Tag Archives: peace

Steve parked in Rose’s space … InCity Book Review

But first:


The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World

By Derek Chollet, (2016, Perseus Books, 262 Pages)

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

Journalism has often been called the first draft of history. With that in mind, former Obama administration official Derek Chollet has evaluated President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Chollett covers an enormous number of issues, personalities, and events in a short 262 pages, a concisely written book and that will be a valuable resource for future historians.

Unexpected foreign events often arise during a Presidency. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, drawing the U.S. into World War II, and changing the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading to the missile crisis and John F. Kennedy’s finest hour. 9/11 pushed George W. Bush into being a different President than the one he campaigned as. While Bush’s unexpected event was in his first year in office, two of Obama’s problems came late in his second term: the catastrophic insurgency of ISIS, and the ominous resurgence of Putin’s Russia.

Disasters inherited

Barack Obama inherited an America facing the abyss. As Wikipedia put it: “The bursting of the US housing bubble, which peaked at the end of 2006, caused the values of securities tied to US real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally. The financial crisis was triggered by a complex interplay of policies that encouraged home ownership, providing easier access to loans for subprime borrowers, overvaluation of bundled subprime mortgages based on the theory that housing prices would continue to escalate, questionable trading practices on behalf of both buyers and sellers, compensation structures that prioritize short-term deal flow over long-term value creation, and a lack of adequate capital holdings from banks and insurance companies to back the financial commitments they were making.”

America hovered on the edge of another Great Depression:

• By January 2009 the economy was shedding 800,000 jobs a month.

• American families were losing 100,000 homes a week as home values plummeted and entire neighborhoods, particularly in the inner cities, were devastated.

• The banking system seemed ready to implode, with major financial institutions like the Lehman brothers going bankrupt. Hard core conservatives urged the U.S. government to stay out.

• The automotive industry ran out of money. Cash burn was so bad that General Motors told the White House it had on hand only two weeks of money left to operate. The potential loss of jobs from this one problem alone could be counted in the millions.

Mitt Romney wrote a tome in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”, saying the U.S. should not save the auto industry. That the “supply chain” – the subcontractors and factories manufacturing components for the auto industry, located mainly in the “Rust Belt” states that voted in 2016 for Donald Trump – would die and could not be revived, did not worry Romney.

The Long Game

It should be borne in mind that these were just the domestic issues Obama faced. It says nothing about the foreign affairs calamities facing the U.S., including ongoing wars tying up 175,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is hard to think of a president who entered office facing more challenges of historic magnitude,” commented Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Obama set out to play the “Long Game.”

“The defining element of Obama’s grand strategy is that it reflects the totality of American interests – foreign and domestic – to project global leadership in an era of seemingly infinite demands and finite resources,” writes Chollet. “This is playing the ‘Long Game.’”

Chollet describes Obama as a political version of Warren Buffett, who became a billionaire by buying up companies with a strong market base but which were financially weak. When the economy got better, the values of these investments skyrocketed. Buffett made his billions by looking not at these companies’ value at the time he bought them, but what he expected these entities to be worth over time.

“Games are won by players who focus on the playing field – not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard,” observed Buffett.

Obama believed the U.S. overextended itself by pouring so much manpower, equipment, and money into Iraq, instead of hunting down Al-Qaeda and its leaders. Obama thought the U.S. should shift America’s focus from the Middle East to the Pacific Basin; rebalance America’s projection of power, putting as much emphasis on diplomacy and economic sanctions/assistance as Bush did on the use of military force; and reset America’s alliances with NATO and Russia.

To go into every topic Obama’s administration dealt with would fill up this entire newspaper. We’re going to look at some of Obama’s foreign policy successes, his failures, and draw some conclusions.

Disarming Iran

Historians are likely to regard the Iran nuclear treaty as a hallmark of Obama’s administration. When Bush left office, Iran was moving full speed ahead on its
nuclear program. Obama convinced the Russians, Chinese, British, and French to impose sanctions that devastated the Iranian economy. Since the July 2015 signing of the treaty, Iran has removed weapons grade uranium, reduced the number of centrifuges by two thirds, and removed the heavy water reactor at Arak and filled it with concrete. For the moment, Iran has been disarmed. That is no small achievement, and may be one a bellicose Trump could build upon.

Disarming Syria

In August 2013 Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons against opposition held territory, killing 1,400 civilians, including women and children. Obama had warned Assad in 2012 that doing this would be crossing a red line. The only nation willing to back the U.S. in using military force was France (derided as the seller of “freedom fries” during the Bush era). Britain’s parliament voted against participation, and the American people overwhelmingly opposed involvement in a third Middle East conflict. Congress refused to authorize military action by Obama. The Republican Congressional war dogs made macho denunciations of Assad, but wouldn’t vote to authorize U.S. military action against the Syrian tyrant.

Chollet cited other problems related to using military force to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons. There were 50 sites containing 1,300 pounds of chemical weapons, dispersed around Syria. Neutralizing these would require heavy air and naval attacks along with 75,000 ground troops. There was a danger Assad’s military would collapse under such an assault, and hundreds of tons of chemical weapons fall into the hands of ISIS/Al-Qaeda. After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that the matter could be resolved by Assad giving up his weapons, the crisis was resolved diplomatically.

Chollet writes: “Without a bomb being dropped, Syria admitted to having a massive chemical weapons program it had never before acknowledged, agreed to give it up, and submitted to a multinational coalition that removed the weapons and destroyed them in a way that had never been tried before.”

Obama lost face because he drew the red line and didn’t take military action against Syria. But he achieved the maximalist objective of disarming Syria. Reagan faced a similar situation when 250 Marines were massacred in Lebanon by terrorists in 1982. Instead of doubling down, Reagan prevented America from getting dragged into a quagmire by “redeploying” the surviving Marines to ships offshore. Both Presidents did what was best for their country, even if it meant a personal loss of face.

