Dick Bennett's focus on US wars and warming and their causes, consequences, and cures and the works of authors analyzing and promoting the search for peace
Thursday, April 14, 2011
HISTORY OF NWA PEACE MOVEMENT
Talk by Dick at Shiloh Museum August 15, 2007
My subject encompasses many subjects: nonviolence, human rights, civil liberties, social and economic justice, enviro stewardship and justice for all species and the land.
But for this brief, informal talk, I�ll focus on peace and war.
I. CONTEXT OF EMPIRE
II. FAYETTEVILLE 1965 TO 2000
III. OMNI CENTER FOR PEACE, JUSTICE, AND ECOLOGY
I. CONTEXT OF EMPIRE
1947. The National Security Act was created during this momentous year (also year of the Taft-Hartley Act).
A. General: HUAC, Attorney General�s loyalty list, loyalty oaths, dread of communist infiltration and expansion
B. Pres. Truman and Congress desired intensely to unify the 3 services (the new USAF)
C. Deep insecurity, fear, rapid increase of intense hawks in Congress and Pentagon
Produced the CIA, the National Security Council, and the change of Pentagon�s name from the War Dept. to the Dept. of Defense, with disastrous consequences.
The US was readying for a war with the Soviet Union, which became the so-called Cold War: the Truman Doctrine, NATO, Korean War, the hydrogen bomb and many related weapons of mass destruction, a virtuous USA spreading freedom and prosperity around the world, but threatened by evil enemies without and within. You know that history.
But not known so well is the parallel, contrasting, contesting history of the rise of the restored peace movement in response to the National Security Act and the growing obsession with national security and armed force and violence as the primary instrument of security policy. The 1947 National Security inspired a dual history of the US since WWII. The peace perspective had identified the military-industrial complex long before Pres. Eisenhower named and warned against it. But the new movement contained new elements of peacemaking different from the WWI and pre-WWII peace movements. To the Sermon on the Mount, the League of Nations, social and economic justice, negotiation, and diplomacy, were added FDR�s 4 Freedoms, Gandhi�s nonviolence, the UN Charter, the UN UDHR, and new ideas to give hope for humanity.
II. 1965-TO 2000, FAYETTEVILLE
I arrived in Fayetteville in 1965.
Secretary of War Robert McNamara was then convincing Pres. Johnson to begin the long, immense air war against Vietnam, to be called �Rolling Thunder� and to employ more bomb tonnage than in all of WWII.
A few of us at UofA opposed these bombings, as we were already opposing the war. We stood across the street from the old Student Union at noon. We were inexperienced at citizen protest and felt uneasy. A dark-suited man took our photo on various occasions. We wondered about our jobs.
But we also began to organize. Eventually we formed the �Peace Organizing Committee.� We showed films, arranged forums, panels, lectures. A small response to such a horrendous war. But we persisted, our numbers grew. We mirrored in a tiny way the growth of the peace movement nationally.
And then two momentous events happened in Washington.
First, On August 25, 1967, 40 years ago almost to the day, after a parade of generals and admirals had urged an increase of the bombings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Pentagon Secretary McNamara declared the bombings useless, not moving the Vietnam opponents either to negotiate or to surrender. In a few months Pres. Johnson fired him by appointing him to head the World Bank.
Second, in October tens of thousands of citizens marched on the Pentagon. McNamara watched from the roof of the Pentagon. He felt contempt for the marchers, but fear also, since he now basically agreed with the marchers. I recall heightened activity here, and hope for change, and it was perhaps then that we held a rally in the Greek Amphitheater with signs and an inspirational speaker, and then we marched to the Fayetteville Square. On the way some of the marchers sat down in the middle of Center Street, and were arrested.
But the war did not end. The horrendous, atrocious, useless mass killing of the people of Vietnam�an estimated 3 million�continued. The man most responsible for the bombings, could not stop them. The Pentagon officers, Pres. Johnson, the majority of Congress, and the majority of the public were obsessed with the doctrine of massive retaliation against the people of the Soviet Union, and would not apply it to the people of Vietnam. McNamara had set a whole generation of B-52 pilots loose on the Vietnam people And then he couldn�t stop it.
Yet the peace movement did help to begin the end of the bombings, and the end of the war, during that October 1967. It isn�t smug to say we knew we were right. Events had proved us right. We had understood the war was disastrously misconceived long before McNamara. Our a-himsa/satyagraha principles were intact. We would not kill. We would pursue the truth for humanity and not empire. Our belief in the worth of all people was undiminished. We had rightly judged the war merciless, soulless, cruel beyond imagination, savage, and racist.
Within months of the march on the Pentagon and our local demonstration , McNamara resigned, the Tet Offensive occurred, Pres. Johnson stopped �Rolling Thunder,� and he decided not to run for reelection. A bunch of nobodies helped turn the greatest military force from its destructive course.
Yes, Nixon and Kissinger continued the slaughter for another 7 years, but the open-ended escalation the Pentagon officers wanted in August, 1967 was stopped, and the perception that the war was not only a terrible mistake but an immense moral disaster for our nation began to be acknowledged by the public at large.
Peace Organizing Committee continued its protests even beyond the war. Several members of UA�s History Dept. were active in 60s and 70s. I remember one history student, Joe Neal, who arranged a large panel of faculty and wrote an impressive pamphlet against the war. I started an interdisciplinary course called �World War III.� We remembered Hiroshima-Nagasaki each August in the Greek Amphitheater.
But when Ronald Reagan became president, the Peace Organizing Committee gradually dissolved. We hung onto at least one of our projects: the H-N Remembrance. In the 1980s Hamsa and Moshe Newmark created Puente de Paz to help the people of Nicaragua as they were being attacked by CIA mercenaries. In 1991 Prof. Art Hobson organized regular protests against the Gulf War/Iraq War I. Before I retired I started a new course called War and Peace. And after retiring I compiled a book on the North American Peace movement entitled Peace Movement Directory.
Then in the year 2000 a medical doctor friend, Dana Copp, and I, following several years of discussion, decided to start a comprehensive �peace� organization�that is, dedicated to non-violence, human rights, social and economic justice, environmental stewardship, and world peace. He suggested the Latin word OMNI or ALL, we added Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology, we contracted for an office in the basement of the United Campus Ministry, and we were off running.
We opposed the Dept. of War. We admired Gandhi�s ahimsa and satyagraha (principles embraced by Martin Luther King, Jr. also). Stop the killing; stop recruiting and training for killing, stop invading other countries. We agreed on the goals of the UN�s Culture of Peace: building the structures, the institutions of peace inside the US culture of war, secrecy, militarism, censorship. We would try to prevent future US aggressions and to turn its great power to helping people everywhere find liberty and happiness. Our plan had two parts: Education and Action. But shortly after we began, Dr. Copp moved to Dallas to help care for his wife�s mother.
But people were ready. Out of a hunger for a different kind of leaders, for peace and justice, for a nation that truly cared for people and all species, OMNI grew and grew.
1) Heroes Awards
2) PeaceWriting Awards
3) Open-Mic, songbooks
5) Peace Poles
6) Women�s Poetry Readings: HOWL
7) Regional Peace Conferences
8) Celebrations: Indigenous Peoples Day, Internat. Women�s Day, Internat. Day of Peace, Bill of Rights Day, Human Rights Day
And I am glad to answer your questions about NWA�s peace organization.