Peace & Justice browsing by category


#1145 – Peter Barus: A Reflection following tragedies: I lost friends to violent murder last year…

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

PRENOTE: In the wake of Falcon Heights and Dallas last week, Peter sent the following reflections. We agreed I would post this on return from an out of town trip. Dick


Been a long time since. It’s always good to read your writings. Feel free to post this response. You have a way of inspiring people.

Here is all I really know, summed up by the late peace activist, A. J. Muste: There is no way to peace. Peace IS the way.

I lost friends to violent murder last year. No firearms were involved. A baseball bat and a sword and a can of gasoline were found to have been used in the killings.

My late friend happened to be the most highly trained martial artist I have ever known, and I know this because I helped to train him for 25 years. I would have said it was impossible for the person accused of this multiple torture-murder to get close enough to this man to hurt him, and certainly not without dying in the process. But he, or most likely they, got to the wife and child first. In the 19 hours that followed, duct-taped to a chair, in a final act of courage my friend got on the phone, and in a calm and matter-of-fact tone, gave his cleaning staff the day off. He saved their lives.

As to “Security”, the family lived within about half a mile of the Vice President of the United States, so among the first responders on the scene after the fire department were the Secret Service, the ATF, the FBI, and the D.C. Police. The big house and the exclusive neighborhood were as highly protected by high-tech systems and personnel as it is possible to be.

Now, to the point of this awful story: “security” is not merely a myth, not only a delusion. Actually it is a stupendous con.

It’s a goldmine. A product that exists only in the customer’s brain. This would qualify it as art, except its purpose is not expressive of the human spirit, it is insidiously detrimental. And I bet you have never heard of a starving Security Expert.

America is not hysterical. I don’t know any hysterical people. There is hysteria, though: it’s all happening on the corporate entertainment feed, which is committed to selling, selling and selling. They sell products, and they sell anything that enhances sales. The selling itself is a product they sell.

To boost sales, they sell fear. That sells a lot of drugs, alcohol, politicians and real estate. Ever notice how much cars look like those white-armored Star Wars robo-troops lately?

All of that sells wars. And the wars sell more weapons than ever. And now the weapons are coming home, along with the awful damage done to human beings. And who’d a thunkit, more fear.

All “security” is false security. Airport security is ineffective at providing safe travel. Its effectiveness in other areas leads one to think it has another purpose entirely from that which is foaming from the media feeds every day. And of course that would be the creation of – no. still more fear? Yes.

The function of police is law enforcement. Not “crime prevention”. They actually cannot do much (legally) before a crime is committed. If you know somebody intends to hurt you, the Police will tell you to call them if they do. If that person says they are going to hurt you, call the police, and they will arrest the perpetrator for the crime of “terroristic threats”. A different crime, but a committed one. See, they only are supposed to respond after the fact.

Like anybody, the police can commit a crime, and there is some doubt these days whether they are treated equally before the law – they need to be treated more equally, but instead the supposed danger they are in at work is invoked as extenuating circumstance, and a lot of them seem to be getting away with murder.

Police are seen in two completely different contexts, depending on where one lives, and one’s physical appearance. Human beings see other human beings through a lens of expectations born of mythology. And that mythology, again, comes from the corporate entertainment industry. Thus some people run to, and some run from the police, when bad things are happening; and both are entirely sensible in this behavior. It is reality in both cases. The same cops exist in two completely disparate worlds. That certainly complicates the conversation in the entertainment feeds, where more than one idea is way too many.

The hundreds (!) of mass shootings we hear about are far are more likely to be the result of badly managed prescription antidepressants than “Radicalization”, the utterly fictional infectious plague we are being sold nowadays. The drugs in the dead shooters are not mentioned, we’re told, out of respect for their privacy. Eventually the pharmacology does emerge, and from what I have read of those since Columbine, it seems almost every shooter was on something with a warning label about violence and suicide. Since research into this might impinge on profits in some quarters, don’t look for it on your “news” channel any time soon. But it well could be that the entire mass-shooting phenomenon could disappear overnight, if a relationship could be established between these savage acts of violence and the things we put in people’s brains to make them peaceful.

Getting rid of guns could only help; but I don’t think it would begin to address the root causes. While we’re waiting for some progress on that, we can attack the natural habitat of terror, though, that’s simple enough: better distribution of wealth, and a restoration (or maybe implementation for the first time ever) of electoral integrity for starters. And free public education, remember that? I got that. That’s how I learned to think this way.

Fear and violence form a cycle that goes around and around until some other influence or friction stops it. This means you have to stop being violent, and/or you have to stop being fearful, if you want to end the cycle. There are no guarantees in this life, but those are the access points, and they are both within reach of every person, because they arise with perception, and perception is language. Violence and fear are both interpretations of the world we think we see. They may be the life-blood of Capitalism, but I’m willing to take a chance on that…

It might help if we could apply something else when we get fearful. Respect might do. We have bears and packs of coy-dogs here in Vermont, so we are careful with the garbage and the bird feeders and so on. We’re not careful because we’re afraid of these creatures: if it were so, we would shoot every last one. But we recognize their part in life. We’re careful because we respect them. We respect fire, and weather events, and floods. We respect people who are not like us.

And by the way, woe betide the rookie officer who shoots a bear in a trailer park after somebody’s open garbage can! People around here really get upset about that.



Part 2. Nobel Peace Prize Forum June 6-8, 2016: The Drowning Child and the Shoes…2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

Friday, June 17th, 2016

This years Nobel Peace Prize Forum focused on “Globalizing Compassion”, particularly children, and gave a very large role to the co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, a native of India who passed over a career in engineering to invest his life work on issues relating to child trafficking. More about his Children’s Foundation is here.

Satyarthi is an immensely engaging and persuasive man. You can see and hear him speak at this years Nobel Peace Prize Conference at the weblink listed below.

(click to enlarge)

co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

Many of the talks at this years Forum are accessible online here. They are all worth your viewing time.

The brimming-with-information Program Booklet for the 2016 Forum can be read here: 2016 Nobel Forum001

My comments, Part One about the 2016 Forum is here.

Wednesday afternoon, June 8, the final day of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, we were on our final coffee break. One of my colleague participants asked me what I thought of this years Forum. I said I always like workshops like these, where I know hardly anyone, including the speakers. It never fails, I said, that I leave without some insights, useful to me.

The conference adjourned, and I went home exhausted.

There was a final program, a film, The Same Heart, in the evening that I almost decided to miss.

Along with perhaps 50-100 “remnants” (not unusual after long conferences), I was at the theatre, and it was during The Same Heart that I experienced one of those insights I’d mentioned a few hours earlier.

The film is about the realistic possibility of eliminating the worst poverty for perhaps a billion children world wide. The film opened with a camera focusing on what appears to be a lake, and then panning back to a narrow stream.

Peter Singer*, ethicist at Princeton University, posed a question to the viewers: suppose that you are standing on the banks of a brook, and you look across to the other side and see a toddler going in the water, almost certainly about to drown. You are the only adult. The brook is shallow, but entering the water will ruin your new shoes.

What would you do?