Bin Laden and the drones

Obama’s Presidency reached its pinnacle in May 2011 when Seal Team Six descended upon Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed the Al-Qaeda leader. Few Americans knew that Obama had played a key role in planning the mission. The plan originally call for the Seals to go in without helicopter backups. Obama insisted that backup helicopters be situated in reserve not far from Abbottabad. These proved crucial when one of the Seal helicopters crashed while landing.

Obama used the same strategic approach to get America out of Iraq and Afghanistan that Richard Nixon used to get the U.S. out of Vietnam: advance the air power while withdrawing the troops. Nixon used B-52s and laser guided ordinance to bomb North Vietnam into signing a peace treaty. Obama sent American drones on hundreds of missions to kill Al-Qaeda and associated terrorist leaders. Some criticized this because of the civilians killed in the drone strikes. However, by and large, it did disrupt Al-Qaeda’s ability to launch mass casualty attacks on the U.S. homeland.

The Russian Reset, Part I

With all the noise being generated over Trump and Vladimir Putin, Obama’s “reset” with Russia has been widely viewed as a failure. However, when the policy was first implemented in 2009, it did lead to some successes. This was due to the fact that Putin was not the Russian President; Dimitri Medvedev was, and he wanted to work with the United States. With Medvedev’s help, the U.S. organized the sanctions against Iran; agreed to destroy one third of Russia’s nuclear arsenal; supported setting up supply lines to Afghanistan that avoided a volatile Pakistan; and voted with the U.S. during the U.N. debate authorizing the use of military force against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Now, let’s look at some of shortcomings of Obama’s Presidency.


According to the mainstream media, upwards of 500,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war and millions have fled to Europe. Obama appears to have done what he could diplomatically to stop the carnage. But faced with the obduracy of Syrian President Assad, the lack of allies who supported intervening in Syria, the U.S. had no good choices. If it supported Assad, the U.S. would be siding with a blood thirsty dictator. If Obama opposed Assad, ISIS and Al Qaeda might take control of the country. His critics charged that he could have supported moderate Syrians earlier, but there was a problem with vetting these groups.

What Obama should have done is establish no fly zones in Syria where Syrians fleeing the conflict could be protected. This would also have stopped large masses of Syrians from fleeing to Europe.


When America troops left in 2011, Iraq by and large was peaceful. The emergence of ISIS could not have been foreseen by any American President. It was with a few thousand guerillas that ISIS attacked and conquered huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, with its million residents, stated Wikipedia, “the Iraqi army had 30,000 soldiers stationed in the city, facing a 1,500-member attacking force.” With such favorable odds, the ISIS force should have been smashed. Instead, the 30,000 Iraqi soldiers abandoned their U.S. equipment and fled.

Few were clairvoyant enough to anticipate the total ineffectiveness of Iraq’s armed forces, equipped with billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment. From a few thousand fighters, ISIS grew to an armed force of 30,000 men as wannabe Jihadists from Europe and the Middle East swelled their ranks. They were armed with the American weapons left behind by the fleeing Iraqi army.


In 2011 there was yet another U.S. intervention on “humanitarian” grounds in Libya that turned into a mission to overthrow Gaddafi. After Gaddafi was killed, Libya descended into anarchy as warring factions fought each other. The U.S. was prodded into action on Libya by its European allies; Obama should have insisted on a post-war NATO occupation force from these allies to assist Libyans in setting up a stable government.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed intervening in Libya, saying: “Can I just finish the two wars we’re already in before you go looking for new ones?”

The Russian Reset, Part II

In 2012 Vladimir Putin took back his old job of Russian President. Putin’s animus against Hillary Clinton stems from this episode; Putin apparently believes that Clinton ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to clandestinely block his return to the Russian Presidency. In any event, Obama’s measures to persuade Putin to stay out of Syria and the Ukraine were unsuccessful, and this must be regarded as another Obama shortcoming.

Closing thoughts

History will give a much fuller judgment on Obama when the facts become available. Since Obama’s foreign policy was set up with the intention of yielding long term benefits, a historical perspective will be necessary to evaluate Obama. The failures he had, particularly in the Middle East, rose from his fervent desire to keep the U.S. out of another war.

Obama may well be remembered by historians for two things that didn’t happen on his watch. First, he kept the economy from imploding. The car industry was saved, the banking system made solvent, and a slow but painful process of economic revival took place. Second, he didn’t get sucked into another quagmire like Iraq. The 175,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reduced to 15,000. Yes, it wasn’t a perfect Presidency. But considering the near collapse of the economy in 2008, Obama did well in keeping America from falling into the abyss of a second Great Depression, and from being drawn into another grinding war. History is likely to view Barack Obama very kindly.

Steve parked 🚙 in Rose’s space … InCity Times Book Review

Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict over Israel

By Dov Waxman, (2016, Princeton University Press, 316 Pages)

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

If you’re looking for a well sourced, even handed account of the split among American Jews over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel” may be for you. But if you stumbled across it in the “New Books” section of your local library and decided to read it because of a general interest in the Middle East, you may be bored.

This is due to Waxman’s effort to present each side in a neutral, objective style. He has compiled an enormous amount of material and stuffed it into a small amount of space but did so in a bifurcated manner that makes getting the full story more difficult. This is unfortunate because with a crisper, punchier writing style, this could have been a much more compelling story – and a goldmine of information for historians.

First, a few stats. “Trouble in the Tribe” is 316 pages in total, of which 215 pages is the body of the book. There are 72 pages of end notes and 16 pages in the bibliography. There were 563 end notes; chapter 2 alone had 164 end notes. The documentation of the author’s sources was so thorough that their page length was equivalent to 40% of the corpus of the book itself.

This is not a bad thing. Serious historians should cite appropriately to sources. But the author appears to have dumped a great deal of specific information into endnotes, which should have been better served in the main text, or attached as footnotes on the pages where they are cited.

A good example was the author stating that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to mobilize American Jews against the July 2015 Iran nuclear deal “although initial polling showed that most Jews actually supported it.”

