|PEACE ACTION FOR A SANE WORLD, the nation's largest grassroots peace network,
with chapters and affiliates in over 30 states, organizes our grassroots network to place
pressure on Congress and the Administration through write-in campaigns, Internet actions,
citizen lobbying and direct action. Through a close relationship with progressive members of
Congress, we play a key role in devising strategies to move forward peace legislation, and as a
leading member of United for Peace and Justice and the Win Without War coalition, we lend our
expertise and large network to achieving common goals.
Real change comes from the bottom up.
We're committed to educating and organizing at the grassroots level.
Peace Action Youngstown , Ohio chapter since 1989, merges the organization's national
mission with efforts to build community peace and social justice programs, including
neighborhood restoration and the arts.
Together, we have the power to be the change we wish to see in the world.
|FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS, WE'VE WORKED FOR PEACE THROUGH COMMUNITY COMMITMENT, ISSUES INTERCHANGE AND ARTS PRESENTATIONS
|IF YOU WANT IT...
|WAR IS OVER
|"No matter how cynical you
get, it's almost impossible
to keep up." - Lily Tomlin
|PEACE ACTION YOUNGSTOWN
|Commemorating" the Vietnam
War: One Marine's Perspective
By Camillo Mac Bica, Truthout | Op-Ed
March 29 has been designated "Vietnam Veterans Day,” according to a
proclamation issued by President Obama in 2012. The Vietnam War,
according to the proclamation, "is a story of patriots who braved the line of
fire, who cast themselves into harm's way to save a friend, who fought hour
after hour, day after day to preserve the liberties we hold dear." Now I have
no problem acknowledging the debt owed to all whose lives were affected
by this war, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and Americans alike. What
I find intolerable, even disgraceful, however, is that even 50 years later,
our leaders are incapable of telling the truth about the war and choose
rather to perpetuate the lie that these "sacrifices," at least those of the
Americans, were "to preserve the liberties we hold dear." Such rhetoric -
although perhaps inspiring to some - hinders reconciliation, dishonors the
veteran, and damages the moral integrity of this nation.
As we embark upon a congressionally mandated 13-year-long
commemoration, probably "celebration" would be more accurate, of the
50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, I feel a responsibility, as a veteran of
that war, to contribute a perspective I fear will be ignored willfully at the
official commemoration web site. I am certain that there are as many
perspectives as there are individuals who served, observed, protested
against and supported that very divisive war. Consequently, I offer no
guarantee that my observations, interpretations and conclusions about the
war are definitive, or better than those of someone with a profoundly
different recollection and analysis.
What I offer in this essay, then, is my personal narrative and a perspective
on the Vietnam War by a former Marine Corps officer, Vietnam veteran and
philosopher who has spent many years studying the theory of war, diverse
historical accounts of the Vietnam war and, perhaps more to the point,
contemplating a life profoundly impacted by the experience. My hope is to
tell the truth as I see it and offer an analysis of the war that counters what I
fear is the goal and purpose of this proclamation and commemoration.
That is, to continue to perpetuate, if not ratchet up, the lie of 50 years ago
and the mythological portrayal of the Vietnam War as justifiable, necessary
and in the national interest.
Childhood Memories: Learning About War
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My parents, like most immigrants at the
time, were grateful to be living in this land of "unlimited opportunity."
Influenced by Catholic school education, John Wayne movies and John F.
Kennedy's admonishment to "ask what you can do for your country," I grew
up stridently patriotic with a strong sense of duty to God and to country.
The Old Ones
As the old men played Briscola, a card game of Sicilian origin, they smoked
DiNobli cigars and drank Caffe' Corretto, a grappa-laced espresso, in small
cups. The cigar smoke lay heavy in the room, dispersing the glow of the
single light bulb that hung precariously over the table. They spoke in
broken English of coming to America. Some came illegally. Most flirted a bit
with the mafia, and all worked hard to support their families in a difficult job
market for laborers. Nervous and excited, I listened attentively, from a safe
distance, hidden behind the old green sofa. On most occasions I was
quickly discovered. And after a good-natured reprimand and a gentle "boot
in the ass," I was sent on my way. On a few occasions, however, my
perseverance was greatly rewarded. For reasons I can only speculate
about, no one seemed to notice my presence. Even as a 10-year-old,
I realized that this was a special place and I had no business
eavesdropping on such privileged conversation.
As they consumed the potent coffee, barriers lowered and the discussion,
at least as I remember it, invariably turned to their experiences during the
Second World War and the Korean conflict. Despite being immigrants, all
were drafted into the American military. I listened intently as my father,
while contemplating his next discard, recalled his experiences as a US
Army interpreter fighting through the villages and countryside of Sicily, the
land of his birth. Somberly, he described in great detail how American
artillery and bombing had devastated the village in which he was born.
How he had been torn between strong feelings of patriotism for his adopted
homeland and a deep sense of shame and guilt he felt for the deaths of
innocent villagers, some of whom had been his neighbors. I learned also
that my Uncle Gasper, a SeaBee, had narrowly escaped being killed by a
Japanese sniper while building an airfield on Guadalcanal. Uncle Tony,
nicknamed "Squint Eye," but only addressed as such by a few of his
closest friends, told of nearly being blinded by shrapnel during a kamikaze
attack against his minesweeper in the South Pacific. What impressed me
most, I think, was hearing my Uncle Joe relate, with great emotion, the
heroic last stand of the Marines at the frozen Chosin Reservoir in Korea.