His basic point was that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions of such toddlers around the world today, in effect drowning in circumstances out of their control, and most of us in varying degrees of affluence are unwilling to sacrifice our personal pair of new shoes to help them out. The message has stuck with me since I watched the film last week. It will not soon go away.

What would, what will I do?

The other insight came in bits and pieces, but it came together during a session on Tuesday afternoon.

An official of UNICEF, Olav Kjorven, Director of Public Partnerships, was talking about a UNICEF “My World” survey, about the “World We Want”, where millions of people expressed their opinion about priorities for humanity.

Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Almost off-handedly he commented on the unlikely creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the UN at the beginning of the 21st Century, ending 2015. It seemed (my opinion) that a major reason these goals were adopted relatively easily was not so much because anyone thought they could be attained, but that they really were seen as a set of informal goals for the world which would not upset anyone’s “apple cart”, be stuck with commitments, and especially wouldn’t require much funding.

The MDGs have turned out to be much, much more substantive. “Grassroots” people have taken them seriously, and in a sense policy is being proposed and implemented from the bottom up, rather than imposed top down.

I was somewhat familiar with these goals. In 2005, I had attended a session on the Millennium Development Goals. One of the featured speakers was Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a powerful Twin Cities businesswoman who came out strongly about tackling child sex trafficking: her business, as we Minnesotans know, is the hospitality industry, worldwide. My notes about that meeting are here: MDG Workshop 2005001

Ms Carlson Nelson was part of a panel at this years Peace Prize Forum, and in her time period she said her insight moment came in 2004 from someone she said was “Amb. Miller” who heightened her awareness that her industry had a major problem with child sex trafficking. She took a very serious look at her own industries cause in the matter, and has taken action, and is still taking action, and most importantly has become a public witness for closer attention to justice in other areas as well.

She quite clearly became a behind the scenes leader in settling the Minnesota Orchestra lockout three years ago; most recently Mark Ritchie mentioned her as a very positive actor. The saying “don’t judge the book by its cover” comes to mind; or be careful about “painting with a broad brush”.

Progress is a process, often slow, but progress happens with effort.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

At the same meeting in 2005 was my friend, Dr. Bharat Parekh, who decided to take on the problem of child malnutrition in his native India, implementing one of the MDG’s. Here is a talk given by Dr. Parekh in 2014, talking about the then-progress on his work towards a goal.

I don’t know what his aspirations were, but Dr. Parekh had a plan, and he worked it hard – I watched what he was doing as elements began to come together – to the extent that now he is a Board member of a major organization called Toddler Food Partners, and is making a big difference.

Back at the conference, Mr. Kjorven noted that at the end of the 15 year MDG period, the “World We Want” survey (previously mentioned) gave great grassroots impetus to the current UN Sustainable Development Goals.

I left the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum exhausted and, at the same time, renewed and refreshed.

People can and do make the crucial difference. They just need to believe their capacity to make that difference.

A WONDERFUL POSTSCRIPT: The final session of Wednesday afternoon was dryly described as “Closing Remarks” with a two line descriptor: “Nobel Peace Prize Forum Executive Director Gina Torry will close the final afternoon of the 2016 Forum.” This was a “don’t judge the book by its cover” descriptor, as the session began with a wonderful tribute to my deceased friend, and stalwart of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum from 1997 on, Lynn Elling, deceased Feb. 14, 2016. Featured was a video by public television made about 1993 which needs no elaboration. The segment concluded with a hashtag #peaceitforward…a wonderful tribute.

June 25: Recently the Aitkin Independent Age newspaper featured a long article about Lynn and his work in his lake country community. You can read it here: Big Sandy Lake and dad article

* * * * *

* I note that Dr. Singer’s views on certain issues have excited some controversy which is hi-lited on the internet. That is of no concern to me, here. We all have points of view. His drowning child and shoes image will always stick with me.

#1134 – Dick Bernard: Grandpa Bernard’s Can of Pebbles

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Now and again in our growing up years we made it up to Grafton ND to visit Grandma and Grandpa* Bernard, who lived in a tiny house at 738 Cooper Avenue.

Grandpa, 68 when I was born, and 85 when he died, was a most interesting character, starting life in Quebec on a farm, then an asbestos miner at Thetford Mines QC, thence a lumberjack, a carpenter, and finally chief engineer of the Flour Mill in Grafton (he came from a line of probably hundreds of years of millers in France and thence in Quebec. His brother, Joe, was chief miller in Grafton.)

This particular day, Grandpa was sitting on his accustomed perch on the front stoop, basically exactly as shown in the old photo:

(click to enlarge photos)

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

I don’t recall Grandma being there, but we kids were, and at some point Grandpa looked over his shoulder and saw a dog trotting down the sidewalk.

“See that dog?”, he said. Then he picked up his homemade slingshot, and fished a pebble out of the nearby can and made sure the dog saw it.

No word (nor bark) was spoken.

The dog kept coming till some invisible “do not cross” line; at that point, making a hard right, trotting across the street; hard left past Grandpa; and on about whatever business the dog was about that sunny day.

Grandpa loved dogs, best I know, but there was a time and a place for everything, and apparently this neighbor had to be reminded, now and again, of the rules of the road at Grandpa’s house.

The parties understood the rules….

There are endless Grandpa (and Grandma) lessons conveyed to us, as we all know, once past a certain age. Things we just soak up, without realizing it at the time.

Not all the stories were conveyed directly, or even intentionally. For instance, across the alley from the tiny house was the Walsh county yard where things like snowplows and other public machines were kept. And down the street was the Courthouse, and the local Jail….

And there was the annual event at the Courthouse where the last remaining veterans of the Spanish-American War had an annual remembrance of their fallen comrades. It was always impressive and Grandpa was always in it.

There was something else about Grandpa, which you can see in the picture.

He had one leg.

The other he had lost to diabetes in 1946. Since he was a veteran, that leg was amputated at the VA Hospital, in Fargo; as was the second, at the time he died in 1957.

He used to entertain we kids with the stub of the missing leg.

Over time, I’ve come to learn that he lived to entertain us because a government agency, the VA, had saved his life; and Social Security, enacted about the time he turned 65, was what they had for retirement. His source of livelihood, the Flour Mill, had gone out of business on short notice right before the stock market crash in 1929; and at almost exactly the same time, the bank with nearly all their savings, went under due to fraud.

Overnite they went from regular middle class to dependent on others. It was the year Dad graduated from high school, and, of course, his plans on going to the University of North Dakota were dashed.

Of course, if there’s a grandpa, there’s a grandma.

Just yesterday I came across an old photo of my other grandmother, Rosa (Berning) Busch, with the Ladies Aid of Berlin North Dakota in September, 1946 (See below). Grandma is the lady kneeling in the front row at the center of the photo.

There are lots and lots of Grandma stories, as well as Mrs. Busch stories, even to this day.

No extra stories to be conveyed here, but an encouragement to remember your own, about those who came before you.

And to emphasize what is no longer often seen as obvious: we like to think we are, as individuals, in charge of our own universe.

What our ancestors knew, imperfectly, was that we all do better when we all do better.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946.  Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946. Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

* There exists, to my knowledge, a single film clip recording Grandpa Bernard and others “sidewalk superintending” in Grafton ND in 1949, when a crew was paving the Main Street. His moment of fame come at four minutes 15 second mark. You can view it here.