If you go to the end note cited as the source, it reads: “The most reliable survey of American Jewish public opinion regarding the Iranian nuclear deal, conducted on behalf of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal shortly after the agreement was announced, found that American Jews supported the deal 49 percent to 31 percent (more than Americans in general) and that 54 percent of American Jews wanted Congress to approve the deal, compared with 35 percent who opposed Congressional approval.”

To get to this information, you had to turn ahead more than 200 pages and read the end note itself! Doing this every time a vague comment is end noted is too time consuming for the average reader.

Six-Day War

Waxman did bring up some interesting points about American Jews’ less than enthusiastic support for establishing the state of Israel. After Israel declared its independence in 1947, American Jews’ interest in the nascent state waned.

In 1967 Israel’s existence was threatened by Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, who talked of wiping Israel off the map. This was traumatic for American Jews, who had spent much of the prior two decades learning details about the Holocaust.

There was a prolonged period of agony as Israel sought to resolve the crisis diplomatically. Unable to do so, Israel struck preemptively and achieved what Leon Uris called the greatest Jewish military victory in 6,000 years. In six days, they captured the Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. It was an astounding military achievement.

From 1967 to 1977 was the golden era between American Jews and Israel. At the time, Israel was run by a socialist government, was an extremely progressive society, and was applauded and supported almost unanimously by American Jews.

This changed in 1977 when Menachem Begin and his Likud party were elected. Begin, was a militant, messianic figure who was called a terrorist in the pre-state days after his followers bombed the King David hotel, killing 94 British soldiers. Begin began the mass building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This led eventually to 650,000 Jews (the same population as the entire state of Israel when it became independent in 1947), living on land formerly owned by Palestinians or the Kingdom of Jordan.

It also led to an emotional conflict between the Israeli government and many American Jews, which Waxman describes at length.

It is doubtful an Israeli government will emerge with the political gravitas or skills to relocate these 650,000 Jews into the pre-1967 Israeli borders. The last Israeli Prime Minister who was in such a position, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated by a Jewish right-wing extremist.

Palestinian birth rates are far higher than Israeli birth rates. Soon Palestinians will be the majority in Israel and the occupied territories. Unless a Palestinian state is created, Israelis will be confronted with the choice of suppressing the democratic rights of a majority of its citizens – or adhering to their democratic principles and allowing a Palestinian majority to vote themselves into control of the state of Israel.

From Congressman Jim McGovern’s office …

McGovern Announces $836,000 for UMass Medical to Fight Heart Disease

Funds will Support Heart and Vascular Disease Research, push for Cures

Congressman Jim McGovern announced yesterday that UMass Medical School has been awarded $836,858 by the Department of Health and Human Services to support research on treatments and cures for heart and vascular diseases. The new federal funding is awarded through the Community Surveillance of Coronary Heart Disease program, a national HHS effort to invest in medical research at world-class universities like UMass Medical School.

“Heart disease impacts families across the country every year and there has never been a more important time to invest in life-saving medical research. This new federal funding for UMass Medical School will help them continue their cutting-edge medical research that will help save lives while supporting economic growth right here in Massachusetts,” Congressman McGovern said. “I am grateful to HHS Secretary Burwell for making this investment in our community and recognizing UMass Medical School as a leader in the fight against heart disease. Together we can continue to support this important work to help families in Massachusetts and across the country.”

The grant continues the decades-long work of the Worcester Heart Attack Study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute since the mid-1980s. The community-based study provides 40 years of data about the number of heart attacks among residents of the Greater Worcester community and outcomes of their medical care during and after hospitalization. It also provides insights on how patients who experience heart attacks in the community are treated by physicians.

“We’re going to have a 40-year picture of heart disease, which is unique. What we’ve learned since 1975 is that even though Worcester heart attack patients have become older and sicker, often having multiple diseases, the incidence of heart attacks is declining, and patients’ prognosis both in-hospital and post-discharge is getting better,” said Robert Goldberg, PhD, professor of quantitative health sciences and founder and principal investigator of the renamed Worcester Heart Attack Study. “We think this is because patients are being much more aggressively managed with evidence-based care.

“What we want to learn is will these trajectories continue: will incidence of heart attacks continue to decrease? Will patients’ prognosis continue to improve? And how much more effectively can patients be managed?”

The new funding will help Dr. Goldberg and his research team achieve these goals by monitoring trends of heart attack patients; and patient management.

“Most novel is that we’re going to use bioinformatics and very technical approaches to sift through available medical records, be they in paper or electronic form, and see how machines do compared to our manual abstractors,” Goldberg said. “The goal is to streamline the approach to data collection and data abstraction and give feedback to investigators and clinicians in real time.”


McGovern, House Democrats Call for White House to Strengthen Safeguards on “Killer Robots”

House Lawmakers Raise Concerns About New Military Technology

Congressman Jim McGovern led a group of House Democrats yesterday in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter to push for meaningful human control as a safeguard on lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots – an emerging and concerning military technology.

The letter comes ahead of the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016. The CCW is five-year Review Conference and will focus on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

In today’s letter to the Obama Administration, Congressman McGovern and House Democrats write that these weapons “would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.”

Joining Congressman McGovern on yesterday’s letter to the White House were Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

The lawmakers expressed their support of “the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more. This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol.”

In the letter, McGovern and House Democrats called on the Obama Administration to take the following actions at the CCW Review Conference next week:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

The Full Text of the Letter to the Obama Administration:

December 8, 2016

The Honorable John F. Kerry Ashton B. Carter
Secretary of State Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of State U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20520 Washington, DC 20301-1400

Dear Secretaries Kerry and Carter,

We are writing with respect to the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016.

The main focus of this five-year Review Conference will be lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots.” The high contracting parties, including the United States, will decide whether to continue discussions on this issue in the CCW, and if so, what the format, content, objective and duration of the talks should be.

We believe that fully autonomous weapons are a matter of vital concern. They would not simply be another weapon in the world’s arsenals, but would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.

We support the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more.

This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol. The CCW has already taken similar action on one weapon, namely preemptively banning blinding laser weapons through its Protocol IV.

