June 1. On this date in 1990, U.S. President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed a historic agreement to end the production of chemical weapons and begin the destruction of both nations’ stockpiled reserves. The accord called for an eventual 80-percent reduction of the two nations’ chemical weapons arsenals, a process begun in 1992 under monitoring conducted by inspectors sent by each country to the other. By the 1990s, most nations had the technology needed to build chemical weapons, and Iraq, for one, had already used them in its war against Iran. Consequently, a further purpose of the Bush/Gorbachev agreement was to create a new international climate that would discourage smaller countries from stockpiling chemical weapons for potential use in war. That aim succeeded. In 1993, more than 150 nations signed on to the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty banning chemical weapons worldwide that was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1997. That same year, an intergovernmental organization based in The Hague, Netherlands, known as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was founded to oversee implementation of the weapons ban. Its duties included the inspection of chemical weapons production and destruction sites, as well as the investigation of cases where chemical weapons were alleged to have been used. As of October 2015, about 90 percent of the world’s stockpile of chemical weapons had been destroyed. This represents an historic achievement, suggesting that similar programs for worldwide banning and destruction of nuclear weapons, and ultimately global disarmament and the abolition of war, are not beyond the reach of human aspiration and political determination.
June 2. On this day in 1939 a German ship full of desperate Jewish refugees sailed close enough to see the lights of Miami, Florida, but was turned away, as President Franklin Roosevelt had blocked all efforts in Congress to admit Jewish refugees. This is a good day on which to remember that justifications for wars are sometimes concocted only after the wars are over. On May 13, 1939, nine hundred Jewish refugees boarded the S.S. St. Louis of the Hamburg-America Line headed for Cuba to escape concentration camps in Germany. They had little money by the time they were forced to leave, yet outrageous fees imposed for the trip made plans for starting over in a new country even more intimidating. Once they arrived in Cuba, they believed they would eventually be welcomed into the United States. Still, tension aboard the ship led to a few suicides before entering Cuba’s harbor where they were not allowed to disembark. The captain set up a suicide patrol to keep watch on passengers during the nights they spent in the harbor, struggling to understand the reason. Then, they were ordered to leave. The captain sailed along the coast of Florida hoping to see welcome signs, but U.S. planes and Coast Guard ships arrived only to steer them away. By June 7, there was little food left when the captain announced they would have to head back to Europe. As their story spread, Holland, France, Great Britain, and Belgium offered to accept some refugees. By June 13-16, the St. Louis met up with ships heading for these countries, arriving just as WWII began.
June 3. On this date in 1940, the Battle of Dunkirk ended with a German victory and with the Allies’ forces in full retreat from Dunkirk to England. From May 26 to June 4, Allied forces were taken directly off the beaches, a very difficult process. Hundreds of British and French civilian boats voluntarily acted as shuttles to and from the larger ships; troops waited for hours shoulder-deep in water. Over 300,000 British, French, and Belgian troops were saved. Long known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk” based on the belief that God had answered prayers, in reality, it was the culmination of a devastating picture of the horrors of war. Germany had invaded northern Europe in the Low Countries and France. A blitzkrieg followed and by May 12 the Dutch had surrendered. By May 22, the German panzers headed north up the coast for Calais and Dunkirk, the last escape ports left. The British suffered a terrible defeat and Britain itself was threatened. Almost all of its heavy equipment, tanks, artillery, motorized transport and more than 50,000 troops were left on the Continent, most captured by the Germans. Over ten percent of them were killed. A thousand British soldiers were lost during the evacuation. While being made to wait for rescue, around 16,000 French soldiers died. Ninety percent of Dunkirk was destroyed during the battle. The 300,000 troops evacuated raises concerns in light of British and U.S. assertions throughout the war that they had neither the time nor the ability to evacuate Jews from Germany.
