Peace Almanac December

December

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December 1. On this date in 1948 Costa Rica’s president declared the country’s intention to abolish its army. President Jose Figueres Ferrar announced this new national spirit in a speech that day from the nation’s military headquarters, the Cuartel Bellavista, in San Jose. In a symbolic gesture he concluded his speech by smashing a hole in the wall and handing the keys of the facility to the minister of education. Today this former military facility is a national art museum. Ferrar said that, “it is time for Costa Rica to return to her traditional position of having more teachers than soldiers.” Money that had been spent on the military, now is used, not only for education, but health care, cultural endeavors, social services, the natural environment, and a police force providing domestic security. The result is that Costa Ricans have a literacy rate of 96%, a life expectancy of 79.3 years — a world ranking even better than that of the United States — public parks and sanctuaries that protect a quarter of all land, an energy infrastructure based entirely on renewables, and is ranked number 1 by the Happy Planet Index compared to a ranking of 108 by the United States. While most countries surrounding Costa Rica continue to invest in armaments and have been involved in internal civil and cross border conflict, Costa Rica has not. It is a living example that one of the best ways to avoid war is to not prepare for one. Perhaps others of us should join the “Switzerland of Central America” and declare today as they have as “Military Abolition Day.”

December 2. On this day in 1914 Karl Liebknecht cast the only vote against war in the German parliament.

December 3. On this day in 1997 the treaty banning land mines was signed. This is a good day on which to demand that the remaining few holdout countries sign and ratify it. The Preamble to the Ban states its main purpose: “Determined to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines that kill or maim hundreds of people every week, mostly innocent and defenseless civilians and especially children….” In Ottawa, Canada, representatives from 125 countries met with Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, and Prime Minister Jean Chretien to sign the treaty banning these weapons whose purpose Chretien described as “for extermination in slow motion.” Landmines from previous wars remained in 69 countries in 1997, continuing the horrors of war. A campaign to end this epidemic was begun six years earlier by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and American human rights leader Jody Williams who founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and was supported by the late Princess Diana of Wales. Militarized countries including the United States and Russia refused to sign the treaty. In response, Foreign Minister Axworthy noted another reason for removing mines was to raise agricultural production in countries such as Afghanistan. Dr. Julius Toth of the international medical assistance group Doctors Without Borders commented “It’s important for those countries to rethink their motives for not signing. If they can justify to the children that I have to deal with when I’m working in the countries with amputees and the victims of these mines…they’d better come up with a pretty valid reason for not being on line.”

December 4. On this date in 1915, Henry Ford set out for Europe from Hoboken, New Jersey on a chartered ocean liner renamed The Peace Ship. Accompanied by 63 peace activists and 54 reporters, his purpose was nothing less than to end the seemingly futile carnage of World War I. As Ford saw it, the stagnant trench warfare served no ends but the death of young men and the profiteering of old ones. Determined to do something about it, he planned to sail to Oslo, Norway and, from there, set out to organize a conference of European neutral nations in The Hague that would convince leaders of the belligerent nations to make peace. On board ship, however, cohesion quickly disintegrated. News of President Wilson’s call to build up the manpower and weaponry of the U.S. army pitted conservative against more radical activists. Then, when the ship arrived in Oslo on December 19, the activists found only a handful of supporters to welcome them. By Christmas Eve, Ford apparently saw the handwriting on the wall and effectively killed the Peace Ship crusade. Claiming illness, he skipped the scheduled train trip to Stockholm and sailed for home on a Norwegian liner. In the end, the peace expedition cost Ford about a half-million dollars and gained him little but ridicule. Yet, it might well be asked whether the foolishness attributed to him was rightly placed. Did it really lie with Ford, who exposed himself to failure in the fight for life? Or with European leaders who sent 11 million soldiers to their deaths in a war with no clear cause or purpose?

December 5. M.L. King’s “Day of Days” Montgomery Bus Boycott began 1955.

December 6. Britain gave Transvaal self-government 1906 in national nonviolent act, after failure of force

December 7. On this day in 1682 the Great Law banned war in Pennsylvania. Also on this day in 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor just as Roosevelt’s cabinet expected.

December 8. On this day in 1941 Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin cast the only vote against U.S. entry into World War II.

December 9.

Solidarity leader Lech Walesa elected President of Poland. (1990)

December 10. This is Human Rights Day.

December 11. On this day in 1946 UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund was founded.