We urge that at the CCW Review Conference in December the U.S. delegation take the following actions:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

In closing, we would like to stress that we recognize the importance of artificial intelligence and robotics to the future of the U.S. military, and their central role in the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, but we firmly believe that there must always be meaningful human control over critical combat functions.

Sincerely, …


Bipartisan McGovern Human Rights Bill Passes Congress

McGovern Bill Will Crack Down on Corruption and Human Rights Abuses Around the World

McGovern Urges Trump to Continue U.S. Leadership on Human Rights

Congressman Jim McGovern this week applauded Congressional passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a bill he co-authored to crack down on corruption and human rights abuses around the world. … Congressman McGovern is one of four co-sponsors of the bipartisan legislation along with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“America must stand up for human rights at home and abroad. With today’s passage of the Global Magnitsky Act, Republicans and Democrats came together to continue America’s leadership on human rights around the world,” Congressman McGovern said. “This bill will empower the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. I urge President Obama to sign this important bill into law. This is an important step, but there is still much more work ahead.”

“During the campaign, two words I never heard Donald Trump utter were ‘human rights’ and that should concern all of us. President-elect Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and other world leaders guilty of brutal crackdowns on dissidents. Since his election, President-elect Trump has continued to raise red flags about his approach to political opponents. … Americans need a leader who will stand up for the freedoms our country was founded on and I hope President-elect Trump proves his critics wrong and uses the new tools in this bill to bring the leadership we need on human rights.”

The Global Magnitsky Act allows the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. It also directs the president to consider information from NGOs when determining who to sanction. Members of Congress and certain assistant secretaries of state may also recommend names for sanction. The president is required to make public the names of individuals being targeted.

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in the call for U.S. leadership and action to strengthen human rights across the world, including in Russia. Congressman McGovern is one of the authors of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, legislation passed by both the U.S. House and Senate in 2012 to establish a critical precedent that human rights must be an essential component of trade legislation.

The Magnitsky Bill was named after Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who worked for Hermitage Capital Management. Magnitsky’s arrest and subsequent death while in Russian custody triggered both official and unofficial inquiries into allegations of fraud, theft, and human rights violations.


Come Help us Share in the HEARTBEAT of LOVE! Tomorrow! Tuesday, Nov. 15 – 6 pm – in front of Worcester City Hall!


The Heart of the Commonwealth – WORCESTER Beats for EVERYONE!

Organized by: Worcester Interfaith


We stand in solidarity speaking directly to our neighbors, our co-workers, our sanitation workers, court advocates, store clerks and police officers. We stand in solidarity talking to all of the students and young people.

We stand in solidarity speaking as mothers, fathers and parents, to the Refugee and Immigrant families who have fled pain-filled pasts to come to our city and also to those who count generations here; this city is YOUR HOME, it is OUR HOME.

You are welcomed here, we are glad you are a part of our community and grateful for the many contributions offered through your presence. You are not only welcomed here you are appreciated and LOVED here!

For years we have reprinted, emblazoned and trumpeted our City as the “Heart of the Commonwealth.” Today we are being challenged to make these words mean something. The events across our country and Commonwealth have challenged us to put our words into meaningful action.
As the heart of Massachusetts, Worcester must be a community committed to justice and ready to defend justice. We pledge today as community leaders, elected officials, community organizations and faith leaders to be voices that reject hate and racism.

We pledge to challenge and resist those attacking immigrants and refugees, our transgender GLBTQI brothers and sisters, Blacks, Latinos, and those who practice the Muslim faith.

We pledge to rebuff those who seek to create discord and hate.

We pledge to denounce and challenge those who choose to demean and attack.

We pledge to use our collective power to support and protect anyone who may be targeted because of who they are.

We know that many are fearful of the climate of animosity, racism, bitterness and hatred that has been stoked over the past few months.

We will not be part of going backwards.

We seek working together to ensure that, as the Heart of the Commonwealth, the only BEAT you hear in Worcester is that of LOVE and not hate.

You’re Invited!

Come Help us Share in the HEARTBEAT of LOVE!

Tuesday, Nov. 15 – 6 pm – in front of City Hall.

UBUNTU: “I am because we are ”

By Parlee Jones

Peace and Blessings Worcester People. Summer has quickly left us and autumn
is here with a chill. I have mentioned Ubuntu before. It is an African philosophy that means “I am because we are.”

For me it means we are better together.
We are all here on this planet and we all deserve knowledge, wisdom, understanding,freedom, justice and equality, food, clothing and shelter, love, peace and happiness.

Also known as the 12 jewels.

Thre are enough resources on our Mother Earth that no one should be without the necessities of life. Not to mention clean water!

I have been thinking about Ubuntu through all of the things that have been happening. I know the hows and the whys of racism and class. I know, but my Pisces heart won’t let me accept it.

From police shootings of people of color in the streets, to the Dakota pipeline that is still not mentioned on the national news. From refugees dying in the ocean trying to reach safety,
to pictures of shell shocked Syrian babies popping up on our computer screens.

Watching the presidential debate was painful. Either way, in my opinion, the have nots are in trouble. I am a have
not. I am blessed to have a roof over my head, food in my fridge and a means of income to help stem the tide every two weeks, but I struggle also. My heart struggles daily with others tales of woe.

Fires in California. Water and floods in Iowa. New Orleans never recovered and
hit again. The continued battle in Dakota by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all their BEAUTIFUL ALLIES including BLACK LIVES MATTER!

Our planet is crying. People are in pain. As Bob Marley said … So Much Trouble in the World!!! There was an anthropologist who had been studying the culture and habits of a tribes somewhere in Africa. He had been working in that village for sometime and the last day of his stay, he proposed a game to the children of the village.

He prepared a big basket of fruitand treats from the region and placed it under a tree. He marked a line on the earth a few meters away and instructed the children to run at the count of three, and whoever reached the basket first, would be entitled to enjoy it on his or her own.

So the kids did as instructed, but the result came as a surprise to the anthropologist: all the kids ran together, holding hands, towards the basket, and when they reached it, they shared all that was in it.