June 4. On this date every year, the UN-sponsored International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is observed around the world. The Children Victims day was established in August 1982 by a special assembly of the United Nations in response to the many deaths of Lebanese children in Beirut and other Lebanese cities following the first Israeli air strikes of the Lebanon War on June 4, 1982. In practice, the Children Victims day is designed to serve two broader purposes: to acknowledge the many children throughout the world who are victims of physical, mental, and emotional abuse, whether in war or peace, or at home or school; and to encourage individuals and organizations worldwide to be aware of the scale and impact of the abuse of children and to learn from, or take part in, campaigns aimed at protecting and preserving their rights. As UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar noted in his message for the 1983 Children Victims day, “Children who suffer injustice and poverty need to be protected and empowered by the adult world that creates these situations, not only through their direct actions but also indirectly through global problems such as climate change and urbanization.” The International Day of Children Victims is only one of more than 150 annually observed UN International Days. The Days are in turn part of a broader UN educational project in which particular events or issues are associated with specific days, weeks, years, and decades. The repeated observances build public awareness of the various events or issues, and promote actions to address them that remain consistent with UN objectives.
June 5. On this day in 1962, the Port Huron Statement was completed. This was a manifesto produced by Students for a Democratic Society, and chiefly authored by Tom Hayden, a student at the University of Michigan. Students attending U.S. universities in the 1960s felt compelled to do something about the lack of freedom and individual rights they were witnessing in a country “of, by, and for the people.” The statement noted that “First, the permeating and victimizing fact of human degradation, symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry, compelled most of us from silence to activism. Second, the enclosing fact of the Cold War, symbolized by the presence of the Bomb, brought awareness that we ourselves, and our friends, and millions of abstract ‘others’ we knew more directly because of our common peril, might die at any time… With nuclear energy whole cities can easily be powered, yet the dominant nation-states seem more likely to unleash destruction greater than that incurred in all wars of human history.” They also feared the nation’s ambivalence toward: “The worldwide outbreak of revolution against colonialism and imperialism, the entrenchment of totalitarian states, the menace of war, overpopulation, international disorder, super-technology–these trends were testing the tenacity of our own commitment to democracy and freedom… we ourselves are imbued with urgency, yet the message of our society is that there is no viable alternative to the present.” Lastly, the manifesto expressed an urgent plea for “changing the conditions of humanity… an effort rooted in the ancient, still unfulfilled conception of man attaining determining influence over his circumstances of life.”
June 6. On this date in 1968, at 1:44 a.m., presidential candidate Robert Kennedy died from mortal gunshot wounds inflicted by an assassin just after midnight the day before. The shooting took place in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, which Kennedy was exiting after celebrating his victory in the California presidential primary with supporters. Since that event, people have asked, How would the country be different if Robert Kennedy had gone on to become president? Any answer must include the caveat that Kennedy was hardly a shoe-in to be elected president. Neither the power brokers in the Democratic Party nor the so-called “Silent Majority” of Americans–fearful of rioting blacks, Hippies, and college radicals–were likely to provide him much support. Still, the wave of cultural change in the 1960s had made it possible to build a coalition of haves and have-nots who wanted to end the war in Vietnam and tackle the problems of race and poverty. Bobby Kennedy seemed to many the candidate who could best create that coalition. In his extemporaneous remarks to inner-city blacks on the night of Martin Luther King’s assassination, and his behind-the-scenes role in negotiating an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, he had clearly demonstrated qualities of empathy, passion, and rational detachment that could inspire transformational change. Congressman and prominent civil-rights activist John Lewis said about him: “He wanted… not just to change laws…. He wanted to build a sense of community.” Arthur Schlesinger, Kennedy’s campaign aide and biographer, commented bluntly: “Had he been elected president in 1968 we would have gotten out of Vietnam in 1969.”
