible meanings: Flowerland, Land without Evil, and The Land Burnt Black. Whatever its meaning, I know that it is a beautiful country ravaged by war.

 Here is a video of  traditional Karen music:

Here is a video with a series of clips. Beautiful, interesting and sad.

Peace & solidarity,


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 moerkealbumpics030August 6, 1945, Sentimental Journey by Les Brown was topping the charts and the war in the Pacific was lingering on, but on this day it would take a historic turn. A lone B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay would release a single bomb nicknamed “Little Boy”. The ensuing blast would virtually destroy the city and thousands and thousands of its residents. President Truman would make an announcement later that morning that the United States had used a new weapon, an “atomic bomb”. The devastation of Hiroshima and 3 days later of Nagasaki quickly brought and end to the war and a new era of weapons of mass destruction.

The pictures in this post were taken by my father who was part of the occupation forces in Japan. He and his fellow soldiers were on a train that passed through Hiroshima and he managed to snap a few pictures. The picture above shows the magnitude of the destruction. One lone building and twigs sticking out of the ground that I imagine were once trees.

This next picture shows the remnants of a tank near the railroad tracks. What is notable about this picture is what is absent. There is nothing in the background.



In the picture below we see several men from the Australian military at the train station in Hiroshima. Waiting to leave? Pondering what they have seen?  





As they travel to their next duty station the train would take them to scenic parts of Japan, untouched by the war. My father took this shot as they crossed a river and it is one of my favorites. I often look at the young man with his head resting on his folded arms and wonder what thoughts are going through his mind.






Peace & Solidarity,


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The Minnesota AFL-CIO along with rank and file union members who are veterans gathered in St Paul at the capitol today, July 10, to launch the Union Veterans Council.  The AFL-CIO Union Veterans 2008 website states:

Some 2.1 million union members, or 14 percent of all union members, are veterans of military service. The AFL-CIO is bringing together union leaders and members who are veterans to speak out to and hold government officials and candidates accountable to the needs of our returning heroes—not only for Labor 2008, but beyond.

The event coincided with similar events in Milwaukee, Denver, Dayton, Ohio; and Charlston, W. VA. WorkdayMinnesota covered the event and has this quote from MN AFL-CIO President Ray Waldron:

Like all working people, veterans are worried about our future and our children’s future. Our country is headed in the wrong direction,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Ray Waldron, who participated in Thursday’s event. “The first-ever union veterans council will bring union veterans together across Minnesota on the issues that matter most to veterans, our families and all working people. And we’re starting by working to elect leaders who will put working people’s concerns first.”

Public News Service Minnesota also has this story and audio with MN AFL-CIO Communications Director Diane O’Brien.

The AFL-CIO will be running tv ads in selected states featuring Jim Wasser, a Vietnam veteran.




Speaking of veterans issues, Ollie OX at  A Bluestem Prairie has two posts up today:

Click on the titles

Wa Times on hearing: “Why Does the VA Continue to Give a Suicide-Inducing Drug to Veterans with PTSD?”


House passes Homeless Vets bill; Bush threatens veto


The Veterans Council is a welcome addition to the AFL-CIO and will help bring together veterans to focus on issues and to elect reperesentatives( like 1st District Congressman Tim Walz) who will be responsive and accountable to their constitiuencies.


Peace & solidarity,







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I, like many other Americans, spent the day enjoying my time off from work, doing some odd jobs around the house, having some hot dogs and beer with family and then capping it off by perusing the blogosphere to see what was being said on the subject of Independence Day. There is a lot of good material to read and I would like share two commentaries from the People’s Weekly World on-line edition.The first, Struggles and Fireworks, is from the PWW editorial board while the second essay, Should the left celebrate the 4th of July, was written by Santi Suthinithet. Both essays offer a viewpoint that you probably won’t see in your hometown newspaper.

Struggles and fireworks 


It’s that time of year when Americans of all cultures and creeds take the day off (if they can) to barbecue, watch fireworks and maybe drink a few beers or soft drinks.

It’s the Fourth of July, a time to celebrate America — our history, and our future.