Of course, we all have two sets of grandparents, whether we got to know them or not. And there are all manner of other relationships which would take a long writing to describe in any detail…for each of us in our own lives.

In my own case, Grandpa Bernard died almost exactly on my 17th birthday, in 1957; Grandma Bernard died near my 23rd birthday, in 1963; Grandpa Busch died in 1967, less than two weeks after their 62nd wedding anniversary, coming up the stairs from the basement with some eggs for breakfast; Grandma Busch died in early August, 1972, at 88. Lore has it that she lingered on long enough so that her youngest son, my uncle Art, could make it from Chicago. He did, and she died very soon thereafter.

#1133 – Dick Bernard: A Presidential visit to Hiroshima. Now it’s up to us.

Monday, May 30th, 2016

The annual Memorial Day observance of Veterans for Peace Chapter 27 is today, 9:30-10:30, at the Vietnam Memorial on the Minnesota State Capitol Grounds, St. Paul. This is always a meaningful observance.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

Long family, 1943.  Francis at right.  The  Francis' story follows the Vigil photo, below.

Long family, 1943. Francis at right. The Francis’ story follows the Vigil photo, below.

(I submitted the following commentary to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 20, 2016)

The scheduled visit of President Obama to Hiroshima is a great many years late, but commendable, a positive move away from our enslavement to a nuclear system and, hopefully, away from the “war is the answer” response to most any international problem.

I was five when those bombs dropped on Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, in August, 1945.

My mother’s brother, George, since 1943 a Lieutenant on the Destroyer Woodworth, was in the Pacific. The ship’s log records the boat as docking at Tokyo September 10, 1945.

After the bombs, Grandma Rosa Busch wrote her son a letter from the ND farm: “Hurrah, the old war is over!” August 9, George’s wife, Jean, wrote from near Grand Forks, “The news that excited everyone is Russia’s declaration of war on Japan. Surely Japan will crumble now under the combined pressure, new atomic bomb and repeated attacks.” Uncle George, in a letter written about the same day, concurred.

Hardly anyone, likely even new President Truman, knew what this atomic bomb thing was, except that it was something unlike anything before. Aunt Jean enclosed in her letter a newspaper clipping with an optimistic quote from the U.S. War Department: “A revolutionary weapon designed to change war as we know it, or which may even be the instrumentality to end all wars, was set off with an impact which signalized mans entrance into a new physical world.”

No one really knew what we had unleashed, except, as Grandma said in her letter, “the old war is over”.

War had been shown to be hell. 407,316 U. S. war dead.

People doubtless knew others – estimated 50,000,000 altogether – had died in World War II.

But that astronomically larger loss was different. All that mattered was our tribe.

We don’t have the luxury of ignorance, now, over 70 years into the nuclear age. We can assure our own destruction.

Latest estimates from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)) are that the U.S. has 7200 nuclear warheads, and we are about to expend billions of dollars to upgrade them? Why?

May 18, 2016, NTI sent a survey. Included in their e-mail was this brief statement, recommending “The Partnership“, by Philip Taubman. The book tells the story of five American Cold Warriors — George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, former Senator Sam Nunn, and Stanford physicist Sidney D. Drell–who stunned the world when they came together to announce their support for a world without nuclear weapons. The New York Times called the book “fascinating” and “haunting.” “

We face a simple choice: we can continue to relive and debate the nuclear war past, which ended in an instant in August, 1945, and base our policies and our endless arguments on the perceived need of nuclear retaliatory force.

Or we can show good example of another way, by ridding ourselves of the scourge of nuclear weaponry and other similar weapons of mass destruction.

The downing of the Egyptian plane over the Mediterranean May 19 may give us an opportunity. If it does turn out to have been a terrorist bomb planted somewhere on the planes last ill-fated days, what do we do to retaliate? Launch an atomic bomb? Against who?

Or do we come to our senses and figure out a new way to deal with threats of all kinds, some of which, like the atomic weapon, we created.

President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima will shine a light on a new path. I am thankful for that.

Vigil, Minneapolis MN, May 27, 2016.  Photo by Hiroto

Vigil, Minneapolis MN, May 27, 2016. Photo by Hiroto

Monday, May 30: I watched the President at Hiroshima at 3:40 a.m. on Friday May 27, and was unable to attend the moving vigil in Minneapolis that evening (photo above).

The newspaper didn’t print my op ed, which is their right. My intent was and is to encourage civil conversation among unlike minds about the nuclear issue, and the destructive nature of war itself.

In my letter to the STrib I told only part of Grandma’s story. On July 2, 1944, the young GI in the picture at the beginning of this post (likely just home from Basic Training, before going to war), who lived perhaps three miles from their home, was a parishioner at the same country church in North Dakota, and was in school with her children, was killed in the Pacific: “Fri [Aug 18, 1944] we had a Memorial Mass for Francis Long killed July 2 on Saipan”, Grandma wrote to her son at sea.

Francis had left high school to go to war, not unusual in those days.

July 25, 1945, two weeks before the Bomb, Grandma noted in a letter to her son at sea, that her nephew, next farm over, Marine Captain August Berning, “had a bad battle [on Okinawa] got shot through his jacket”, though apparently not injured.

Everyone was on edge. World War II and death from war was not far away from her farm. It was not far away from anyone, anywhere.

My friend, Lynn Elling, missed President Obama’s speech last Friday: he died Feb. 14. I know what he would say to me and others. The phrase I most often heard from him was that we are at “an open moment in history” to achieve peace, and I agree with him.

Lynn visited the Peace Memorial Park at Hiroshima the year it opened in 1954. His peace moment came early in his two years as a Naval officer in WWII when he saw Tarawa Beach a short time after the horrors there, Nov. 20-23, 1943: Lynn U.S. Navy001. I think he would have been pleased with both the presence of the President at the Memorial, and the tone of the proceedings May 27.

You build bridges by direct engagement, and in steps.

In our polarized U.S. we tend to build walls, choosing confrontation with or detachment from those with differing points of views. We cannot survive in our own personal or interest group silos, much less with bombs in silos everywhere.

We need to look forward, not look backward, or engage in theorizing (as, “the bombs saved 200,000 lives….”) or such.

Still, the Bomb did happen. We still possess thousands of warheads, for no good reason. This world will not survive with nuclear powers. It is our responsibility to change the course, the conversation, not those folks over 70 years ago.

The road to peace is through all of us, one act of peace at a time.

Watch closely, the evidence is there, that more and more of us are getting that message.

Here’s to positive engagement.

A directly related post from my friend, Peter Barus, yesterday, is here.

What has been the human cost of war for the United States? Back in March I put together a graphic which simply speaks about American deaths in war. You can see the single page here (click to enlarge). Of course, this barely scratches the surface, not including injuries, dislocation, and on and on, but gives an idea. War is not a video game.

Human Cost of War001

Convenor and Vietnam vet Barry Riesch  opens the 2016 Vets for Peace Remembrance for Memorial Day, 2016.   This years event lasted over an hour and attracted what appeared to be about 150 people.