I was amazed to see this very strong, austere and stoic man cry when he
described gently holding a fellow Marine in his arms as the dying man
gasped his last breath. As I listened to their stories, despite my young age,
I empathized with their obvious pain and grief.
Surely, the Old Ones were aware of my presence behind the old green
sofa. I often wondered why, on those few occasions, I was allowed to
remain and witness such intensely personal discussions of aspects of their
lives they kept so well hidden from all except those who shared similar
experiences. Perhaps they thought it important that I know the family
history. In my more whimsical moments, however, I fancy that they were
trying to educate me and make me aware of war's realities.
In my youth, I was fascinated and exhilarated by war. Because of what I had
learned from my hiding place behind the old green sofa, however, I was
also wary of its devastating effects. War was an enigma I wished I could
have discussed with the Old Ones. My concerns could never be
addressed, however, as I realized the inappropriateness of discussing such
matters outside the sanctuary of "the warrior's circle."
Confronting the Vietnam War
In 1968, America was at war. Communism was the menace; Vietnam, the
focal point of the confrontation between good and evil, the domino of
choice that must, at all costs, remain standing. To the Vietnamese,
however, it was a continuing struggle against another in a seemingly
endless series of colonial or occupying powers intent upon denying them
independence, national unity and self-determination. To Americans, it was
portrayed as a grass-roots struggle between north and south, a noble and
necessary intervention to exorcize pervasive evil seeking world domination.
Ultimately, however, it was a disaster, a quagmire, an immoral, illegal,
unnecessary and divisive war few chose to fight, so many were conscripted.
"The unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the
indifferent and the ungrateful." Anonymous Grafitti
As a consequence of the draft, many young Americans were confronted
with a profound social and moral dilemma. Whether to severely disrupt
their lives, possibly shame themselves and their families by expatriating -
fleeing to Canada - or risk injury or death by answering the call, becoming
a warrior and, in the view of many, a murderer, or an accessory to murder.
However, I had an additional option. Upon graduating from college, I could
have availed myself - quite rightly, my parents believed - of the deferment
from military service offered to teachers at the time - a testimony, I guess,
to the importance of education in creating the "Great Society" that Lyndon
Johnson had hoped would be the legacy of his administration. Further,
because the teaching position was at an "inner-city school," the social
importance of such an undertaking, I reasoned, justified accepting the
deferment. In truth, such rationalization was unnecessary, because
avoiding military service was quite common and un-noteworthy, especially
for the wealthy and the influential. For me, however, to remain at home
while others fought and died in my place was cowardice. More importantly,
it was an affront to the parents of my childhood friend Ralphie, who, a few
months earlier, had dutifully, albeit reluctantly, sent their son to war. All
they received in return were fragments of bone and sinew and a form letter
from the president of the United States expressing the nation's regrets and
gratitude for Ralphie's heroic sacrifice in behalf of freedom and democracy.
Code words for a mistake, a paranoia-driven crusade against contrived evil
that demanded the life of their child.
As I watched the drama of Ralphie's funeral unfold, I remembered playing
stickball on East 87th Street not many years before. I smiled, recalling how
a foul ball had broken Eddie's mother's window and how Ralphie had
quickly handed me the bat before shrewdly escaping to the sanctuary of
Anthony's garage. No one believed I wasn't the culprit, until Ralphie
abandoned his hiding place and with cobwebs hanging from his forehead,
bravely admitted to the deed. As they lowered Ralphie's casket into the
ground, I drifted among a tangle of childhood memories - ring-a-levio, kick-
the-can on humid summer nights, and riding our bikes down "suicide hill."
Ralphie was 20 years, 6 months and 2 days old when war ended his life.
The lesson I learned from Ralphie's death was that in war young people die
and old people grieve. The rational response would probably have been to
put the tragedy behind me, to accept the deferment and go on with my life.
But those were not rational times. Instead, I enlisted in the Marine Corps -
understanding full well that a trip to Vietnam was guaranteed.
I was excited and could not wait to tell my Uncle Joe. I thought for sure he
would be pleased, proud that his nephew chose to emulate him and
become a Marine. As I gave him the good news, I studied his time-worn
face for approval. I sensed, perhaps for the first time, an uncharacteristic
vulnerability, even frailty. He seemed much older than his years. "Why you
do that?" he said as our eyes finally met. Without waiting for a response,
he kissed me on both cheeks. "Che Dio vi benedica" were his last words to
me as he turned and walked away. Rendered speechless by what had
occurred, I didn't even think to return the blessing or to say goodbye. Soon
after I had arrived in Vietnam, I learned my Uncle Joe had died.
In retrospect, I'm not really certain why I decided not to accept the
deferment. Perhaps, it was patriotism, or bravado, or even to avenge my
friend's death. Or perhaps it was just to fulfill my destiny as a warrior and
heir apparent to the legacy of the Old Ones. I left on July 5, 1968, for
Marine Corps officer training at Quantico, Virginia. What I failed to realize
at the time, however, was that I was leaving behind, forever, all that I had
cherished and held sacred for the past 21 years. Most tragically, I was
leaving behind the innocence of my youth.
The Experience of War
Marine Corps training was truly a life-altering experience. What ultimately
enables a Marine to ignore the ethical limits normally placed on the use of
violence – to kill and to die in battle – is not abstract ideology, or even
patriotism, but rather a personal code of honor, self-respect, loyalty and
accountability to one's comrades. I learned my lessons well and readily
embraced the mythology of the warrior. Upon completion of my training,
I felt part of a proud and chivalrous tradition, a select brotherhood of noble
and courageous knights, empowered by God and country to exorcize the
demonic agents of evil. I was prepared to kill and to selflessly sacrifice my
life, if need be, for right and for good. After Ralphie's death and the
sacrifices of the Old Ones, how could I do anything less?