The history of the American people is a history of struggle and progress. The American Revolution established the world’s first democratic republic. Yet it was a flawed one, stained by slavery, extermination of Native Americans, suppression of women, and class oppression

But, while the tasks of establishing a just society weren’t finished, neither was the struggle for progress. The American people went on to overthrow slavery in the Civil War — often referred to as the Second American Revolution — and then to secure the rights of African Americans and women to vote and to end Jim Crow segregation.

American working people built a massive labor movement in the 1930s, one that is resurgent today. They fought for and won sweeping social reforms such as public education, wage and hour laws, ending child labor, health and safety measures and environmental protection.

The struggle to protect and extend civil rights and liberties is as old as the birth of the republic, and continues sharply today. From the beginning, this was a nation of immigrants as well as native-born. From the beginning too, there have been struggles to make our country a beacon of multi-ethnic, multinational inclusiveness.

While the ruling class has often involved this country in immoral wars, the American people often rise to stop them. Such was the case with the Vietnam War, and such is the case with the Iraq war today.

We can see this tradition continuing today. Most strikingly, we’ve seen millions of people of all races and nationalities, young and old, male and female, cast their ballots either for the first African American or the first woman president in our history.

We saw more than 60,000 people, mainly white, pour into the streets in Oregon to support Obama — the largest political rally in our nation’s history. And we seem poised to elect our first Black president and oust the ultra-right.

So let’s celebrate our country and struggle: past, present and future.


Should the left celebrate the 4th of July?



Should Independence Day be a cause of celebration for Americans? What does this commemoration of the Declaration of Independence really mean in a nation whose history is tainted with criminal wars, greed, racism and slavery?

On July 5, 1852, the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass didn’t mince words in his landmark speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” he asked. “A day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” He went on to call slaveholding America’s celebrations “a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

Yet he went on to conclude:

“Notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country … I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.” He was referring to the growing abolitionist movement, which would triumph with the abolition of slavery only a decade later.

We are all still paying for the savagery of slavery and racism in America.

But at the same time the Declaration of Independence — and America’s foundation — is built on continually progressing — and revolutionary — principles as well. We are a country with a noble history of struggle for equality, secularism, liberty and civil rights.

It is too often forgotten that a radical internationalist and revolutionary named Tom Paine played a leading role in the American Revolution. Paine urged the end of monarchy, poverty, war and slavery from the beginning. His brilliant pamphlet “Common Sense,” issued on January 10, 1776, was considered the manifesto of the revolution. It strongly influenced Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence six months later, which in turn became the guiding principles for the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Karl Marx saw the American fight for independence as “the first impulse … to the European revolutions of the eighteenth century” and said its declaration “informed the whole world of the foundation of an independent great Democratic Republic on the American continent.” He called it the “first Declaration of the Rights of Man.”

Almost two centuries later in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh called the opening words of the Declaration of Independence “immortal.”

And look where we are today — what has been accomplished.

An excerpt from Barack Obama’s groundbreaking “Towards a More Perfect Union” speech represents what is truly great about this country—and yet is still too often taken for granted.

Obama, noting his ancestors and diverse background, said, “For as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”

He did not skirt over the contradictions between the founding ideals of America and the realities of our past and present, yet he pointed to the potential at our nation’s core:

“The answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution — a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.”

No words on a parchment would be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights as citizens of the United States. Generations of Americans fought hard — through protests and struggles, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their times.

Unfortunately, in some circles on the American left, it’s not politically correct to take pride in America and our shared history.

Obviously, there’s a big difference between being a proud American and being a vulgar chauvinist or jingoist.

But not one democratic or socialist movement or revolution in history inspired its people by encouraging them to hate their country.

During the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks’ slogan was “Bread! Peace! Land!” not “Screw Russia!” They did not direct their anger at Russia or its people but at the autocratic and corrupt czar and his allies.

And of course, love of country and national unity played essential roles in the revolutionary movements of countries such as Cuba and Vietnam.

So, for the Fourth of July, Independence Day, let’s remember the true revolutionary traditions of America.

Santi Suthinithet (santis@yclusa.org) is editor of the Young Communist League USA magazine, Dynamic.