He asked the children why they had done such a thing when one of them could
have gotten the whole basket for him or herself,and a little girl answered: “How can one of us be happy if all the other ones aren’t?”

• CARING, which is the awareness that what affects one may affect many anlnd the recognition that we are all bound together, that there is a oneness to humanity.

• Having EMPATHY for the members of our communities, and the ability to
understand the feelings or the situation of others from their perspective.
So ubuntu means love, truth, peace and goodness. Nelson Mandela was a big ad-
vocate of ubuntu and its concepts of connection, community and mutual care – not just about the interaction between human beings, but also between people and nature.

Ubuntu is very important in Africa and should also be so worldwide, as the world needs a common guiding principle of human values.


America: land of the warmongers

By Michael True

In public addresses, President Obama assures us that the U.S. military command is greater than any other in the world. One wonders if he is aware that the U.S. has not won a war since 1945, as historian Andrew Bacivich suggests.

Since the Vietnam War, U.S. policy makers and military commands responsible for U.S. interventions have not quite lived up to the president’s billing.

The cost has been enormous, in dead and injured Americans and wasted resources. The results, including the ignominious defeat in Vietnam, have left the U.S. and the world in worse shape than before.

Following the War in Iraq, arguably the worst military disaster in American history, U.S. interventions continued up to and including the one in Afghanistan. Wounded veterans from each conflict returned home, many ending up homeless or suicidal.

In spite of these disasters, as James Atlas points out in a recent issue of The Atlantic, the American public still regards the U.S. armed forces more favorably than other essential government services such as Medicare and Social Security. A central question posed by Atlas is one that has not been fully addressed either during or since the Vietnam War: “Who is held responsible for these interventions – some of them further destabilizing regions where the U.S. was involved?”

And yet, Congress and the Pentagon lobby keep insisting on more and more military expenditures, even though the U.S. military budget is larger than either China’s or Russia’s, and almost equals military expenditures of all nations in the world combined.

As a line in a Denise Levertov poem says, “The same war continues.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. infrastructure deteriorates, and Congress cuts Food Stamps allotments, while a fourth of our nation’s children under five years old live below the poverty line.

Many factors have contributed to this sad state of affairs, in domestic as well as foreign policy, in a culture of violence since Vietnam.

And do we ever learn from our mistakes?

Although it has been 50 years since the Vietnam War began in the early 1960s and 40 years since it ended, full knowledge of its consequences escapes us, in spite of numerous novels and poems, debates and histories, memoirs and films and debates and films and debates about the films.

Initially, several of the so-called “best and brightest who lied and plunged us into that disaster,” including the late U.S. Secretary of State Robert McNamara, acknowledged that it should never have happened. As with other accounts, his admission was helpful. Nonetheless, a fuller accounting and deeper understanding of the war awaits us, if we are to understand how it resulted in the massacre of more than 2 million Vietnamese, 58,000 Americans, and numerous allies on either side.

Among recent accounts that I am familiar with, Nick Turse’s Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, 2013, occupies a special place, particularly on the basis of new information focusing on the war’s impact on the native population and the suffering they endured.

For the Vietnamese, the war was “an endless gauntlet of potential calamities,” according to Turse, with innocents ”killed for the sake of a bounty or shot in a garbage dump, forced into prostitution or gang-raped…run down for sport on a roadway or locked away in jail to be tortured without the benefit of trial.” These crimes, the various essence of war, Terse adds, “went on all the time all over South Vietnam for years.”

Following its failed war in the jungles of Vietnam, the U.S. briefly soft-pedaled its imperial pretensions. After 9/11, however, the Bush administration seemed to feel that the U.S. had to bomb somebody.

Pressured by Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and other militarists in the Bush cabinet and cheered on by the shameless media, the U.S. invaded Iraq, even though there were no nuclear weapons and no Iraqis were 9/11 terrorists. That intervention, costing taxpayers more than $3 trillion, turned out to be perhaps the worst foreign policy disaster in American history.

Forty years from now, perhaps, we may get a more complete acccount of a war that was fundamentally wrong and immoral, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans, and further destabilizing the Middle East.

After that, President Obama repeated policies initiated by President Bush, including torture and strikes by MQ-l Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones,  terrorizing innocent civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. One report stated that the ratio of deaths from the strikes over a three-year period was 50 civilians for every militant – a hit rate of 2 percent.”

U.S. military expenditures in Afghanistan exceed $100 billion, in the fifth poorest and second most corrupt nation in the world. Sixty-eight percent of people there live on less than $1 a day, and only 23% of the population has access to sanitary drinking water.

Although Americans are aware of major wars that the U.S. has been involved in, we often fail to realize that violence and militarism characterize our foreign policy throughout history.

General knowledge about various incidents are missing in standard history of the U.S. since about 1890. Recent accounts, such as The Untold History of the United States, 2012, occasionally provide further details on policies and events on the basis of new revelations.

Even when one disagrees with documentation and commentary, such as Stone’s and Kuznick’s, they foster lively debate that enhances public discussion in the long run and add detailed information seldom available through conventional histories and popular media. Acknowledging America’s affirmation of freedom and liberty, they also reflect on how those values have been buried “in the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the jungles of Southeast Asia, and the sands of the Middle East.”

In the recent past, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have continued to fail us, particularly on issues of foreign policy. So we learn – after the fact – about their approving our country’s global surveillance, something which alienates our friends abroad and undermines civil liberties at home.

Is there any hope of altering the priorities of the U.S. in our foreign policy?

Probably not, as long as the American public remains ignorant of their consequences and the elected officials who supported them remain in office. As a nation, we appear not to have learned what General Smedley Butler taught 70 years ago: ”War is a racket.”

At the moment, neither political party effectively challenges or addresses these serious issues. Democrats remain divided on many of them, while Republicans oppose almost any foreign policy proposal from the White House, primarily to make President Obama look bad.