Soon after arriving in Vietnam, however, I learned that no one is truly
prepared for the horror, inhumanity and destruction of "demythologized"
war. Fear, inevitably, is the myth breaker, restoring to war a reality that is
bleak, uncompromising and hellish.
"My first experience of war was not auspicious. As mortar rounds walked in
upon us, like giant steps of death and destruction, I was mesmerized by
excitement and fear. Frozen in place, gauging the next footfall, I was
pushed, rather unceremoniously, into a sandbagged bunker, more to clear
the escape route than from a concern for my well-being. All that I had
learned forgotten, I burrowed, wormlike, into the muddy bottom, seeking
sanctuary, cursing my inability to disappear into the earthen mother's
womb." (war journals, Bica, C.C., 1969)
Despite my childhood fascination and Marine Corps indoctrination, I was
never enthusiastic about war. Even those more motivated than I, those who
viewed war as a means for advancement, lacked fervor for this particular
enterprise. Yet men turned easily into killers, shedding a young lifetime of
humanity and compassion. In a brief moment of frenzy, killing became
orgasmic, and death, performance art.
"A body of a dead Viet Cong sapper stood upright impaled in layers of
concertina wire marking the no-man's land that surrounds the perimeter of
a firebase north of Danang. Killed trying to breech the base's defenses, his
catatonic body adorned by holiday revelers with Christmas decorations and
a sign, soiled with blood and entrails, wishing all peace and good will from
the United States Marines. As we passed and entered the base, few even
took notice. I heard one young Marine, newly arrived in country, whisper to
no one in particular, "Ho, fucking ho, fucking ho." The innocence of youth
dies quickly when killing becomes a rite of passage."
(war journals, Bica, C.C., 1969)
The reality of the situation on the ground failed to match the rhetoric of our
leaders. I felt a moral uneasiness with both the purpose of the war and the
manner in which it was conducted. Because attrition became the strategy
and the goal - seemingly the only strategy and goal - and identification of
the enemy problematic, killing became indiscriminate and all too easy.
Dying became routine, purposeless and seemingly inevitable ... and
Ralphie's death all the more tragic. But yet,
"With the Marine Corps Hymn lingering in the background of my mind, I
persevered, like Sergeant Stryker charging valiantly up Suribachi, dying
quickly, quietly, gently, and without pain or regret. In truth, most linger,
scream for their mothers like children, first imploring God to let them live,
then begging for death to end their suffering. Final glances exchanged
eyes burned deeply into my soul. Faces of the soon to be dead, I'll
remember for the rest of my life." (war journals, Bica, C.C., 1969)
Patriotic hymns and anthems fade quickly amid the screams of the
mutilated and the dying. As the warrior's mythology crumbled, I felt an
overwhelming burden of responsibility, no longer to Corps and country but
to those whose lives depended upon my abilities and decisions. I saw
Ralphie in each of their young faces, made empty and hardened by war,
and was deafened by the heartbreaking and poignant cries of parents
pleading for the lives of their children. Survival was all that really mattered.
What I failed to realize at the time, however, was that, at least in spirit, we
were all already dead.
War usurps the omnipotence of god, the power over life and death, and
makes it anathema. Some found such power exhilarating. I knew people
like that, didn't like them much. Thought them lucky, though, as killing and
dying meant nothing. In a perverse way, they enjoyed it, enjoyed the jazz,
the excitement, the power. Intoxicated by war, such men hated to see it
end. For me, the war never ends.
For the remainder of my time in country, I struggled with the conflicting
responsibilities of an officer of Marines in war and of safeguarding the lives
of those entrusted to my care. Tragically, what mattered least in this moral
equation were those we were allegedly there to liberate and to protect.
They became expendable as dead Vietnamese posed no threat to our
survival and satisfied the military demand for body count. Like most, I did
what "had to be done," and this is something I will live with for the rest of my
life. ... All of war is atrocity.
We often hear our military and political leaders speak of our nation's
uncompromising commitment to the international and moral laws of war and
rules of engagement. Such talk, however, is, in reality, part of the
mythology, necessary to maintain a guise of legality and morality and to
allow our national conscience to remain clean. As is clear from history, law
as it applies to war, is merely a tactic of advantage, having relevance and
application only should belligerent nations find such law and restrictions
advantageous to the achievement of some important national goal or
purpose. But when perceived political or military interest comes in conflict
with legal and moral principles, it is inevitably the former that prevails. How
else could one explain the systemic incineration of hundreds of thousands
of innocent men, women and children as a consequence of the saturation
and nuclear bombing of cities during World War II, while, at the same time,
countries doing the bombing condemned the genocide of Nazi death
camps. How else can one explain torture, "targeted" drone assassination
and signature strikes during the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.,
while the perpetrators condemn the terrorism of al Qaeda.
Make no mistake, however. Few if any go to war to murder innocent
people. Most exert great effort, often at considerable personal risk, to
protect the innocent and conduct themselves with decency and integrity.
Unfortunately, either under the rubric of "supreme emergency," as was the
case in World War II, or because of the morally untenable conditions of
guerrilla and/or counterinsurgency warfare as in Vietnam, Iraq and
Afghanistan, soldiers inevitably become the unwitting instruments of
slaughter. Such occurrences are always tragic and regrettable but never
more so than when war is misguided and unnecessary. Those removed
from the chaos and confusion of the battlefield are understandably
appalled by what, from their perspective, constitutes brutality and murder.