The Revolution Starts Now by Steve Earle





Peace & solidarity,


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My previous post about the new GI Bill noted that it was part of the 162 billion supplemental war appropriations legislation. It is unfortunate that it became part of the compromise to continue funding the occupation of Iraq. The human, societal, and economic cost of the occupation of Iraq continue to rise but it is sometimes hard for everyone to understand.

The folks at American Friends Service Committee and Antiwar.com released this short video that gives some meaning to the cost.



and here is a classic antiwar song, “War” by Edwin Starr set to images from the Vietnam era by YouTube user justine4444.



Peace & Solidarity,


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“Eighteen months ago, we began with the simple concept that those who have been serving since 9/11 should have the same opportunity for a first class educational future as those who served during World War II. Today, we have accomplished that goal.”

Senator Jim Webb of Virginia spoke those words on June 26th after the Senate passed the 21st Century GI Bill that was part of the 162 billion war supplemental spending measure. The legislation passed 92-6 with 2 not voting. Today President Bush signed the measure into law and in a press release from the White House the President spins all the positives and thanks numerous people for their work. One line from the press release did raise my blood pressure.

“And I want to thank members who worked hard for the GI Bill expansion — especially Senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr, and McCain.”

Graham, Burr, and McCain? This is the same trio that opposed the 21st Century GI Bill and introduced legislation in an effort to sabotage Senator Webb’s bill. GOP presumptive nominee John McCain is now jumping on the bandwagon and trying to take credit despite the fact he was a vocal opponent and didn’t even bother to show up for both of the votes on this bill. McCain has proved that he is consistent in one way-having it both ways!

Ollie Ox at Bluestem Prairie has the press release from 1st District Congressman Tim Walz who has been consistent, vocal and hard working on veterans issues. In the statement he notes that over 20,000 men and women from Minnesota have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The Congressman also offers up the assistance of his Rochester, MN office (507-206-0643) for veterans that are experiencing difficulties with their benefits.

Peace & solidarity,



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With the passage of the 162 billion Iraq war funding bill last week it appears that the 21st Century GI Bill will become law. The Senate still needs to act on it but the White House has indicated it would sign the legislation. The GI Bill was included in the war funding along with a 13 week extension of unemployment benefits, disaster relief in the amount of $2.65 billion for the Midwest affected by the recent tornadoes and floods, additional money for the construction of military hospitals and some important Iraq policy provisions as noted by Minnesota Central in the comments section.

Senator Jim Webb, co-sponsor of the GI BIll, expressed his gratitude to supporters:

“I would like to again express my appreciation to the veterans’ service organizations, many of whom communicated their support of this bill directly to a skeptical White House, and to the 58 Senate and 302 House cosponsors of this landmark legislation. This bipartisan coalition consistently rejected the allegations of this Administration, and of Senators McCain, Burr and Graham, among others, who claimed that the bill was too generous to our veterans, too difficult to administer and would hurt retention.

“It has now been nearly seven years since 9/11 — seven years since those who have been serving in our military began earning the right for a proper wartime GI Bill. I am looking forward to the President living up to his word, and signing this legislation at his earliest opportunity.”  Read the entire statement here.

DFL Representative Collin Peterson, from the 7th district, which is just a tad more than 60 miles from my corner of the state was a supporter and his comments are covered by the Bemidji Pioneer.

A Bluestem Prairie covers 1st District Congressman’s statement on the passage of the new GI Bill and also comments about the process of getting the legislation passed:

“Like the final passage of the increase in the federal minimum wage, final approval of the New G. I. Bill came–eventually–at the cost of continuing to fund the war in Iraq. Those who feel that Congress should quit funding the war and pull out immediately will be disappointed with Walz’s vote for another amendment to the bill that continued money for the war in Iraq.”
It has been said that making laws is a lot like making sausage. Well, I work in the meat industry and I would consider that an insult. It is tragic that the continued occupation of Iraq was the price to pay. Just about everybody (416-12) in the House of Representatives will be able to pat themselves on the back for supporting the GI Bill. How many more GI’s will they be making eligible for the benefits?
Peace & solidarity,


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Beaver Creek Cemetery, Beaver Creek, Minnesota

This Memorial Day throughout Minnesota and the rest of the country people will gather at cemeteries to pay their respects and honor the sacrifice of the men and women who served their country in the military and are now at their final resting place. Some died in battle, others years later. Speeches will be made, bands will play, flowers laid and taps played. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. All of them had their lives forever changed. On this day we pause to reflect on the wars and the people who fought them, and hopefully we will also take time to imagine a day without war.