The same is true, unfortunately, regarding domestic, as well as foreign policy. During the recession, for example, Republicans opposed the president’s efforts to revive the American economy. Ignoring them, Obama succeeded in improving the situation while lowering the national debt at the same time. Since then, Republicans have pressed for austerity measures similar to those responsible for serious economic consequences in Europe and Japan. It does so in spite of the fact that Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman indicated repeatedly in his New York Times column, that such austerity measures would only weaken our economy.

None of this will change until an aroused public challenges lockstep Republicans and cautious Democrats to redirect policies that perpetuate chaos at home and abroad. Altering the situation requires persistent legislative and nonviolent action by a significant number of Americans. Similarly, improving the state of the union means responding to and affirming the interests not of the wealthy and powerful few, but of the overwhelming majority.

Michael True was an English professor at Worcester’s Assumption College for many years. He’s one of Worcester’s most eloquent peace activists. 

My holiday wishes for Mother Earth

By Parlee Jones

Our planet, our Mother Earth has sustained us for many, many moons. All she asks in return is the same thing we all ask for and need, knowledge, wisdom and understanding, freedom, justice and equality, food, clothing and shelter, love, peace and happiness for all of her children. Those that walk on two legs, those that walk on four. Those who live in the water and those that walk on land. Respect for her body. Her land, her water, her valleys and mountains. Her rich resources.

My wish for Mother Earth this holiday season is for her to have a senses cleansing. For what she sees, smells, feels, hears and tastes at times is sweet and good, but much too often, it has been bitter, harsh, hard to swallow. Some folks have been sensing this bitterness for many years.

Mother Earth has seen her babies suffer all over. The United Nations Children’s Fund calls 2014 a devastating year for children, reporting that as many as 15 million young people are caught in conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Ukraine.

There are more than 1.7 million  child refugees  from the conflict in Syria. In the Central African Republic, as many as 10,000 children are believed to have been recruited by armed groups in the past year.

“Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds,” says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “They have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves.” (Statistics from UNICEF report).

Mother Earth has been smelling the fires burning in her forests. The continued stench of polluted waters. The never ending reek of animals killed for sport and to be worn by people who do not respect their furs and skins. Typhoons, earthquakes, floods, snowstorms. Global warming is real and it is serious. The continuous takeover of land that belongs to animals that are disappearing at such a rate that they will be extinct before our grandchildren are old enough to truly see them. This makes our Mother Earth cry.

She is feeling the pain of the continuous loss of life at the hands of those that are supposed to protect and serve. Understanding that all lives matters (yes, we acknowledge that white folks and other people of color are being murdered also), but right now, we’re focused on the Black ones, because it is very apparent that our judicial system doesn’t know that Black Lives Matter

When the entire world watches a murder take place on a Staten Island street corner and the system says no indictment, it’s a problem.

I am gratified that Worcester has started these hard conversations. The protests and rallies against the unjust and unprosecuted murders of men of color at the hands of police officers, namely Michael Brown, Eric Garner and now 12 year old Tamir Rice (and there are many others before and since) have been eye openers for the Worcester Community. Our youth are leading the way. I was humbled and honored to be a witness to the Walk-Out on Monday, 12/1 when we met with students from Clark University, Worcester State University, Holy Cross, UMass Medical and Burncoat at The Mosaic Cultural Complex. Holy Cross came down off the hill! Yes!!!

The conversation called for by the young women of color was honey for my soul.

The hard realization that white privilege is not to be taken personally and we are all needed to point out and change the injustices in all of our Systems (judicial, academic, government, etc.). The enthusiasm and willingness to fight for change among all the attendees, young and old, black and white, reminded me that, we as a people, all of us, have the power to bring about change. It has happened before. It may happen slowly, but it is happening.

She hears families crying out because they are hungry. They are in need of affordable, safe housing. They are homeless. They are unemployed and need help. She hears mother’s weeping because her sons are dying in useless wars. She hears young girls saying no, and not being heard. She hears our prayers, she hears our prayers, she hears our prayers … Our prayers, hopes and wishes for Mother Earth…

Deb Powers ~ Compassionate justice and loving fellowship for all. Everything else grows from these.

Mike Yvanauskas ~ Peace n goodwill

Diamond Wallace ~ Awareness…

Deb Galanos ~ Healing of hearts

Tammie Smith ~ I’m praying for equality. Let everyone be themselves and love them for who they are. Peace. Let’s get together and be alright. Laughter. Cause if you cannot laugh you have to be miserable.

Doreen Samuels ~ Peace, Love and Unity to all mankind. Jamaica Motto. Out of Many One People.

Susan Callahan ~ Peace love and a miracle for all those in need of one.

Audrey White ~ Peace on earth and goodwill toward all humankind.

Jason ‘Iwitness’ Rondeau ~ True democracy and justice. Seek Jah first and everything will come after.

Amy Grassette ~ Kindness.

Keesha LaTulippe ~ Understanding.

Etel Capacchione ~ Fellowship

Jesse Leidel ~ diamonds… all the diamonds in the world. So I can hold them before everyone and shout redemption for their blood soaked dullness and then give control of sale back to the people who harvested them from the earth.

Lisa Johnson ~ No fighting stay positive.

Gizel Hampton ~ Wisdom

Benetta Pearson Kuffour ~ Peace and understanding.

Denischa Lee Briddell ~ Sigh I’ve got many. The heartache of losing my beloved Daddy, to continue to be healed. I want to see the heroin addictions being healed.

Benetta Pearson Kuffour ~ Also, a roof over people’s head and food in their belly. So much in this world is happening that is negative, we are missing the good.

James Martin ~ Truth, because they say the truth shall set you free!

Stephanie Grady ~ Self-awareness and personal growth for everyone. When we are self-aware we can be more aware of what we do to ourselves and others. Peace on Earth would be a reality, not just a slogan or song lyric. Blessed Be.
Mother Earth can taste the change that will come. The change that will come when we realize that we belong to each other. The change that will come when we “eventually come to understand that love heals everything and love is all there is.”