When public outrage demands justice, it is invariably the warrior who is
held accountable while those who initiated the war or who supported or did
little or nothing to stop it are themselves absolved of responsibility and
permitted to continue their charade of moral awareness and concern as
they sit in judgment of our actions. We are the victims of their hypocrisy,
the scapegoats for the inevitable affront to the national conscience and the
sacrificial lambs sent to slaughter in retribution for our collective guilt and
inadequacies. In fact, no one knows the sacrilege of war better than we
who must fight it and then have to live with the memories of what we have
done and what we have become.
"The monster and I are one. I have feasted upon the flesh of decaying
corpses and with their blood have quenched my thirst. The transformation
is complete and I can never return. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima
culpa." (war journals, Bica, C.C., 1969)
The Aftermath of War
All who are touched by war are tainted. Upon my return to the the United
States world, I felt a stranger in my own home, disoriented and adrift
between the world I recognized as my place of origin - although now quite
alien - and the world of killing and destruction of which I was a part.
"Things were different . . . or maybe I was different. As much as I had come
to hate the war, there at least I felt I belonged. I knew what was expected of
me, and I had become proficient at fulfilling those expectations.
Here I am a misfit, an aberration, isolated and alone."
(postwar journals, Bica, C.C., 1971)
Vietnam was the defining experience of my life. Although physical wounds
may heal, the emotional, psychological and moral injuries of war linger and
fester. Vietnam forever pervades my existence, condemning me to
continually relive and question the past. Inevitable concerns of those who
participate in an enterprise whose primary - no, sole - function is to take life
and cause others to die. Despite the urging of well-meaning friends and
loved ones, I can never forget Vietnam nor put it behind me. No one truly
recovers from war. No one is ever made whole again. The best that can be
hoped, I think, is to achieve a degree of benign acceptance. To that end, I
strive each day to forgive and absolve myself of guilt and to live with the
wounds of war that will never heal.
"The endless screams of the dying forever echo in my mind. A sacrificial
offering of virgins to placate the elder gods. I've become an atheist."
(postwar journals, Bica, C.C., 1971)
Of late, I think often of Ralphie and his parents, of ring-o-levio, and bike
rides down "suicide hill." I often think too of the Old Ones, and sometimes,
while deep in thought, or, perhaps, lost in a daydream, I can almost smell
the faint aroma of DiNobili cigars and alcohol-tinged espresso. For a
fleeting moment, I am 10 years old again, watching and listening from
behind the old green sofa. But now the exhilaration, awe and wonder I
enjoyed as a child is gone as I have learned the reality of war. I think of the
Old Ones, still with admiration, but now tempered by understanding and
sadness for all they had endured. I know now the true cost of war and the
burden of life in its aftermath. I realize as well that all war is profane - and
unnecessary war is sacrilege. And perhaps worst of all, I know the
frustration of having to sit idly by, helpless, as it all happens again. I mourn
young lives devastated by war. I see Ralphie in each of their faces and am
deafened by the screams of devastated loved ones. Never had I missed
the Old Ones more, especially my father. Never were my Uncle Joe and the
Marine who died in his arms at the Chosin more clearly in my mind.
Perhaps war is a reality that will not soon go away, and sacrifices on the
field of battle will again be required. But rather than "commemorate" and
"celebrate" Vietnam with lies, let us end the mythologizing of war and
demand truth. Let us question war's purpose and necessity and ensure a
clarity of vision rather than the blind compliance some wish to portray as
patriotism. Let us ensure that war remains a means of last resort and that
no other person will again have to kill, die or grieve the loss of their son or
daughter for a cause that is misguided. Let us demand accountability for
war criminals who dare to initiate such wars and connive to use deception
and myth to encourage participation and support. Let us make this our
legacy and celebrate peace rather than war.
Camillo "Mac" Bica, PhD, is a professor of philosophy at the School of Visual Arts
in New York City. He is a former Marine Corps officer, Vietnam veteran, longtime
activist for peace and social justice, and the coordinator of the Long Island Chapter
of Veterans for Peace.
|Works in progress.
I will return
to work on this site.
|More of the Same
Lesson from 9/11
by CESAR CHELALA
Sept 10th, 2014
On a rainy morning on April
1958, in Washington DC, Ezra
Pound -then a seventy-two
year-old man- was declared
“incurably insane” by Judge
Bolitha J. Laws, who set him
free. As he prepared to leave
for Italy Pound declared
“Any man who could live in
America is insane.”
I wonder what Pound –one of
America’s greatest poets-
would think today of the state
of the country, which is
suffering from a long blood-
letting process resulting from
unjust, unjustified wars. This
situation is particularly evident
when one returns to the US
after staying from some time
overseas. What one sees, as
many friends told me, is an
American government bent on
an almost suicidal road to war.
It has been shown almost ad
infinitum that following the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan, to cite
only the most important ones,
that the climate of worldwide
violence has increased
substantially, and shows no
signs of diminishing. And while
we are justifiably horrified by
the recent beheadings of two
American journalists, we were
not equally horrified by the
killings by drones of whole
families in countries overseas.