June 7. On this day in 1893, in his first act of civil disobedience, Mohandas Gandhi refused to comply with racial segregation rules on a South African train and was forcibly ejected at Pietermaritzburg. This led to a life spent fighting for civil rights through nonviolent means, bringing freedom to many Indians in Africa, and to India’s independence from Great Britain. Gandhi, an intelligent and inspirational man, was known for a spirituality which encompassed all religions. Gandhi believed in “Ahimsa,” or the positive force of love, integrating it into his political philosophy of “holding fast to truth or firmness in a righteous cause.” This belief, or “Satyagraha,” allowed Gandhi to turn political issues into the moral and righteous ones they really are. While surviving three attempts on his life, attacks, illnesses, and long imprisonments, Gandhi never attempted to retaliate against his opponents. Instead, he promoted peaceful change, inspiring all to do the same. When Britain imposed the unfair Salt Tax on the impoverished, he gave life to the Indian Independence movement by leading a march across India to the sea. Many died or were imprisoned before the British agreed to release all political prisoners. As Britain lost control of the country, India regained its independence. Known as the Father of his Nation, Gandhi’s name was then changed to Mahatma, meaning “soulful one.” Despite his nonviolent approach, it has been noted that every government that opposed Gandhi finally had to yield. His gift to the world was his dispelling of the belief that war is ever needed. Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Nonviolence.
June 8. On this date in 1966, 270 students at New York University walked out of graduation ceremonies to protest the presentation of an honorary degree to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. On the same date one year later, two-thirds of the graduating class of Brown University turned their backs on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the graduation speaker. Both protests expressed the alienation felt by increasing numbers of U.S. college students from their government’s actions in the Vietnam War. By 1966, after President Lyndon Johnson had dramatically escalated the U.S troop presence and bombing campaigns in Vietnam, the war had become for students a focal point of political activism. They held demonstrations, burned draft cards, protested military and Dow Chemical job fairs on campus, and chanted slogans like “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Most protests were locally- or campus-based, but almost all of them were inspired by a common objective: to sever ties between the U.S. war machine and the university, with its inherently “liberal” ideals. For some students, that objective may well have resulted from the broadened intellectual perspective often gained in university studies. Other students championed student-centered university independence for different reasons, and many were willing to risk injury or arrest by demanding it in such direct actions as occupying university buildings and administrative offices. That willingness to overstep legal boundaries for moral ends was evident in a survey conducted in 1968 by the Milwaukee Journal. There, seventy-five percent of a representative sample of all students expressed their support for organized protest as a “legitimate means of expressing student grievances.”
June 9. On this date in 1982 General Efraín Rios Montt declared himself President of Guatemala, deposing the elected president. Rios Montt was a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas (the U.S. military school that has trained so many Latin American killers and torturers). Rios Montt set up a military three-person junta with himself as president. Under martial law, a suspended constitution, and no legislature, this junta held secret tribunals, and curtailed political parties and labor unions. Rios Montt forced the other two in the junta to resign. He claimed that campesinos and the indigenous were communists, and began kidnapping, torturing, and murdering them. A guerilla army formed to resist Rios Montt, and a 36-year civil war ensued. Tens of thousands of non-combatants were killed and “disappeared” by the regime at a rate of more than 3,000 per month. The Reagan administration and Israel supported the dictatorship with arms and provided spying and training. Rios Montt was himself ousted by a coup in 1983. Until 1996 the killing continued in Guatemala in a culture of impunity. Prohibited from running for president by the Constitution, Rios Montt was a Congressman between 1990 and 2007, immune from prosecution. When his immunity ended, he quickly found himself charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. Sentenced to 80 years in prison, Rios Montt was not incarcerated due to supposed senility. Rios Montt died on April 1, 2018, at the age of 91. In March 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton apologized for U.S. support of the dictatorship. But the basic lesson of the harm in exporting militarism has yet to be learned.
June 10. On this day in 1963 President John. F. Kennedy spoke in favor of peace at American University. Just five short months before his assassination, Kennedy’s remarks on the beauty of universities and of their role led to some unforgettable words of wisdom including the following: “I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace…I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all of the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn… First: Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable–that mankind is doomed–that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade–therefore, they can be solved by man.”