Starting with myself, I have realized that we have to love one another. And I strive every day to do just that. Understanding that at times, I may have to love you from a distance. But when I love you as myself, I know and understand that you need the same things I need. Basic human needs.

So, while you are sharing this holiday season with your families and friends, I ask you please to keep Mother Earth in your prayers and meditations.

I am sending you thoughts of love and light as my gift to you all.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very merry holiday season!

Peace and Blessings to you and yours!

What does war sound like now?

Cool piece from the BBC News Magazine. – R. T.

What does war sound like now?

By Vanessa Barford, BBC News Magazine

Apache helicopter and anti-aircraft fire

The Gaza conflict is being played out to the noise of modern air raid sirens and drones, as well as the thump of shellfire and the roar of rockets, but the sound of war is always changing.

In Gaza, correspondents have described the whine of Israeli drones overhead. In Arabic they’re known as “Zananna”, literally “whining child”.

Then there is the occasional sound of warplanes streaking overhead and the thump of shells from Israeli ships.

In southern Israeli towns, residents are familiar with the sound of air raid sirens prompted by rockets from Gaza. There is the distinctive sound of the Iron Dome air defence system intercepting rockets in the sky above. …

To read more, click on the link below. R. T.:


Worcester’s Peace Makers and beyond

By Michael True

Civil wars and drone attacks dominate the news, as negotiations to end hostilities in Afghanistan and Israeli/Palestine collapse. In Syria, the government victimizes its own people, including children, in an archipelago of torture chambers.

At the same time, peace activists and organizations transform conflict, and work to build a global civic culture. The popular media, however, provides few accounts of caregivers such as United Nations advisers and Doctors Without Borders who daily risk their lives to heal and to support vulnerable populations. Similar initiatives involve Peace Brigades International and Christian Peacemaker Teams who accompany workers and ordinary citizens to protect them from war’s violent network.

Over the past forty years, four hundred colleges, universities, and research centers are engaged in studying and developing theories and strategies essential to peacemaking, including conflict transformation, respect for human rights, and nonviolent intervention.


Activists and organizations in the Worcester area provide aid and services to victims of violence, and teach peacemaking skills. At Clark University, Assumption and Holy Cross colleges, courses in peace and conflict studies focus on the history of successful nonviolent campaigns over the past century that led to the overthrow of dictatorships in the Philippines, Yugoslavia, Egypt, and Libya.

The Center for Nonviolent Solutions, initiated in 2009, sponsors free workshops for students and teachers in the Worcester Public Schools. Last fall, through a grant from the Massachusetts Humanities and in cooperation with Clark University’s Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education, the Center sponsored a Teachers Professional Development Institute on Nonviolent Movements in the Modern World, which provided free graduate credits for teachers in the Worcester Area. At the concluding session, teachers from grades fifth through twelfth reported on how they incorporated aspects of the course in history and literature classes on the Troubles in Ireland, the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., and nonviolent resistance to the Nazis.

In a summer program at University Park Campus School, students will learn skills in mediation and cooperation preparing them to become peer mediators. The goal of the a Summer Academy for ninth graders is to “increase the peace” in school, at home, and on the streets as they in turn work with middle schoolers. The curriculum includes games, activities, and discussion related to the following questions: (1) How might we express anger in healthy ways? (2) How can we speak up against bullying and discrimination? (3) How could we become better peacemakers in our families and the community? The Center is also providing a Peer Mediation training for tenth graders from University Park Campus School.

Through its Community Mediation Services, the Center for Nonviolent Solutions sponsors thirty trained and experienced mediators available to assist people in transforming conflict to reach their own mutually acceptable agreements. Any case, with the exception of court-appointed or divorce, is welcome. More information is available on the Center’s website: www.nonviolentsolution.org

With support from local foundations and individuals, the Center also affirms and cooperates with local organizations that share its mission and provide help to people in times of crisis, including 1. YWCA and Daybreak, committed to empowering women and combating racism.2. Abby’s House, providing hospitality and counseling for women in need.3. St. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker, offering hospitality to homeless people as well as education and internships on issues of justice and peace.
4. Dismas House, a half-way house helping former inmates return to full citizenship.
5. Goods for Guns, Injury Free Coalition for Kids, and the Men’s and Women’s Anger Management Program at University of Massachusetts Medical School, in association with city agencies, cooperate in sustaining peace in the community.


Throughout the U.S., various organizations construct peace through on-the-ground community-building and legislative lobbying. Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) with a national office in Nyack, New York, and a regional office in Connecticut, for example, have been active for almost a century through Children’s Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC) and workshops and training sessions in nonviolence.

In recent years, School of Americas Watch, Ft. Benning, Georgia, and Voices in the wilderness, Chicago, have devoted themselves to resisting injustice and militarism, working “to build a new society in the shell of the old” and to offer alternatives to violence in particular settings. Similar commitments inform communal efforts involving members of the following organizations:

1. The Catholic Worker Movement, through over 100 houses, farms, and homeless shelters in the U.S. alone, feeds the hungry, houses the homeless, and engages in nonviolent resistance to war, militarism, and injustice. Several members have endured years in prison for civil disobedience against the manufacture and distribution of nuclear weapons. As a result of recent protests against drone attacks in the Middle East that kill innocent civilians, members from Ithaca, New York, spent time in prison; as did other members at the NATO summit in Chicago, for demonstrating against ”the militarization of the globe at the expense of human and environmental needs,” Newsletters from Houses of Hospitality in Los Angeles, Hartford, Des Moines, and Lower Manhattan document their commitment to healing the social order and working, as their co-founder, Peter Maurin said, to build a society “where it is easier for people to be good.”

2. Pace e Bene, Oakland, California, co-founded by a Franciscan monk, leads nonviolence training sessions recently for national protests in Chicago during a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NAT)). The organization publishes a manual for nonviolence training, supports Vietnam Veterans Against War, and maintains offices in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Montreal.