Nor we were equally horrified
by the hundreds of Palestinian
children and the destruction of
thousands of homes of people
fighting for the right to live in
their own land. In the
meantime, meretricious US
politicians repeated like a
mantra that they supported the
right of Israel to defend itself,
without any mention of
In the meantime, few people
seem to be concerned about
the tortures and humiliations at
Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan
and so many other countries
where prisoners were sent to
be tortured by the US
authorities. And while President
Barak Obama has promised,
even before being elected, that
he would close Guantanamo
this is yet to happen, and the
issue has become one of the
darkest episodes in the US’s
This is happening while more
attacks are being carried out
on Iraq and in Syria, the same
rebels we have armed, are
proving to be a nightmare for
US forces and a huge
hindrance to eventually reach
peace in that region. In the
meantime, the US intervention
in Libya, rather than
democratizing the country, has
left a mess of deadly rivalries of
conflicting armies without a
solution in sight.
And while an agreement with
Iran over its nuclear program is
pursued, new sanctions were
imposed on that country that in
the least are an irritant and at
most an obstacle
to an agreement.
To add to this panorama of
desolation, we see the slow
disintegration of Ukraine, the
hapless country in the middle
of conflicting US and Russian
interests. And rather than
trying to calm the waters of
dissent, the US is slowly
encircling Russia through
NATO, unconcerned that a
similar situation on the US
borders would be
unacceptable to the US.
The “war on terror” has not
defeated it but brought more
terror to the world. As Rami G.
Khouri, a contributing editor to
the Beirut Daily Star, and a
keen observer of international
politics recently wrote, “Dear
Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and
Prime Minister David Cameron
of the United Kingdom: before
you launch a new global war on
terror and another coalition of
countries to fight ISIS, please
note that the last three
decades of your global war on
terror have sparked the
greatest expansion of Islamist
militancy and terrorism in
modern history. This partly,
maybe largely, because your
military actions in Islamic lands
usually destabilize those lands,
allowing your enemies to
organize and take root, and
also provide the greatest
magnet that attracts mostly
fringe and lost young men to
give meaning to their lives by
joining what they see as a
defensive jihad to save Islamic
societies from your aggression.”
To continue the war on terror is
thus not only counterproductive
and will not bring peace to the
world but will show, sadly, that
the main lesson of 9/11 has not
Dr. Cesar Chelala is a winner
of an overseas Press Club of
America award for an article on
|Workers in Maine Buy
Out Their Jobs, Set an
Example for the Nation
Saturday, 13 September 2014
10:25 By Rob Brown, Noemi
Giszpenc and Brian Van Slyke,
Truthout | Op-Ed
t(On remote Deer Isle, Maine, the
movement for a more just and
democratic economy won a major
victory this summer. More than 60
employees of three retail businesses
- Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and
Pharmacy, and The Galley - banded
together to buy the stores and create
the largest worker cooperative in
Maine and the second largest
in New England.
Now the workers own and run the
businesses together under one
banner, known as the Island
Employee Cooperative (IEC). This is
the first time that multiple businesses
of this size and scope have been
merged and converted into one
worker cooperative - making this a
achievement in advancing
Getting There: What It Took
When the local couple that had
owned the three businesses for 43
years began to think about selling
their stores and retiring, the workers
became concerned. The stores were
one of the island's biggest employers
and a potential buyer probably would
not have come from within the
community or maintained the same
level of jobs and services. Only a
worker buy-out could achieve stability.
Because these workers were trying to
accomplish something historic, it took
more than a year - and it wasn't
always an easy road. But the workers'
strength lay in their own
determination, and in the ability to
rely on a group of allies dedicated to
growing the cooperative movement.
The Independent Retailers Shared
Services Cooperative (IRSSC) and
the Cooperative Development
Institute, helped them develop their
management, governance, legal and
financial structures. They were also
able to secure financing from
Maine-based Coastal Enterprises and
the Cooperative Fund of New
England, both Community
Development Finance Institutions
(CDFIs). Without that dedicated
technical assistance and available
capital, it is doubtful the IEC
would be here today.
More Is Needed
While the creation of the IEC
maintained dozens of decent paying
jobs and a remote community's only
nearby access to essentials such as
groceries and prescription
medications, it also points to a
successful model that could be used
across the country to expand
ownership and wealth to regular
working people. This experience
shows that if only we had more
resources to experiment with
grounded, practical economic
policies, we could create many more
of the living-wage jobs and
community-sustaining businesses we
The Great Recession has led many to
consider better ways to organize our
economy, as always happens during
economic downturns. But the reality is
that our economy, even during the
"good times," has always been failing
working people. So we need to
think long term and change our
strategies in order to build
a durable, democratic, equitable
and just economy.
The Great Recession in Maine: A
Bad Situation Gets Worse
In the aftermath of the Great
Recession, Maine has won back less
than half of the jobs we lost (ranking
us 46th among the states): We are
second from the bottom for total job
growth, and we have one of the
highest numbers of part-time workers
who want more employment but can't
find it. Nearly one-third of
unemployed Mainers have been
looking for work for more than six
months, which is more than twice the
national average. And what little
growth there has been has occurred
almost exclusively in the Portland
metro region, in far southern Maine.
But it's not as if our workers were
prospering before the Great
Over the last 30 years, the incomes
of the poorest Maine workers grew by
only 27 percent, while incomes for the
wealthiest Mainers jumped by 67
percent. Starting in the late '90s,
Maine lost more manufacturing jobs
per capita than any other state.
Maine workers also have the lowest
average incomes of all the New
England states and, of Maine's 16
counties, 14 of them are among the
poorest in the region. As a result, one
in seven Mainers overall and more
than one in five children live in
poverty. Most shamefully, poverty
characterizes more than one in four
young children, and one in three in
our poorest counties.
In short, Maine's low wages, limited
job prospects, deepening poverty and
growing inequality are not just the
result of the Great Recession; it is
structural and long-standing. We've
needed to change the way the
economy works for quite a while. And
that's exactly why strategies to create
sustainable, democratic businesses
like the Island Employee Cooperative
are so critical.
