Photo: Brattleboro Peace Rally

Parker Huber has stood in front of the Brattleboro main post office every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. for the past 12 years holding a sign that said, "Silent Witness for Peace." Earlier this year, a new postmaster told Huber he would be arrested if he continued his weekly vigil. Brattleboro resident Steven K-Brooks appealed to the postmaster's boss and apparently won. K-Brooks organized the rally, which happened on May 29 and was attended by 12 people. “Brattleboro's long tradition of free speech on the post office sidewalk was reaffirmed,” he told the Valley Post.

photo by Donna Faith K-Brooks

When the USA invaded Iraq in 2003, there was a peace protest on the steps of the main Brattleboro post office attended by about 200 people. The protesters kept a path open for post office customers.

Almost half (45 percent) of this year's entire federal budget of $2.9 trillion is being spent on war. That’s according to:

www.WarResisters.org/FederalPieChart

Here are the 2013 voting records of local members of Congress, from Peace Action’s web site:

http://peaceactionwest.org/thescore

100 is best, zero is worst.

The Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts:

Edward Markey 100

James McGovern 97

Richard Neal 83

Elizabeth Warren 75

Brattleboro:

Patrick Leahy 75

Bernie Sanders 75

Peter Welch 91

Keene:

Kelly Ayotte zero

Ann Kuster 65

Jeanne Shaheen 75

John Ungerleider is a professor of Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training in Brattleboro. “The military budget is so high mainly because members of Congress want to keep defense jobs in their districts,” he told the Valley Post. Asked if the U.S. would be more likely to be attacked if the military budget was cut by 50 percent, Ungerleider said, “Of course not.” The best way for people to get the government to cut military spending is to donate to, and/or volunteer for, a group like the American Friends Service Committee www.afsc.org, he said.

Melvin Goodman is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. For a decade he worked at the CIA as a division chief and foreign policy analyst. New Yorker magazine writer Seymour Hersh said of Goodman’s 2013 book, National Insecurity, “Goodman is not only telling us how to save wasted billions, he is telling us how to save ourselves.”

In the book, Goodman writes, “The United States has the most secure geopolitical environment of any major nation, but sustains a defense budget that equals the combined budgets of the rest of the world…. We have more than 700 military bases and facilities around the world; few other countries have any. We can deploy 11 aircraft carriers; among our rivals only China plans to deploy one—and that is a revamped Ukrainian aircraft carrier, a carryover from the ancient Soviet inventory…. Since the end of World War II, the United States has fought inconclusive wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan; conducted dubious invasions of Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, and Panama; and mounted counterproductive covert operations around the world, including those in the Congo, Chile [which resulted in the installation of dictator Augusto Pinochet, who tortured and killed thousands of his political opponents], El Salvador, and Guatemala. Only Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991 can be termed a success, although it left Saddam Hussein in power and President George H.W. Bush out of power the following year, setting the stage for George W. Bush’s use of force against Iraq two decades later.”

David King is the United Kingdom's Special Representative for Climate Change. "The Iraq war was just the first of this century's 'resource wars,' in which powerful countries use force to secure valuable commodities," King told the Guardian newspaper.

The U.S. and other rich nations have a long history of stealing resources from Africa. This story is told in the books “Bury the Chains” by Adam Hochschild and "Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power" by Steve Coll, and in the film "Lumumba" by Raoul Peck. The average life expectancy in the African nation of Sierra Leone is 45. In the USA, it’s 79.

While the chances of dramatically cutting U.S. military spending may seem small, in 1989, the chances of Nelson Mandela -- who was then seven years into a life sentence in prison -- becoming president of South Africa were also small. In 1994, Mandela was elected president and one of the world’s most brutal and racist governments was overthrown.

In the United States, 149 years ago, ending slavery and granting women the right to vote both seemed unlikely. Mass movements of ordinary people won justice.

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