Convenor and Vietnam vet Barry Riesch opens the 2016 Vets for Peace Remembrance for Memorial Day, 2016. This years event lasted over an hour and attracted what appeared to be about 150 people.

from Christine, sister-in-law of Francis (though he did not live long enough to attend her and his brothers wedding.) We were in Hawaii twice and each time visited Francis’ grave at the Punchbowl Cemetery [Honolulu]. It’s a beautiful well kept cemetery. Thanks for remembering.At the Memorial service in LaMoure they list all those who have died and read off the gold star mothers because Francis was so young when his mother died and Theresa the twin sister came to help raise the family they have also listed her as a gold star mother.

from long-time friend Annelee Woodstrom who lived under the Allied bombs in Germany at the end of WWII and has written about it. Annelee is 90 in September, and in the process of writing her third book. She speaks often to groups. I’m honored to know her and be a friend:

“Thanks for the moving memorial blog May 30th. I feel we need much more emphasis of Memorial Day—

I spoke at Oklee (MN), I always take the first call for me to speak for Memorial Day. This year I had four calls.

When the callers ask me what I charge for the Memorial Day Speech and say, “Nothing”, they always seem to be surprised.

Why would I charge to remember what our soldiers endured? My driver charges mileage, but that is his-her problem.

What disturbs me most almost every year is the absence of the young people. I know they graduated most likely the day before:

Before the [program] was almost done, I ask if I could speak again. I told them that this was NOT on the program, but it needed to be said:

I said that where ever I have spoken I notice the absence of young people.
I bring up the example that once I spoke in a metropolitan city — the band, matter of fact, many of the students, were present;

I commended the students for being present—the band director said that he threatened them to be there or they would not get a grade in music.

I told the listeners today (someone had mentioned my third book.) I said I have decided today that I would suggest for the schools to have graduation AFTER Memorial day —-I would ask the students and graduates to be present—after all, it is the soldiers that died made it possible for them to live in a democracy. They gave much more than a half a day, they gave their lives.

Let them think about that— the parents could also have an influence to get the young people there.

I got a standing ovation after that, would you believe it— Out of over 100 adults, only 2 11th grader’s were there— and they had been ask to sing.


from Mary: Always interesting that the human cost of war statistics count those who died…..let us also remember the impossible to count numbers of those who survive a death in any arena.

Response from Dick: A valid point, certainly. You’ll notice in the sheet the hi-lited section at the end of the sheet which attempts to cover all bases in a few words. I chose American death count for two reasons: 1) it is possible to get what seems to be reasonably consistent and reliable data; 2) the low number of American deaths in recent years, coupled by the tiny percentage of the population which actually serves in the military, makes it possible for us to become anesthesized to the true cost of war.

At today’s Vets for Peace observance (which I attend every year), there were a large number of individuals who remembered someone or other affected by their service to the nation. Easily the vast majority of those remembered came home in one piece, at least physically, but ultimately were brought down by causes such as suicide or addiction for which clear causality was what they experienced in war-time.

Perhaps fifteen minutes from the end of the observance three visitors approached me near where I was standing, and one of the women, in very broken English, seemed to be inquiring if it was okay to place their car in a nearby parking lot; the man apparently sensed my uncertainty with the language, and confirmed that was her question. They began talking with the older lady with them, and both their appearance, and their language quite certainly was Vietnamese.

I showed them the Veterans for Peace flag, and they looked more closely at it, and noted the website.

My guess is that most of the people in the group this day, including the organizer of the event, were Vietnam era veterans or their survivors. What a rich and meaningful conversation their could be if there was the time and the inclination to dialogue.

For years, now, there has been a “bottoms up” process of reconciliation going on – veterans returning to visit Vietnam, etc. My friend, Lynn Elling, and his wife, Donna, adopted a Vietnamese youngster, and Lynn and Tod went together to Vietnam in 2013.

There is progress. Political progress works best from the base up – politicians know this. Too bad more of us don’t realize the same.

from Lydia Howell: Thank you for trying to yet again reach out to the Strib—who, like all Corporate media, REFUSES to allow any anti-war voices. (I can’t remember the last time I saw an op-ed in a “major” newspaper or heard an anti-war voice included on tv/radio). Also: thanks for promoting VFP’s Memorial Day event. It seems to me that these “holidays”–today, Veterans’ Day & certainly the 4th of July—have all become times to CELEBRATE war, to use the war dead (at least the AMERICAN VETERAN war dead) to PROMOTE war. So, anything we can do as a “counter-weight” to the celebration is good.

Right now, I am reading a CRUCIAL book: WAR IS A LIE by David Swanson, who WAMM & VFP are bringing to speak SAT. JUNE 11, 6pm (includes potluck) at MACALESTER PLYMOUTH CHURCH, 1658 Lincoln Ave. Saint Paul. WAR IS A LIE exposes the long history of the American people being lied into war by their leaders—that’s right,. George W. Bush was NOT the first, by any measure. The book also exposes the pro-war arguments that are repeated endlessly & never challenged. Much food for thought & highly recommended. I hope to interview Swanson on my show FRI. JUNE 10 (9am) on KFAI Radio.

Chante Wolf May 30, 2016

Chante Wolf May 30, 2016

At Vets for Peace Memorial Day, St. Paul, May 30, 2016

At Vets for Peace Memorial Day, St. Paul, May 30, 2016

Peter Barus: A Talk By Amy Goodman

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

NOTE: Peter is a longtime great friend from rural Vermont. He is an occasional and always welcome visitor at this space. On May 22, he had an opportunity to hear journalist Amy Goodman in Troy, New York. His comments follow, with his permission.

(click to enlarge)

Peter Barus, front row, left, Oct 23, 2002, Mastery Conference, Annandale MN.

Peter Barus, front row, left, Oct 23, 2002, Mastery Conference, Annandale MN.

Peter Barus:

Amy Goodman spoke last night at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY, a lovely little old converted church. Arriving early, I strolled around the block in this economically by-passed neighborhood of old houses, grand old churches, and grinding poverty. A local church still retains its original Tiffany stained glass windows, and the Troy Music Hall is world-famous for extraordinary acoustics. I found that the Sanctuary for Independent Media is very active in the immediate community. At one end of the block is a little park, with an outdoor stage, built by (and commemorating) local artists, craftspeople and community groups. The back of the stage is a wall of intricate mosaic made by many hands. There was chicken being cooked for the $100 a plate dinner, and while I was standing around, a little car parked, and out stepped Amy, with two or three friends. We all walked around the little park while one of the Sanctuary’s leaders explained the history of this little patch of green in the city. There is a community garden at the other end of the block, and inside the Sanctuary is a 100-watt FM radio station that broadcasts Democracy Now! along with music and community affairs programming.

After supper Amy spoke to a packed house in the high-ceilinged former church. Soon everyone was listening as if sitting across the kitchen table with Amy, as she reported on the 100-city tour she is completing with her book.”Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America” by Amy Goodman, David Goodman, and Denis Moynihan. Her speech covered almost the last four decades of peace, justice, civil rights action, from an eye-witness perspective only she can provide. The connections, the people and events, touched my own life at more points than I’d ever realized. Her stories are moving and the raw truth of them is immediate and inspiring. They seem to have a common thread, of ordinary people acting in admirable and selfless ways, without a moment’s hesitation, in the face of systematic oppression, violence and injustice. And it seems that this is how human beings normally act in such circumstances – media depictions to the contrary notwithstanding.