The Island Employee Cooperative: A
Model for Maine and the Nation
Worker cooperatives hold the
promise of fundamentally addressing
our longstanding economic woes.
Because they give members an equal
voice in the co-op's governance, a
worker co-op will almost never pick up
and leave its community. Those jobs
are democratically owned by the
people who work and live there.
In addition, in worker co-ops,
employees have an incentive to work
harder and smarter, because they
benefit from an equitable share of the
profits. And when a worker co-op is
facing financial difficulty, the first
response isn't to lay people off.
That's because the worker-owners
are sharing the risks and burdens of
the business as well. Instead,
members often come together to find
democratic solutions to their
problems, such as temporarily
lowering wages or cutting hours for all
workers, so that no one person has to
lose their job. This is one of the major
factors that also make worker co-ops
more economically sustainable in
For the new worker-owners of the
Island Employee Cooperative, the
transformation into a co-op will, over
time, create profound changes in
their lives as they begin investing
some of the business' profits into
better wages and benefits -
something that is extremely
uncommon for those in the retail
business. The co-op is also already
collaborating with the Maine
Community College System to deliver
education programs on-site so that
the workers can improve their
knowledge and skills. While retail jobs
are often depicted as low-wage and
dead-end, these retail workers are
now business owners who will learn to
make many hard decisions together.
And because IEC is one of the
island's largest employers,
the cooperative ownership
model will make a tremendous
impact on the community as many
more families build wealth through
That's a model we can and should
A New Approach to Economic
Unfortunately, successful examples
like the IEC are rare in the United
States because worker cooperative
development gets little to no support
from city, state and federal
governments. Instead, these
institutions spend a fortune on
economic development programs that
create windfall profits for
corporations, but very few
sustainable, living-wage jobs.
The way states have traditionally
pursued economic development relies
primarily on "chasing smokestacks"
and dreaming up new tax giveaways
for out-of-state corporations. That
serves to benefit the 1% while leaving
workers in the dust.
A less costly, more effective and more
equitable strategy of focusing on
worker co-op development would
drive investments into grassroots
initiatives for economic sustainability.
Some support already exists: For
example, New York City just passed
its 2015 budget and is investing over
$1 million in a comprehensive
program to support the development
of worker cooperatives, including
business-development resources to
be more supportive of worker co-ops.
Ohio has provided small grants for
feasibility studies and technical
assistance to employees considering
a cooperative buyout of their
workplace, using federal funds that
are available in every state (but
utilized by only a half-dozen or so).
Rural Cooperative Development
Grants from the US Department of
Agriculture support state and regional
groups that provide cooperative
development services in rural areas
(though not just to worker co-ops).
There are more examples of
supportive policies, but they all
amount to a tiny drop in the bucket
compared to what is spent on typical
economic development approaches
that do little for working people.
In order to begin scaling up worker
co-op development, we need to
provide technical assistance and
small pre-development grants to
people starting co-ops within their
own communities, make available
better education on how to operate a
cooperative, provide loan guarantees
for groups who would otherwise
struggle to access credit, and offer
targeted, accountable tax incentives.
Communities across the country
would benefit from more initiatives
that support development of new
co-ops, as well as converting existing
businesses into worker-owned ones
like the Island Employee Cooperative.
This approach would allow many
more communities to sustain
themselves, cultivate jobs with dignity,
improve wages and help more people
build wealth through democratic
ownership. And then we might see a
transformation into an economy that
truly and sustainably serves the
needs of all.
|Again the American people have been summoned to
wage war against a dangerous “terrorist” adversary –
this time it's the Islamic State (ISIL).
Again, we are told this enemy is uniquely evil and that U.S. military force is the only
solution. And while the Obama Administration promises to avoid ground combat,
the calls for more troops grow more insistent with each passing day, with
disturbing evidence of “mission creep.”
U.S.military power as a means of stopping “terrorism” in the Muslim world has not
and never will succeed. Over the past thirteen years, we have observed two major
US wars in which early euphoria gave way to chaos, corruption and greater
violence in the places the United States claimed to be “liberating.”
We recognize that the Islamic State (ISIL) is a dangerous entity, which needs to
be stopped. But this cannot be a U.S. directed project, nor can we afford to repeat
the mistakes of the past. We cannot bomb an ideology, or heal sectarian conflicts
with the barrel of a gun. The narcotic effect of air strikes, which spare the lives of
US soldiers, while killing others, takes the story off the front pages. Invisible to the
public, the bombing inevitably causes widespread suffering among innocent
people, multiplying enemies and provoking further 'terrorism."
More constructive alternatives to military intervention include:
•accelerating humanitarian assistance for displaced people,
•halting the flow of US arms to the region,
•pressuring allies to halt the financing and the flow of weapons and IS personnel
through their territories,
•prioritizing diplomatic intervention under United Nations auspices,
•insisting on a renewed peace process for Syria that includes all parties,
•involving Iran and other regional actors in the negotiations over Iraq’s future,
which include the diversity of groups within that country.
While none of these options is fool-proof, an American war is a proven failure.
This is a critical time to speak-up before the US becomes fully engaged in a new
war that could embroil us in conflict for decades. Remind the public and our
elected officials that diplomacy and humanitarian assistance ARE more effective
than American military intervention.
During the next two weeks United for Peace and Justice together with other peace
and justice groups around the country will be making our opposition visible .
