Peace Victory

In a grassroots victory, the leadership of a public high school in Northampton has agreed to allow peace activists to speak with students. The school has long allowed military recruiters to speak to students. “This was the result of public pressure. We're thrilled,” Jeff Napolitano told the Valley Post. He runs the local chapter of the American Friends Service Committee

After months of refusing to allow the Friends into the Smith Vocational High School, on January 21 the school reversed itself and said the so-called “counter recruiters” would be allowed to speak with students. The decision came after local residents spoke out at meetings of the school's board of trustees, called the trustees, and wrote letters that were published in a local newspaper.

Bill Newman is a lawyer in Northampton and leader of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union “This is a victory,” he told the Valley Post. On January 3, Newman sent a letter to the trustees of Smith Vocational High School. In the letter he urged the school to allow the peace activists to speak with students. He also urged the school to reverse a new policy on “Teaching About Controversial Issues.” Newman said on January 24 that policy is still in place and the ACLU continues to oppose it.

The Friends do counter recruiting at several high schools in the Valley. About 15 peace activists attended a recent meeting of the Smith Vocational High School trustees to protest the policy that allowed military recruiters but banned peace activists.

Almost half of this year's U.S. federal government budget of $2.9 trillion is being spent on war. That’s according to:

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 Chancellor of the University of Liverpool in England and a staff expert on climate change at UBS, a Swiss bank with 62,000 employees. "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 in 2009.

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 Swaziland is 32. In the U.S., it’s 77.

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


peace victory

This is very significant. I hope other schools will follow the example. MIlitary recruiters at our local high school are very successful --and the young people who sign up seem so very young and do not know yet that there are other ways to be patriotic and serve.

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