One important message is that the media have almost no connection to direct human experience, and politics is covered in proportion to political ad revenues. Punditry demands no actual knowledge of the facts. This is why, for instance, we rarely hear what Sanders actually says, much less in his own voice. Instead we are treated to speculation about violent “followers”. This major Presidential candidate has been “vanished” from the airwaves. The night the Republicans ended up with a “presumptive nominee”, that individual got coverage of an empty podium at one of his mansions, captioned “to speak soon!” while his rivals’ concession speeches, some Hillary sound bites, and zero mention of Sanders droned on. Sanders was at that time addressing an audience of tens of thousands in Arizona, by far the largest actual news event, and the cameras were pointing at an empty platform.

Amy brought stories of a real and very large movement, the same one we are constantly told ended successfully when Obama was elected, It is the current generation’s Civil Rights movement. Occupy Wall Street is part of that, Black Lives Matter is part of that. The many anti-war demonstrations that go almost totally unreported are part of that. The Sanders campaign is part of that. And the real, and unreported, question today is whether the corporate media will manage to keep enough of us distracted, resigned, apathetic and cynical while the forces of blind capitalism complete the looting, militarization and ultimately the destruction of our only planet.

The corporate media are simply ignoring that ubiquitous and vital public conversation. The stakes seem high. As I listened to Amy speak, it became clear that it’s not about choosing “sides” in some mythical epic struggle between good and evil, war and peace, much less “Republicans” and “Democrats”; it’s about discovering one’s own commitment, and whether it is to mere personal avoidance of pain, or to aliveness and possibility for all people, everywhere. To climbing the mythical Ladder of Success, or being of some actual service in making a workable world while we’re in it together.

Amy Goodman is a walking demand that we struggle with this question, for ourselves. Get with “people like us, and not like us,” she says, and express your own experience honestly, and listen honestly to theirs. Instead of accepting the false dichotomies and slogans and polls, endless polls, that pour out of the media echo chamber, take your part in the conversation that matters.


from Dick:
Great post from Peter. I most resonate with the last paragraph.

Each time I hear the conversation about who has the power I think back to a thirty years ago talk, about 1987, about “Referent Power” – how much we have, and how ineffectively the left uses it. Referent Power? Here. Scroll down a little ways. Developing positive relationships with someone who sees some things differently is crucial to making positive change. Relationships are not easy. They are crucial.

#1132- Dick Bernard: The Spymasters, and related.

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Last night we watched what I’d consider a must-watch two hour special on CBS’ 48 Hours: “The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs“. If you missed it, I think you can watch it on-line here. Ordinarily these are shown free for a very limited amount of time.

Succinctly, we live in a complicated world. The constant effort, on all sides, is to try to reduce everything to the simplest of terms. If you watch this program reflectively, rather than strictly judgmentally, it will cause you to think.

Towards the end of the program we were reminded that in the 15 years since 9-11-01 there have been 45 deaths due to terrorism in the United States (an average of three per year in our population of over 300,000,000); on the other hand, radical Islamic terrorism and its dangers have spread dramatically. We see this, of course, mostly in TV images of ISIS these days. But even here, there are only a limited number of merchants of terror.

Fear of Terror is exploitable, as we see most everyday in our political conversation. It is used to keep people psychologically on edge, by so doing keeping them more susceptible to manipulation.

Back in the winter of 2016, I set about trying to define a bit how the face of war has changed. It exists in this single page graphic: War Deaths U.S.002.

Here is the same data pictorially (click to enlarge).

Human Cost of War001

We are in a time of change, and in my opinion it is change for the better, though we will never rid the planet of evil. And the nature of news – we see it every single day – is to focus on the tragedies, the evil, the polarization of one person, one group, against another.

But a shift is happening.

By no means is it obvious, but it is happening. People of good will, which is the vast majority of us, simply have to take the bait and be, as Gandhi said so clearly, “the change we wish to see in the world”. But to do this we need to change our own behaviors, so easily leveraged by those who seek to elevate war above peace for their own reasons.

For one instance, yesterdays e-mail brought a rather remarkable commentary from a long-time peace activist in Israel, Uri Avnery. Avnery is a 92-year Israeli Jew with credentials. His comments are, I feel, pretty remarkable. You can read that here.

I thought the e-mail fascinating, and sent it to our near 90-year old friend, who grew up in a largely Catholic town in Nazi Germany and still has many relatives and contacts in her home country.

Her response: “The email on Uri Avery’s Observations gives insights to what is going on in Israel.

I believe it was Bastian, my German relative, who sometime ago remarked about the great number of Jews from Israel that come to Germany, want to live there, and seek German citizenship. Bastian stated also that these new immigrants could not live any longer with what was going on in Israel.

I was doubtful, I thought they may have been drawn by the free education and the lack of inflation that is taking place in Israel.

I went on the internet tonight and checked Jews moving back to Germany and I got quite a choice. To me surprising and interesting.

My niece Manuela … is most outspoken and angry about the fact that Germany is still paying Israel 3 billion a year for the Holocaust. She says, “My generation wasn’t even born when that took place. The young Jews that come here like us, so let it rest. There are enough monuments here — we will never forget.”

Israel should think about what it is doing to the Palestinians. As long as they take the land and freedom from the Palestinians there will never be peace.”

#1125 – Dick Bernard: Positive Developments on Climate Change.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

April 22, Earth Day, 170 Nations, including the U.S., represented by Secretary of State John Kerry, met at the UN to sign the Paris Accords reached in November 2015.

April 15, a judge recommended that Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission use the federal social cost of carbon as a binding criteria for electric utility decision making. The decision was viewed as very positive by Fresh-Energy .

These are some of the positive signs that climate change initiatives are showing results.

A case can be made for hope.

Sunday, May 1, J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director of Fresh-Energy, will speak at the Fourth Annual Lynn and Donna Elling Symposium World Peace Through Law in Minneapolis. J. will present a well informed perspective on what is happening today, and her perspectives on the outlook for a more positive future.

President Barack Obama greets attendees in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015.  J. Drake Hamilton at right. Photo used with permission. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama greets attendees in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015. J. Drake Hamilton at right.
Photo used with permission. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Below is the invitation to the event. DEADLINE FOR RESERVATIONS IS APRIL 26, 2016. Limited seating is still available.

(click to enlarge)

World Law Invite May 1, 2016

World Law Invite May 1, 2016

#1122 – Dick Bernard: “Eye in the Sky” – a discussion about Drones

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Thursday night, April 21, three knowledgeable people will discuss policy related to the use of Drones in Warfare. The flier is here, in pdf: Drones001, and below.

(click to enlarge)

Prof. Nelson-Pallmeyer is well known in the local community. Ms Thabet is a Child Protection Officer in Aden, Yemen; and Mr Ahmad is Chief of the Peshawar City Police in Pakistan. Both are participants in the Humphrey/Fulbright program of the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School. They bring an extraordinarily important perspective to this conversation.