June 11. On this day in 1880 Jeannette Rankin was born. The first woman elected to Congress was a graduate of the University of Montana who began her career in social work. As both a pacifist and a suffragist, Rankin helped women win the right to vote by introducing a bill granting them citizenship independent of their husbands. As Rankin took her seat in April 1917, U.S. participation in WWI was being debated. She voted NO, despite extreme opposition, leading to her loss of a second term. Rankin then went to work for the National Conference for the Prevention of War before running for Congress once again with the slogan “Prepare to the Limit for Defense; Keep our Men out of Europe!” She attributed her second win in 1940 to women who appreciated her vote against WWI. Rankin was back in Congress when President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to vote for a Declaration of War on Japan taking the United States into WWII. Rankin’s was the only dissenting vote. Amid much backlash, she continued her work, including organizing the Jeannette Rankin Brigade for a 1968 march on Washington to protest the Vietnam War. Rankin called on Congress to address people’s needs, decrying the choices given women who “let their sons go off to war because they’re afraid their husbands will lose their jobs in industry if they protest.” She lamented that U.S. citizens were only offered “a choice of evils, not ideas.” Rankin’s words seemed to go unheard as wars continued despite the simple alternative she worked a lifetime for. She said: “If we disarmed, we’d be the safest country in the world.”
June 12. On this day in 1982 one million people demonstrated against nuclear weapons in New York. This is a good day to oppose nuclear weapons. While the United Nations held a Special Session on Disarmament, the crowd in Central Park drew international attention to the number of Americans opposed to the nuclear arms race. Dr. Randall Caroline Forsberg was one of the leading organizers of the “Nuclear Freeze,” and the number of protesters joining her in New York led to what was deemed to be “the largest political demonstration in the history of America.” Forsberg received a “genius award” from the MacArthur Fellowship acknowledging her work for a better, peaceful world by calling attention to the crises inherent in the accelerating nuclear weapons program. At the time, President Ronald Reagan was not appreciative, going so far as to suggest that members of the Nuclear Freeze movement must be “unpatriotic,” “communist supporters,” or possibly even “foreign agents.” By his second term, his administration had felt enough pressure to begin talks on reducing the size of nuclear arsenals. A meeting was arranged with the Soviet Union, and talks began between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to eliminate weapons from both Eastern and Western Europe with the joint acknowledgment that “A nuclear war cannot be won, and should never be fought.” This followed a meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, where a proposal by Gorbachev to abolish all nuclear weapons by the year 2000 was not accepted by the United States. But by 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed to require both countries to begin reducing their arsenals.
June 13. On this day in 1971, the Pentagon Papers excerpted in the New York Times, gave details of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from the end of World War II to 1968. On June 13, 1971, after years of protests against the draft, the prolonged killings in Vietnam, and the cries for reason that went unanswered by the U.S. government, the New York Times received some “classified” information from a former military analyst. Frustrated by his own ongoing efforts to stop the war, Daniel Ellsberg contacted the New York Times, allowing them a glimpse into the real reasons the United States had become a military state: “A massive study of how the United States went to war in Indochina, conducted by the Pentagon three years ago, demonstrates that four administrations progressively developed a sense of commitment to a non‐Communist Vietnam, a readiness to fight the North to protect the South, and an ultimate frustration with this effort — to a much greater extent than their public statements acknowledged at the time.” The U.S. Attorney General accused the Times of violating the law by disclosing government secrets, silencing them two days later. The Washington Post began to publish the story, and was also brought before the Federal Court. The country waited in disbelief until the benchmark decision for freedom of the press was finally made. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of publication with one of the justices, Hugo L. Black, releasing the following statement: “In revealing the workings of the government that led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers nobly did that which the Founding Fathers hoped and trusted they would do.”