December 12. On this date in 1982, 30,000 women linked hands to completely encircle the nine-mile perimeter of the U.S.-run military base at Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. Their self-declared purpose was to “embrace the base,” thereby “countering violence with love.” The Greenham Common base, opened in 1942, had been used by both the British Royal Air Force and U.S. Army Air Force during the Second World War. During the ensuing Cold War, it was loaned to the U.S. for use by the U.S. Strategic Air Command. In 1975, the Soviet Union deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles with independently targetable warheads on its territory that the NATO alliance deemed a threat to the security of Western Europe. In response, NATO drew up a plan to deploy more than 500 ground-based nuclear cruise and ballistic missiles in Western Europe by 1983, including 96 cruise missiles at Greenham Common. The earliest women’s demonstration against the NATO plan took place in 1981, when 36 women marched to Greenham Common from Cardiff, Wales. When their hopes to debate the plan with officials were ignored, the women chained themselves to a fence at the air base, set up a Peace Camp there, and began what became an historic 19-year protest against nuclear weapons. With the end of the Cold War, the Greenham Common military base was closed in September 1992. Yet, the enduring demonstration there waged by tens of thousands of women remains significant. In a time of re-heightened nuclear anxieties, it reminds us that life-affirming mass collective protest offers a potent means to point up the life-negating projects of the military/industrial state.

December 13. On this day in 1903 Ella Baker was born.

December 14. On this day in 1910 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was established “to hasten the abolition of international war, that foulest blot on civilization.”

December 15. This is Bill of Rights Day, the day in 1791 on which the U.S. Bill of Rights was ratified. This is a good day to attempt to make real, and to expand and update, some of those rights.

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December 16. On this day in 1966 the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was signed.

December 17. On this day in 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia launched the Arab Spring. This is a good day to organize nonviolent resistance to injustice.

December 18.

Slavery abolished by 13th amendment. (1865) after other nations and DC did it without a war

December 19. On this day in 1940 singer and song writer Phil Ochs was born.

December 20. This is International Human Solidarity Day, as well as the day in 1989 that the United States attacked Panama.

December 21. On this day in 1940, two weeks shy of a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, China’s Minister of Finance T.V. Soong and Colonel Claire Chennault, a retired U.S. Army flier who was working for the Chinese and had been urging them to use American pilots to bomb Tokyo since at least 1937, met in U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau’s dining room to plan the firebombing of Japan. Morgenthau said he could get men released from duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps if the Chinese could pay them $1,000 per month. Soong agreed. This is a good day to consider that wars between two armed parties, like the Tango, take two.

December 22. On this day in 1847, Congressman Abraham Lincoln challenged President James Polk to provide evidence that Mexico had actually attacked the United States, rather than the other way around. Polk never did, but he had indeed launched a war and stolen half of Mexico, incorporating it into the United States.

December 23. On this day in 1947 President Truman pardoned 1,523 of 15,805 World War II draft resisters.

December 24.

Costa Rica withdraws from League of Nations to protest US Monroe Doctrine. (1924)

December 25. This is Christmas, traditionally a holiday of peace for Christians. On this day in 1776, George Washington led a surprise night crossing of the Delaware River and pre-dawn raid on unarmed hung-over-from-Christmas troops still in their underwear — a founding act of violence for the new nation. Also on this day in 1875 Jessie Wallace Hughan, founder of the War Resisters League, was born. Also on this day in 1914, soldiers on both sides of the trenches of World War I took part in a Christmas Truce. This is a good day to work for peace on earth.

December 26. On this day in 1872 Norman Angell was born. A love of reading led to his embracing Mill’s Essay on Liberty at the age of 12. He studied in England, France, and Switzerland before migrating to California at 17. He began working for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and the San Francisco Chronicle. As a correspondent, he moved to Paris and became sub-editor of the Daily Messenger, then a staff contributor to Éclair. His reporting on the Spanish-American War, the Dreyfus affair, and the Boer War led Angell to his first book, Patriotism under Three Flags: A Plea for Rationalism in Politics (1903). While editing the Paris edition of Lord Northcliffe’s Daily Mail, Angell published another book Europe’s Optical Illusion, which he expanded in 1910 and renamed The Great Illusion. Angell’s theory on war described in his work was that military and political power stood in the way of providing actual defense, and that it is economically impossible for one nation to take over another. The Great Illusion was updated throughout his career, selling over 2 million copies, and was translated into 25 languages. He served as a Labor Member of Parliament, with the World Committee against War and Fascism, on the Executive Committee of the League of Nations Union, and as President of the Abyssinia Association, while publishing forty-one more books, including The Money Game (1928), The Unseen Assassins (1932), The Menace to Our National Defence (1934), Peace with the Dictators? (1938), and After All (1951) on cooperation as the basis for civilization. Angell was knighted in 1931, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933.

December 27. On this day in 1993 Belgrade Women in Black held a New Year protest.

December 28. On this day in 1991 the Philippines ordered the United States out of its country. This is a good day on which to demand the closure of foreign bases.

December 29. On this day in 1890 in the Wounded Knee Massacre, the U.S. military killed 130-250 Sioux men, women, and children. This is a good day on which to marvel at how nations like Germany and Japan memorialize their worst history but the United States ignores its bloody origins and traditions. Also on this day in 1996 a Guatemalan Peace Agreement brokered by the UN ended 36 years of war.

December 30.

Tuskeegee Institute reported that 1952 was the first year in 71 years of record keeping that no one was lynched in the United States. (1952)

December 31.

new year’s resolutions time

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