I have long had an interest in Drones as instruments of war in this new era of technologically driven warfare through terrorism (in which we Americans are at minimum equally complicit with the enemy; in fact, we have been the innovators and facilitators of ever more sophisticated tools of war).

There is room for differences in points of view.

Drones are with us, like them or not, and indeed they have long been with us. I recall the times, now many years ago, watching hobbyists flying radio controlled model airplanes. It was only a matter of time before advanced technology met up with a relatively old innovation. It is not likely this genie will be put back in the bottle. But that’s only my opinion.

Last week, I went to “Eye in the Sky“, the recent feature-length film on the use of drones in the war on terror.

If you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend it.

Eye in the Sky powerfully explores the issue of drones through a situation in east Africa involving an innocent young girl selling bread and a terrorist armed and ready to commit mayhem with the girl having no knowledge of the threat just out of her eyesight, and those in England and the U.S. who will supervise the use or non-use of a drone in this case, the ones having to make the life and death decision.

Among the key actors in this movie drama is a miniature drone, the size, shape and appearance of a large insect, remotely controlled, which can fly into spaces unnoticed and film what is going on.

The film goes on for 142 minutes, and unless one is absolutely married to one polar position or the other on drones, this viewer found myself wondering what would I do if faced with a similar situation.

My colleagues in the theater were, like myself, quiet and subdued. This was not a comedy.

I have written several times on the topic of Drones. Rather than give a direct link, for anyone interested, simply write “drones” in the search box of this blog.

What I will say, is that my passionate plea has been that we have to be willing to talk openly and honestly about this technology, and that we need to demand of our policy makers (Congress in particular) to engage in open dialogue and take responsibility for the policy of the United States of America.

#1119 – Dick Bernard: The Armenian Genocide, 1915-23

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

(click to enlarge photos. This post includes two parts, with information from Lou Ann Matossian and Peter Balakian Updated May 9, 2016_

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

The internet brought an announcement of “A presentation and discussion led by Lou Ann Matossian on “Armenian Genocide Education and the Community.” I went to the presentation at the University of Minnesota last Wednesday evening, and learned a great deal about the delayed but active Minnesota response to the horrible Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during a year beginning in Spring 1915.

Here are some maps relating to the Armenian Genocide from the Genocide Museum in Armenia.

(click to enlarge)

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Ms Matossian’s talk emphasized the relationship of the Armenians to Minnesota and the Congregational Church in particular. You can read, here, the results of extensive research she did of Minnesota newspaper coverage of the Genocide in 1915.

I didn’t know, till Ms Matossian’s talk, of the historical Christian and Minnesota connection with Armenia.

I’ve long been aware of the genocide, but it is like numerous issues: I didn’t give it close attention…Wednesday it came to life.

When I left the gathering, I found myself thinking not only about the Armenian Genocide but other atrocities, including America’s own shameful record with people we in the olden days generically termed as “Indians”: a successful genocide at least from the standpoint of we beneficiaries, the descendants of the ancestors who got the land and won all the rights and privileges, guilt free.

Back home after the session I took out a 1912 public school geography textbook I had found on my ancestral farm in south central North Dakota. Was there anything about Armenia?

You can see parts of two maps from that book, above and below, which say a great deal. No question that there was a place called Armenia, more a question about its status, then, as a distinct state.

The wikipedia entry about Armenia gave further help. From the article: “Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In between the late 3rd century to early years of the 4th century, the state became the first Christian nation. The official date of state adoption of Christianity is 301 AD”.

A good general reference about the Armenian Genocide may be this one

The website of the St. Sahag Armenian Ch. in St. Paul gives some basics of the genocide.


April 14, 2016, I attended a second most enlightening talk about the Armenian genocide, by Prof. Peter Balakian of Colgate University. (Subsequent to the session, I learned that Balakian won a 2016 Pulitzer Prize.)

The photo which leads this post, of Armenian Churches existing, later destroyed, at the time of the genocide is from Balakian’s presentation.

Some comments which supplement Dr. Matossian’s:

Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in Totally Unofficial defined the word genocide based on what happened in Christian Armenia, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Hitler used societies tendency to historical amnesia about the Armenian genocide to at least partially justify what he felt was the political low risk of eliminating the Jews: “after all, who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians.”

Balakian divided genocide into two general categories: “Barbarism” is the killing of people; “Vandalism” is the destruction of an entire culture, things like differing religious beliefs, churches, art and the like.

He further differentiated between destruction of cultures in the times of territorial expansion, more or less before 1900, and what he called the “modern modality”. I could see his point; however, indiscriminate destruction of some “other” is destruction nonetheless, regardless of rationale.

I found myself thinking about the possibility that the internet in particular has created a new, equally evil, post-modern modality. In this modern day, we don’t kill people physically, we assassinate them, particularly leaders at times of elections, such as the period we are now in. This is an enhanced form of “cyber-bullying”. “Truth” in this post-modern modality is completely irrelevant. The target lives, physically, but is nonetheless the motive is to destroy the target.

I had come into Prof. Balakian’s session early, and even preceding me, in the back row, were seated two women who very much fit the appearance of Muslims. They sat there quietly. The room filled, and I heard one man, in some apparent official capacity, come past me right before the event started and say: “I think I see trouble in the back row”. (It is hardly a risk to infer that he was referring to the women I reference.)

When I left, the two women were still there. There had been no incidents of any kind. But I did notice.

There exists, I think, a great opportunity for dialogue. I wish those two women, and that man, and others, could come together, just to talk.


Wherever there are people, there are opportunities for genocide in the hands of evil. Rwanda and Darfur are but two examples in recent history. But we need look no further than some of the present political rhetoric of U.S. Presidential politics where deliberate ginning up of hatred for others who are somehow different is effective. We have to be constantly vigilant and outspoken within our own circles in American society. The spectre of evil is always there.

The essential conversation continues: for more about Armenian Genocide, see April 14th program announcement here, the website of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


How bad was the Armenian Genocide?

I always try to put events in some sort of context, to try to better understand what led to/results from such events.

Of course, a post like this hardly is a pin-prick on a piece of paper about our awful history as supposedly civilized people.

“Our”, here, largely means those descended from European colonizers.

See this data set about the bitter fruits of people against people, generally, in the last 150 years.

The 150 years between 1860 and 2010 seem to be the deadliest era in human caused death and destruction from war. The Armenian genocide comes at about mid-point in this deadly era. It is one of many tragedies.

In the case of Armenia and the Ottoman Turks, the ancient and deadly Christian Crusades to control the Holy Land may well serve as a prelude – I’ve heard it argued that the Crusades essentially “birthed” the Ottoman Turks*.

The arbitrary carving up of the Middle East as spoils to the European victors in WWI is a postlude, which very significantly contributes to the chaos in the Middle East up to the present day (ISIS and the now global “war on terror”).

Scroll down in the above referenced data set to the “1.5” in the left hand column. You’ll find reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenian deaths between 1915 and 1923, the “First Genocide of the 20th Century committed by the Ottoman Government on Armenian Civilians.” Scroll down a bit further, to .75 (750,000) Greek deaths in the same time period for the same reason, and .275 (275,000) Assyrian deaths in Mesopotamia (now the general area of Iraq and Syria – places like Mosul, now ISIS territory.)