June 14. On this day in 1943 the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the compulsory flag salute for school children. The original “Pledge to the Flag,” written in the 1800s for a celebration of the discovery of America, read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” During WWII, politics found benefits in turning this pledge into law. The words “of the United States,” and “of America” were then added; and by 1945, the title was changed, and regulations regarding proper salutation of the flag were added. Salutation rules were changed when they were compared to those of Nazi Germany from the first: “Stand, raising the right hand with exposed palm to the forehead;” to: “Stand, placing the right hand over the heart.” The words “under God” were added after “one Nation,” and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954. Initially, 35 states mandated that public school students from K-12 stand to salute the flag each day with hands over their hearts while reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance.” As the number of pledge states grew to 45, many questioned the hypocrisy of a law requiring children to pledge allegiance to a flag representing “Liberty and Justice for all.” Others noted a conflict between the pledge and their religious beliefs, citing the violation of First Amendment rights. Although it was acknowledged by the courts in 1943 that students cannot be required to pledge allegiance to the flag, those who do not stand, salute, and pledge daily continue to be criticized, ostracized, suspended, and labelled “Unpatriotic.”
June 15. On this day in 1917, and May 16, 1918, the Espionage and Sedition Acts were passed. The Espionage Act was imposed as the US became involved in World War I to prohibit citizens from doing anything that could undermine the military in its fight against Germany and its allies. The Act was amended less than a year later in what became known as the Sedition Act of 1918. The Sedition Act was more inclusive, making anything done, said, or written against the US involvement in WWI illegal. This left many US citizens fearing arrest for expressing their opinions opposing the military draft or involvement in the war, as well as questioning this violation of the right to free speech. Any criticism of the Constitution, the draft, the flag, the government, the military, or even the military uniform was made illegal. It also became illegal for anyone to obstruct the sale of US bonds, display a German flag in their homes, or speak in support of any cause supported by countries now considered enemies of the US. Any violations of these new laws led to arrests with fines of up to ten thousand dollars, and sentencing which could lead to imprisonment for up to twenty years. At least seventy-five newspapers were not allowed to print anything against the war if they expected to continue, and 2,000 people were arrested. There were 1,000 people, many of them immigrants, convicted and imprisoned during this time. Although the Sedition Act was repealed in 1921, many of the laws under the Espionage Act remained in effect in the US as one war led to another.
June 16. On this day in 1976, the Soweto massacre occurred. 700 children were killed for refusing to learn Afrikaans. Even before the Nationalist Party took over in 1948, South Africa struggled with segregation. While education for whites was free, black children were neglected by the Bantu School System. Ninety percent of black South African schools were run by Catholic missionaries with minimal state assistance. In 1953, the Bantu Education Act cut all financing of education from state spending for Africans, followed by a University Education Act prohibiting black students from attending white universities. The move that led to the Soweto uprising was the Bantu decree that a language be used for instruction and examination that even teachers were not fluent in, the Afrikaans. As exam time approached, students from two high schools inspired by the South African Students Movement organized the Action Committee of the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC) to plan a peaceful protest against these increasingly difficult demands. The march began in Soweto passing other high schools where they were joined by students from these schools, and continued to meet up until thousands marched together to “Uncle Tom’s” Municipal Hall at Orlando. By the time they arrived, they had been disrupted by police and attacked with tear gas and bullets. By the time the mass shootings began, the marchers had been joined by over 300 white students and countless black workers in the fight against Apartheid and Bantu education. Police brutality was met with calm persistence by surviving students and supporters who continued for months the determined struggle for equality inspired by this memorable African “Youth Day.”