TAPS played by SGM Woody English, U. S. Army Band


Peace & solidarity


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This week, the U.S. Senate took an historic vote and passed (75-22) the Webb-Hagel 21st Century GI Bill. The GI Bill passed the House of Representatives earlier this month so now once the two legislative bodies reconcile any differences it will go to President Bush for his signature, signing it into law.

Or maybe not!

Bush along with his clone, McCain, is opposed to this particular legislation and has threatened a veto. Minnesota’s Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Norm Coleman both voted for the GI Bill. Only 2 of our representatives in the House voted against this legislation (Bachmann and Kline). 1st CD Congressman Tim Walz, my representative, voted for the legislation and delivered this speech in support on the floor of congress.


This legislation recognizes the sacrifice of ALL the women and men who have served, including our national guard and reservists who have paid a heavy price in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has strong non-partisan support in Congress and has the support of many veterans organizations, including the VFW and the American Legion. Senator McCain’s legislation is not as generous, would not treat the guard and reserve as equals and would require longer service times to be eligible for full benefits. Some may complain about the cost of this program but if we end our occupation of Iraq we will have plenty of extra cash on hand.

Peace & solidarity,


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The new GI Bill (HR 5740) is scheduled for a vote soon. Minnesota Central leaves an interesting comment on my previous post about the upcoming vote. Here is an excerpt:

FYI : The improved GI bill may be getting a vote this week. The House plans to add it as an amendment to the Iraq supplemental spending bill. Its smart strategy as the President may have difficulty in vetoing that bill. Currently there are 292 co-sponsors, so it should pass, but the hang-up is the Blue Dog Democrats who are concerned about the fiscal impact as it does not meet the PAYGO concept. The Blue Dogs are right and wrong … the GI Bill does not have the offsets to pay for it, but the entire Iraq supplemental does not either … how can they vote for Iraq funding but not domestic funding?

It should be a fun week … will Bachmann vote against the amendment but when it passes vote for the overall bill thus being able to say that she “supported the troops” ?

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) also sent out this urgent email today encouraging contact with congress to let them know to support the bill and to vote this week:

Last week, despite enormous momentum, a vote on the GI Bill was delayed by a small group of Democrats in the House. Believe it or not, they’re concerned about the cost of the bill, which amounts to less than 0.5% of war funding for the year. This is Washington ineffectiveness at its worst.

We’ve been pounding the pavement here in DC every day, meeting with all the key players in the fight for a new GI Bill, and today we need your support.

Please take a minute now to call your Representative, and urge them to show their support for a new GI Bill by voting to fund it this week. We’ve included some talking points at the bottom of this email that you can use during your call.

Despite deep bi-partisan support, the endorsement of every major veterans’ organization, and studies showing that a new GI Bill is a fiscally sound investment in our nation’s future, a few members of the House are standing in its way at this late, critical stage.

If you haven’t already, please take a minute now to call your Representative and tell them that you support education benefits for the men and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new GI Bill (HR 5740) has broad bi-partisan support, and leading Democrats and Republicans have been fighting for it since day one. But thanks to this small group that is mounting an ill-advised opposition, the vote is going to be close, and we need your help to make sure Congress does the right thing.

In our view, the GI Bill is a cost of war, and a smart investment in one of the most motivated, deserving groups of people our country has to offer.

So please take a minute now to tell your Representative to show real support for our troops and veterans by supporting the new GI Bill.

After your call, please take a minute to tell us about it here.

Thank you for your continued support.


Patrick Campbell
Iraq Veteran
Legislative Director
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Peace & solidarity,


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