And there is more perspective in the chart: scroll up to the second entry in Genocides, and there is the estimate of 55 million deaths of native people in the Americas due to conquest and colonization between 1492 and 1691. As is noted there, there are wildly disparate estimates of the actual death toll then, 8.4 to 138 million, the actual number “which might actually never be determined”.

This genocide came at the hands of my people, white Europeans, in all the assorted ways we have heard from one time to another, the history slanted towards the winners, of course.


About 35 miles from that south central ND farm in which I found the old geography book with the maps shown here, is the Whitestone Hill Battlefield at which a large number of peaceful Indians on their annual buffalo hunt were massacred by American military in 1863. Twenty soldiers died; it is impossible to find a definitive number from among the several thousand Indians who were there*. The official story is vague.

I have visited that site often (two photos above and below), and today, as always since the early 1900s, the visible monument there is to the soldiers who died, with scarce evidence of a much later, very simple unadorned stone monument to the Indians who were on their annual buffalo hunt, killed in the deadly skirmish.

I mention this fact as Ms Matossian noted that today there are no apparent monuments in Turkey to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey, in 1862 officially called for either moving out or exterminating the Sioux Indians from Minnesota – a statement repudiated by Ramsey’s successor, Gov. Mark Dayton, in 2013. It is common to dehumanize the adversary. In such situations, this scenario is common.

One of my first Minnesota relatives, Samuel Collette, was part of Henry Hastings Sibley’s Minnesota unit in the 1863 war, reaching what was to become Bismarck ND in August 1863, “mission accomplished”. Their unit wasn’t at Whitestone Hill but that was only an accident of history. Nebraska and Iowa were at Whitestone.


If I am correct, that 1860-2010 was a particularly gruesome “round” of people destroying other people; can I hope that the next 150 years, from 2010-2160, can be, truly, a time of awakening that we are all family, together, on an ever more fragile earth.

We all need each other.

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

* – The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. There is plenty of blame to go around. A winner in one round becomes the loser in another, and on we go.

** – A well researched article about the battle from the North Dakota Historical Society is “The Battle of Whitestone Hill“, by Clair Jacobson, North Dakota History Journal of the Northern Plains, Vol 44, No. 3 Summer, 1977.

from Larry:
Thanks, Dick – excellent, informative article. I particularly saved this line: The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. That is SO true!

from David: Nice piece. There are so many important events in history that we have, at best, a dim memory of hearing about them.

from Flo: I remember praying rosaries for the starving Armenians, and being reminded of their plight when we fussed over the food served us at home [1950s]. I don’t remember any conversations about just who the Armenians were or why they needed our prayers. Do you?

from Bill: Great article, Dick. There was a secretary at 3M that was the daughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide. The world has never been able to get the Turks to acknowledge their role in this genocide.The USA has stopped doing so since we depend on our military bases in Turkey. I did read once that the Turks hated the Armenians for siding with Russia when Russia was attacking Turkey some years before World War I.

I enjoy international topics, and often write my own impressions on international happenings.
Jan. 1, 2015, I posted a blog about the 70th anniversary of the United Nations here.. Much to my surprise, by the end of 2015 I had posted 55 commentaries about international issues. They are all linked at the post.

International related posts at this space since Jan. 1, 2016:
1. Jan. 22, 2016: Global Climate Issue
2. Feb. 14, 2016: Lynn Elling, Warrior for Peace
3. Feb. 29, 2016: The 3rd (12th) anniversary of the Haiti coup, Feb. 29, 2004.
4. Mar. 4, 2016: Green Card Voices
5. Mar. 6, 2016: Welcoming Refugees
6. Mar. 12, 2016: Canada PM Justin Trudeau visits the White House
7. Mar. 20, 2016. The 13th anniversary of the Iraq War.
8. Mar. 22, 2016 The Two Wolves…President Obama Visits Cuba
9. Mar. 23, 2016 The Two Wolves, Deux. Brussels

#1115 – Dick Bernard: A Sad First Day of Spring, 13 years ago. The Day the Bombs Fell on Baghdad.

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

A few days ago a good friend, Barry, sent some of his friends, including myself, a brief e-mail: “This week on March 20 marks the 13th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. I encourage you all to send of letters to the editor and remind folks what a fiasco that was and continues to be. I have attached my own short article [see end of this post].”

Barry has far more than “paid his dues”: he’s a Vietnam vet who knew people whose names are on the memorial wall. He has walked the talk for peace, visibly and publicly for years. A thirteenth anniversary is an anniversary easily overlooked. I’m glad Barry reminded me.

March 20, 2003 (it was a Thursday) began our invasion of Iraq. Some would correctly contend that March 20 was simply a continuation of the brief Gulf War of early 1991. I still have the letter some anonymous GI wrote from the front at the end of that War. (Back then letters to GIs were encouraged, and my “pen pal” then, must have passed my letter to him along to someone somewhere in Iraq. The letter, 25 years ago, says it all about the reality of peace through war.)

(click to enlarge)

Letter from Iraq Mar 9 1991

Letter from Iraq Mar 9 1991

A dozen years after this lonely GI wrote from the Iraq desert came what we witnessed between March 20 and May 1, 2003: what was called “Shock and Awe”.

On May 1, 2003, President George Bush gave his celebratory and still controversial Mission Accomplished speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln. We were led to believe that the Iraq War was over 40 days after it started; all that remained, we were told, were the candy and the flowers, the gifts to and from Iraqis for bringing “democracy” to Iraq….

Mission Accomplished, indeed.


I have my old e-mails from that awful time in history, Spring 2003, including a halfsheet post sent to friends on March 19, 2003 (#1 below).

And for some weeks now I have been putting together a single sheet of paper which I call “The Human Cost of War For The United States”. I wasn’t planning to roll out either one in connection with today, but Barry’s reminder is sadly appropriate.

I’d encourage Barry and everyone to print out those sheets and discuss their application to today.
1. The E-mail of March 19, 2003 (one half page): E-Mail March 19, 2003001 (At the time I wrote this, I was quite new to the Peace and Justice movement, and not a leader in any sense of the word: just a concerned citizen who routinely participated in protests.)
2. U.S. War Deaths from Civil War through March, 2016 (one page): War Deaths U.S.002
3. Here is a much longer piece of additional data for those with an interest: World and Historical Deaths from War and other anthropogenic disasters here. (The key columns are the first one, and the columns which give duration of the particular catastrophe.)