Please join this effort:
*Call your Congressional and Senate offices and ask where that elected official
stands on the new conflict with ISIL? Send a clear message that you are opposed
to the bombing, as well as the addition of more “boots on the ground.” Urge them
to vote against any authorization for the use of force against ISIL.
Find contact info for your representatives here: http://capwiz.
*Organize a delegation to meet with your representatives or a staff member.
If nobody is available to meet with you, arrange a vigil outside their office and
call the local media.
* Organize a community meeting, which can address some of the questions and
genuine concerns that people have about the expansion of ISIL and the role
of the United States
*Write a letter to the editor of a local paper raising your objections to the present
course. Be sure to include information about how much this new war is costing.
Link here for a useful article on the cost of fighting ISIL: http://www.bostonglobe.
|A Civics Lesson
Be a Passionate Voter for Justice
by RALPH NADER
Nov 3, 2014 Millions of Americans displayed passion and fevered interest in the
recent exciting World Series championship. Now it’s time to move on to a serious
matter of national importance that often suffers from a lack of public enthusiasm.
Millions of Americans, many of whom are avid sports fans, are suffering due to low
wages, income inequality, and a gridlocked Congress that is obsessed with
campaign fundraising and incapable of addressing many of country’s most pressing
needs, from public investments to fair play for working families.
With Election Day just days away, now is the perfect time to transfer some of that
passion and energy for sports into the political realm. After
all, there is far more on the line than just a championship and bragging rights. And
elections are not a spectator sport —
you need to be on the field yourself!
Just imagine if the majority of eligible voters had the same dedication and diligence
as sports fans who know all the stats and figures, the players, and the management
hierarchy. Imagine if voters were as informed, passionate and vocal as baseball fans.
Unfortunately, many voters will head to the polls on November 4th and simply vote
down the party line. Far too many won’t spend a little time to research the various
candidates’ actual records beyond their party affiliation. Voters won’t learn about
what their candidates or elected officials have done beyond what they have said
they would do.
They won’t even consider the issues that matter most to them and their families.
That’s if they even show up at all, of course. It’s expected that only 40 percent of
eligible voters will even bother showing up on November 4th.
The mass media certainly does not help spark voter engagement.
Most network and cable news programs fail to do an adequate job in covering or
presenting issues that really matter most to millions of Americans and they certainly
do not hold candidates to their words or put their feet to the fire when they have
broken their past campaign promises.
And, of course, the election season airwaves are filled with campaign ads that
attack, make bold promises, and mislead on facts. They are all expensive noise
with little substance.
Here are few serious questions that voters should consider — no matter whether the
candidates on their ballot identify as Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian,
Independent or otherwise — before they cast their votes on Tuesday.
Where do the candidates stand on raising the minimum wage?
Stagnant at $7.25 per hour since 2009, 3 out of 4 Americans now support raising
the minimum wage. Thirty million hardworking Americans — two-thirds women and
two-thirds employed by large corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s — are
making less today, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1968. Millions would benefit
from a restoration in purchasing power to 1968 levels and in turn would be able to
strengthen the economy by increasing their consumer expenditures. Despite being a
winning issue for Election Day, many corporatist members of Congress have
remained firmly opposed.
Where do the candidates stand on corporate welfare
(otherwise called crony capitalism)?
Corporate welfare forces taxpayers to subsidize or bail out big corporations —
many of which are badly mismanaged or even corrupt. Giveaways of natural
resources, taxpayer-funded sports stadiums, free use of the public airwaves,
taxpayer-funded research and development handouts, not to mention a plethora of
credits and exemptions, grants, loan guarantees and more are just some examples.
Each year, tens of billions of dollars are doled out to large, profitable corporations in
the United States. This is an issue that both the left and right agree upon, yet many
corporatist members of Congress refuse to act for fear of upsetting their
pro-corporate campaign contributors.
Where do the candidates stand on supporting Wall Street and the big banks?
Wall Street’s actions collapsed the U.S. economy in 2008-2009. Their misdeeds
destroyed the pensions and savings of millions and strip-mined the economy and
cost 8 million jobs. Despite this criminal recklessness, these “too big to fail” financial
institutions were bailed out by American taxpayers. Since then, very little has
changed. Wall Street executives are still bringing in huge bonuses and continue
many of the same risky actions that led to the previous collapse. Once again, many
members of Congress do not want to bite the hand that feeds them, so they are
giving them another free ride at the peoples’ expense.
Unhappy with your choices when considering these criteria? One idea that I and
others have proposed in the past is “A None of the Above” (NOTA) line on the ballot.
If the binding NOTA option obtains the majority of the votes cast, the election for that
seat would be cancelled, along with the dismissal of the candidates, and a new
election would be held. Such an option could counteract the disillusionment that so
many feel with their political choices and give them a reason to go to the polls and
register a no-confidence vote. (If you wish to obtain a NOTA [None of the Above]
Advance Packet with information on the idea, visit csrl.org/nota.)
We can change the direction of this country, and it’s easier than you think,
especially with emerging left-right alliances. It begins with keeping an open mind,
knowing where you stand, and asking tough questions of those who want your votes.
Signed copies of my latest book “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to
Dismantle the Corporate State” are available to order from Politics and Prose.
Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to
Dismantle the Corporate State.
|The Last Letter
A Message to George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney From
a Dying Veteran
To: George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th
anniversary of the Iraq War
on behalf of my fellow Iraq
I write this letter on behalf of
the 4,488 soldiers and Marines
who died in Iraq.
I write this letter on behalf of
the hundreds of thousands
of veterans who have been
wounded and on behalf of those
whose wounds, physical and
psychological, have destroyed
their lives. I am one of those
gravely wounded. I was
paralyzed in an insurgent
ambush in 2004 in Sadr City.