3. War Resisters League (WRL), New York City, has maintained active programs and provided rich resources since 1921, including its annual leaflet, “Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes.” The latter flyer points out that in 2013, 47 % of the national budget will fund U.S. military appropriations larger than all military budgets in the world combined. WRL also supports war tax resistance, organizes demonstrations against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and publishes information on events and activities important to the history of nonviolence in the U.S.

4.American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Philadelphia, a Quaker organization, maintains regional offices in Northampton, MA and Concord, NH, as well as in other parts of the world. Founded in 1917 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, AFSC a model for other peacemakers, through its programs and legislative lobbying to halt discrimination and to promote economic justice. An AFSC exhibit in Providence, now through August 25, 2012, “Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan,” includes free exhibits, programs, and films at the University of Rhode Island Providence Campus, 80 Washington St. More information at sene@afsc.org

5.Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA), Prescott, Arizona, involves academics from throughout the U.S. and Canada, including peace, conflict, and nonviolence studies programs at Notre Dame, Berkeley, George Mason, Tufts and Brandeis universities, as well as the three local institutions mentioned above. Since a Pastoral Letter of American bishops, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” 1983, encouraged Catholic institutions to become centers for peace research, Catholic institutions such as Georgetown, St. John’s and St. Benedict’s, University of San Francisco, and many others have developed sophisticated programs. Traditional peace churches, Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren, which sponsor Swarthmore, Goshen and Manchester colleges, respectively, were among the first institutions to initiate peace and conflict studies. The International Peace Studies Association (IPRA), co-founded by Kenneth and Elise Boulding, Johan Galtung, and other scholars from around the globe
has grown substantially since 1965, ,preparing students for internships and professional appointments at the United States Institution of Peace, Washington, D.C., and other agencies involved in peacekeeping initiatives.


Through UNESCO, UNHCR, and UNICEF, the United Nations is responsible for peacekeeping around the globe, with teams involved in dangerous areas on the verge of war and others involved in rebuilding civil society after a war.

Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), Minneapolis and Brussels, pays experienced peacemakers from many countries to intervene in dangerous environments, such as Sri Lanka, Mindanao, Guatemala, and Sudan. Its training for staff has received wide recognition for its effectiveness. The goals of the Nonviolent Peace Force include creating a space for fostering lasting peace between warring factions, and protecting civilians made vulnerable because of deadly conflict. Nobel Laureates, activists from every continent, and women’s religious orders, whose nuns work among vulnerable populations in the Philippines and Africa, have been particularly supportive of Nonviolent Peaceforce since it began in 1999. A recent initiative is “Unarmed Civilian Peacemaking: Being There When It Matters Most,”

A noteworthy characteristic of the organization is the modesty of its claims. “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once,” according to one member,” but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”
Other agencies with particular missions and responsibilities operating internationally include the following:

1. Albert Einstein Institution (AEI), Boston. AEI is a major research center devoted to reducing reliance on violence as an instrument of policy. Founded by Gene Sharp, its publications on the strategic use of nonviolent action in diverse conflicts are available in forty languages, many of them free on the internet at www.aeinstein.org AEI’s scholarship and research, in films, such as “How To Start a Revolution,” publications, and consultations has been widely effective in promoting and sustaining movements to promote and to sustain democratic governance. Its insights nonviolent theory and strategy have been successfully applied in bringing down dictators in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and in resisting injustice, oppression, and genocide in many other countries.

2. International Peace Research Association Foundation (IPRAF), Atlanta. IPRAF provides small research grants and fellowships for Third World Women to gain graduate degrees at major universities throughout the world in peace, conflict, and nonviolence studies. In association with the International Peace Association Foundation (IPRA) and the United Nations, it supports a bi-annual conference of scholars, researchers, and activists, including its Nonviolent Commission, to benefit the educational needs of faculty and students around the globe.

3. Doctors Without Borders/Medecin Sans Frontiers (MSF), Geneva. MSF, with five European operational center and nineteen national offices, has 26,000 physicians working in seventy countries upholding people’s rights to medical care regardless of race, color, creed, or national borders. Providing care in particularly acute crises, it also promotes international awareness of potential humanitarian disasters. It received the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. A number of its members have sacrificed their lives in ministering to vulnerable and endangered populations, as it sustains programs in its outreach to other countries and regions.

4. Amnesty International (AI), London. Initiated in the 1960s, with members in 150 countries, including national centers and local groups, AI received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 “for its contribution to securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world.” Regarding people jailed for their religious and political beliefs as “prisoners of conscience,” AI has been responsible for the release of thousands of prisoners. Opposing the use of torture and the death penalty, it upholds the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and similar international agreements, and also recognizes gay men and lesbians imprisoned for their choice of sexuality as “prisoners of conscience.”

5. Human Rights Watch (HRW), New York City. HRW, initiated in the 1970s, opposes capital punishment and advocates freedom of religion and the press and basic human rights. Its reports draw international attention to abuses through fact-finding missions exposing social and gender discrimination, torture, military use of children, political corruption, and abuses by criminal justice systems. Its stories of successful interventions are powerful reminders of the importance of witnessing to incidents of violence, as a preliminary means of addressing and correcting injustice. Among its sponsors are the George Soros Foundation.

* * *

In a world where violence threatens the lives and fortunes of people in neighborhoods, communities, and nations, professionals, activists, and ordinary citizens often risk their lives to construct peace cultures in violent contexts. Although occasionally recognized for their courage and effectiveness, they deserve wider recognition, through student initiatives, projects, and events essential to the common good. Their challenging and inspiring stories demonstrate the complexity of building, constructing, cultivating peace.
Through education and action, they encourage resistance to injustice and humiliation, resolution and transformation of conflict, and nonviolent social change, without killing or harming people. In doing so, they affirm the eight components of peacemaking cited in the UN document “Building a Cultures of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World,” which was adopted by 189 nations in the General Assembly in 1999.

Slowly, yet purposefully, we are trying to learn a new language that redefines the nature of peace, not as a “void” or “absence,” but as a “presence” or, in the words of Denise Levertov, as “an energyfield more intense than war.” This is the good news, amid the bad news surrounding us in a violent culture.”