While, I realize that this topic of war is subject to endless argument, here are a few thoughts to help stir up conversations wherever you are….
4. Essentially war has ceased to be a cause of American deaths; and while we are “armed and dangerous” to an extreme degree, the amount of killing at our hands out in the world is proportionally very low compared with even our recent past (2003-2008). We are still, however, extremely comfortable with violence and too many reverence what they feel is our “power” and past “might” and glory. The slogan, “making America great again” celebrates the glory of War, of dominance.
5. The Iraq War turned out to be ruinous and near catastrophic in many ways for our country, not even to mention Iraq and the Middle East. We didn’t think, 13 years ago, that we were building ISIS from the ground up.
6. Back then in 2003 the word “Drones” was not part of the conversation – the way to go was to “bomb the hell out of ’em”, give ’em “Shock and Awe”; now Drones preoccupy. Drones will not disappear. Back in 2011 I encouraged my own peace movement to enter into a constructive conversation about Drones, generally. I don’t recall much buy-in for the conversation at the time, or since. John Rash in yesterdays Minneapolis Star Tribune called attention to a new film about the ethical aspects of Drones. I suspect we’ll take in that movie. I continue to support the idea of deep conversation and action to at minimum regulate the use of Drones in War.
7. Far too many in our American society are pre-occupied with protecting an obsession with our sacred guns, and similar. Paradoxically, we now directly kill far more of our own citizens by firearms, than we kill faceless others by bombs, but we seem to refuse to deal with this domestic issue.


8. I abhor war. Nonetheless I believe “war” will never be archaic. All we need to do is look at history (see the depressing data I linked in #3 above. There is always a new rogue, sometimes of our own making, who has fantasies of being in control. It never works, long term…but there are always the dreamers….
9. The ever-increasing wealth gap is a huge problem in all developed countries, but most of all in our own. This seeming out of control gap births conflict. The poor, and those for whom reasonable success is elusive, do not want to be rich; but they do wish to be able to survive with dignity. A saying I once heard applies: in the long run, even the selfish will pay for their own selfishness. It’s just a matter of time.
10. The United Nations is regularly vilified, even by the left, and, yes, the UN needs reform, but without the United Nations this world be in much worse shape. In many ways, the UN or its related organizations help keep an otherwise unstable human world from repeating the 20th century legacy of death and destruction especially before 1945.
11. As individuals or small groups we may seem to have little power, but as Margaret Mead so famously observed, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
12. Conversely, those who believe that they can take a pass on electing competent leaders at all levels of government, or even take a pass on voting at all, are foolish and short-sighted.

I could go on and on and on and on.

Have a good conversation. And have a great Spring.

Comments welcome, and will be printed unless there is a specific request not to print:


Barry’s submission to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Thirteenth Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

On the thirteenth anniversary of the US most recent invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, let us reflect on its costs. Just a few of which are: Thousands of US lives lost, Trillions of US dollars spent, anywhere from a Few Hundred Thousand to over a Million Iraqi civilians dead, totally destabilized the region, exploded sectarian tensions and led directly to the rising of Isis. Not to mention of course, it was all based on lies.

Let us remember too who voted for and supported this disaster, Hillary Clinton, while Bernie Sanders spoke out strongly against it. Do we really need another War President?

To Barry: Personally I strongly support Hillary Clinton for President. She has the experience to deal with the many great complexities the next President will have to confront in this nation, and in our world.

Your friend, in deep respect,
Dick Bernard

Viking News, Valley City (ND) State Teachers College, May 24, 1961

Viking News, Valley City (ND) State Teachers College, May 24, 1961

from Norm: Thanks Dick for your blog this morning. We are not reminded enough. And thanks for including your Collegiate Press piece. A wonderful second sentence.

I’m reading The Obama Doctrine by Jeffrey Goldberg in the current, April 2016, of The Atlantic which I was surprised the whole article came up online [You can read it] here.

I marked two paragraphs because they say so much for what Obama is about. Here they are:

The Atlantic April 2016
This was the moment the president believes he finally broke with what he calls, derisively, the “Washington playbook.”

“Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”
I first spoke with Obama about foreign policy when he was a U.S. senator, in 2006. At the time, I was familiar mainly with the text of a speech he had delivered four years earlier, at a Chicago antiwar rally. It was an unusual speech for an antiwar rally in that it was not antiwar; Obama, who was then an Illinois state senator, argued only against one specific and, at the time, still theoretical, war. “I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein,” he said. “He is a brutal man. A ruthless man … But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors.” He added, “I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”

from Jim: I read your post with interest. You conclude with your support for Hilary Clinton. She of course voted for the invasion of Iraq. She was part of the debacle in Libya. She has come out against the Pacific trade deal, negotiated by the Obama administration and which I support. Mrs Clinton is an astute politician. Like her husband, she collects thousands for making speeches. When you review her tax returns, about the only charity she regularly contributes to is the Clinton foundation. At the caucuses, I supported Bernie Sanders. I sent $50 each to Bernie and Governor Kasich.

Response from Dick: Thanks for the comment.

To piggyback on your comment a bit: Hillary Clinton was, of course, U.S. Senator from New York at the time of 9-11-01. New York City was the epicenter of 9-11-01. I was always troubled by the fact that 94% of Americans de facto wanted war against somebody after 9-11-01. It was probably even higher in New York. That is a strong wind to buck.

The rest is part of the dilemma of decision making faced by an individual representing a powerful country in an extremely complex world. (BTW, if I could afford to have my own Foundation, I guess I’d be inclined to give preference to it in my donations). And as Secretary of State, representing one of 193 countries in the world, albeit the most powerful, there is not a single simple decision.

She has been under relentless attack for 25 years, and I think she’s more than capable of the position of President of the United States; still the Left piles on. I like Bernie, too, and he’s running a strong campaign, as Hillary did against Barack Obama in 2008 – up to almost the Democratic Convention.

Kasich? I think the more we learn about him, the less likeable he’ll be….

from Stephen: I really try to get along with everyone, peace at home and all that. Some times I can get so angry at even friends and family. Some one I love said to me peace through strength. It just took the wind out of my sails. I just said “ya”. If this e-mail had been in my head I would of said,”Strength maybe War no. Thanks for all you’ve done and do.

Love not War, Stephen

from Barry: I respect your opinion but I believe very strongly that there is the possibility for real change with Bernie (as I did with Obama) if for no other reason than getting corporate money out of our politics. Bernie has also already pushed Hillary to the left on many issues. He has been at this longer than Hillary and has been a voice for reason right along. He speaks his truth whatever it is even though it may not be popular or win him votes.

I read in Friday’s StarTribune Obama stating about Bernies authenticity that “folks say that Bush was authentic too, but authenticity does not make a good President.” Well I don’t know about you but it is certainly a quality I admire. Plus what does that say about Obama? Also he said that at “some point Bernie needs to step aside.” Well it seems to me that the race is not over yet

Your friend.

Response from Dick: Many thanks. The only reason I made the entry about politics, is in response to your comment about politics. I happen to like Bernie Sanders a lot, but I think if he gets the nomination (which is very unlikely) he’ll have as much chance as right winger Barry Goldwater had in 1964.

Most of what I have to say about Hillary is in response to Jim’s comment above.

As it happened, yesterday afternoon I watched her deal with the Libya issue in a one-on-one Town Hall Forum in Springfield IL, at the old state Capitol building. In Libya, she said, credibly, that among the many dilemmas she faced was the need to listen to concerns of allied nations, such as Europe and Egypt, who needed to have something done. And, of course, Libya’s leader, Qaddafi, had never been a knight in shining armor. Etc. She did well in her response.

At these high levels, every decision is wrong, from somebody’s point of view. This was Obama’s reality, too, and I think he knew it well on entering office. The best we can do is select someone who helps to make our nation and world a better place. I think that happened with Obama, and it will happen with Clinton.