My life is coming to an end.
I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of
husbands and wives who have
lost spouses, on behalf of
children who have lost a parent,
on behalf of the fathers and
mothers who have lost sons and
daughters and on behalf of
those who care for the many
thousands of my fellow veterans
who have brain injuries.
I write this letter on behalf of
those veterans whose trauma
and self-revulsion for what they
have witnessed, endured and
done in Iraq have led to suicide
and on behalf of the active-duty
soldiers and Marines who
commit, on average, a suicide
I write this letter on behalf of the
some 1 million Iraqi dead and on
behalf of the countless Iraqi
wounded. I write this letter on
behalf of us all—the human
detritus your war has left behind,
those who will spend their lives
in unending pain
You may evade justice but in our
eyes you are each guilty
of egregious war crimes, of
plunder and, finally, of murder,
including the murder of
thousands of young Americans,
—my fellow veterans—whose
future you stole.
I write this letter, my last letter,
to you, Mr. Bush and Mr.Cheney.
I write not because I think you
grasp the terrible human and
moral consequences of your
lies, manipulation and thirst for
wealth and power.
I write this letter because, before
my own death, I want to make it
clear that I, and hundreds of
thousands of my fellow veterans,
along with millions of my fellow
citizens, along with hundreds of
millions more in Iraq and the
Middle East, know fully who you
are and what you have done.
You may evade justice but in our
eyes you are each guilty
of egregious war crimes,
of plunder and, finally, of
murder, including the murder
of thousands of young
Americans —my fellow
veterans—whose future you
Your positions of authority,
your millions of dollars of
personal wealth, your public
relations consultants, your
privilege and your power cannot
mask the hollowness of your
You sent us to fight and die in
Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney,
dodged the draft in Vietnam, and
you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from
your National Guard unit. Your
cowardice and selfishness were
established decades ago. You
were not willing to risk
yourselves for our nation but
you sent hundreds of thousands
of young men and women to be
sacrificed in a senseless war
with no more thought than it
takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after
the 9/11 attacks. I joined the
Army because our country had
been attacked. I wanted to strike
back at those who had killed
some 3,000 of my fellow citizens.
I did not join the Army to go to
Iraq, a country that had no part
in the September 2001 attacks
and did not pose a threat to its
neighbors, much less to the
I did not join the Army to
“liberate” Iraqis or to shut down
destruction facilities or to implant
what you cynically called
“democracy” in Baghdad and the
I did not join the Army to rebuild
Iraq, which at the time you told
us could be paid for by Iraq’s
oil revenues. Instead, this war
has cost the United States over
I especially did not join the Army
to carry out pre-emptive war.
Pre-emptive war is illegal under
international law. And as a
soldier in Iraq I was, I now know,
abetting your idiocy and your
crimes. The Iraq War is the
largest strategic blunder in U.S.
history. It obliterated the balance
of power in the Middle East. It
installed a corrupt and brutal
in Baghdad, one cemented in
power through the use of
torture, death squads and terror.
And it has left Iran as the
dominant force in the region.
On every level—moral, strategic,
military and economic—Iraq was
a failure. And it was you, Mr.
Bush and Mr. Cheney, who
started this war. It is you who
should pay the consequences.
I would not be writing this letter
if I had been wounded fighting in
Afghanistan against those forces
that carried out the attacks of
9/11. Had I been wounded there
I would still be miserable
because of my physical
deterioration and imminent
death, but I would at least have
the comfort of knowing that my
injuries were a consequence of
my own decision to defend the
country I love. I would not have
to lie in my bed, my body filled
with painkillers, my life ebbing
away, and deal with the fact that
hundreds of thousands of
human beings, including
children, including myself, were
sacrificed by you for little more
than the greed of oil companies,
for your alliance with the oil
sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your
insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled
veterans, suffered from the
inadequate and often inept care
provided by the Veterans
Administration. I have, like many
other disabled veterans, come to
realize that our mental and
physical wounds are of no
interest to you, perhaps of no
interest to any politician. We
were used. We were betrayed.
And we have been abandoned.
You, Mr. Bush, make much
pretense of being a Christian.
But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder
a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish
ambition sins? I am not a
Christian. But I believe in the
Christian ideal. I believe that
what you do to the least of your
brothers you finally do to
yourself, to your own soul.
My day of reckoning is upon me.
Yours will come. I hope you will
be put on trial.
But mostly I hope, for your
sakes, that you find the moral
courage to face what you have
done to me and to many, many
others who deserved to live.
I hope that before your time on
earth ends, as mine is now
ending, you will find the strength
of character to stand before the
American public and the world,
and in particular the Iraqi
people, and beg for
|In March 2013, Truthdig
columnist Chris Hedges
published an interview with
Young about his worldview and
circumstances.Young was in
hospice care at the time of the
interview, which was conducted
at his home in Kansas City.
Although he has contemplated
suicide on various occasions,
he decided "to go on hospice
care, to stop feeding and fade
away. This way, instead of
committing the conventional
suicide and I am out of the
picture, people have a way to
stop by or call and say their
goodbyes." He later changed
his mind, saying "I want to
spend as much time as possible
with my wife, and no decent son
wants his obituary to read that
he was survived by his mother.
"Young died on November 10,
2014 in Seattle. In November
2014, Hedges wrote a column
on Young's passing, in which
he stated that "Young hung
on as long as he could. Now
he is gone. He understood
what the masters of war had
done to him, how he had
been used and turned into