June 17. On this date in 1974, the Provisional Irish Republican Army bombed the Houses of Parliament in London, injuring eleven. This dramatic act was one of many blasts in the thirty years of the “Troubles.” In 1920, in an attempt to quell violence, the British Parliament had passed an Act that split Ireland, with both parts still formally part of the United Kingdom. Instead of the intended peace, guerrilla activity increased between the northern Protestants loyal to the UK and southern Catholics who wanted an independent and united Ireland. Occupation by British troops in 1969 increased the violence. The IRA bombed targets in England from 1972 until 1996. The mainland campaign claimed 175 lives. Subsequent ceasefire agreements were made but collapsed. A high profile assassination in the Troubles came when the Provisional IRA murdered the vacationing British Lord Louis Mountbatten in Northern Ireland in 1979 with a bomb aboard his boat. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement formally ended the struggle, with a power-sharing arrangement in government. During the decades of terror attacks launched by both nationalist and unionist paramilitaries, nearly 3600 lives were lost. But danger still lay just below the surface. The narrow result of a UK vote to break away from the European Union, called Brexit, produced a dispute over future customs arrangements, since Ireland would be split between European Union and non-European Union. A car bomb in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, was blamed on the Real Irish Republican Army, a group fighting for a united Ireland a hundred years after partition. That action, like hundreds of others over the years, displayed the uselessness of violence and the counterproductive results of blowing people up.
June 18. On this day in 1979, the SALT II agreement to limit long-range missiles and bombers was signed by Presidents Carter and Brezhnev. This agreement between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Republics was made as both became: “Conscious that nuclear war would have devastating consequences for all mankind…,” and “Reaffirming their desire to take measures for the further limitation and for the further reduction of strategic arms, having in mind the goal of achieving general and complete disarmament….” President Carter sent the agreement to Congress where debate went on until the Russian invasion of Afghanistan left it unratified. In 1980, President Carter announced that, regardless, the United States would comply with major stipulations of the agreement if Russia would reciprocate, and Brezhnev agreed. The foundation for the SALT treaties began when President Ford met with Brezhnev to lay the foundation which set a limit on multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle systems, banned construction of new land-based inter-continental ballistic missile launchers, limited deployment of new strategic offensive arms, strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, and kept the agreement valid through 1985. President Nixon agreed, as did President Reagan, who then declared violations by the Russians in 1984 and 1985. In 1986, Reagan announced that “…the US must base decisions regarding its strategic force structure on the nature and magnitude of the threat posed by Soviet strategic forces and not on standards contained in the SALT structure….” He did add that the US would “…continue to exercise the utmost restraint, while protecting strategic deterrence, in order to help foster the necessary atmosphere for significant reductions in the strategic arsenals of both sides.”
June 19. On this date each year, many Americans celebrate “Juneteenth,” the 19th of June in 1865 when African-Americans still enslaved in Galveston, Texas learned they had been legally freed 2-1/2 years earlier. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued on New Year’s Day, 1863, had mandated the freeing of all slaves in states and localities rebelling against the Union in the Civil War, but Texas slaveholders had apparently chosen not to act upon the order until they were forced to. That day came when two-thousand Union soldiers arrived at Galveston on June 19, 1865. Major General Gordan Granger read aloud a document which informed the people of Texas that “… in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free … and the connection heretofore existing between [masters and slaves] becomes that between employer and free laborer.” Among the freed slaves, reaction to the news ranged from shock to jubilation. Some lingered to learn more about the new employer/employee relationship, but many others, impelled by the exhilaration of their freedom, departed immediately to build a new life in new places. Facing severe challenges, the migrating ex-slaves over time made the “Juneteenth” of their liberation an annual occasion for reuniting with other family members in Galveston to exchange supportive reassurances and prayers. Over the years, the celebration spread to other areas and grew in popularity, and in 1980 Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas. Today, new local and national Juneteenth organizations use the commemoration to promote knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and culture, while also encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures.
June 20. This is World Refugee Day. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, was appointed in January 2017 after a lifetime spent working to stop the endless suffering that wars impose on innocents. Born in Lisbon in 1949, he earned a degree in engineering and became fluent in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish. His election to the Portuguese Parliament in 1976 introduced him to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe where he chaired the Committee on Demography, Migration, and Refugees. Twenty years of working as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees allowed Guterres to witness more than most the suffering, starvation, torture, disease, and deaths of civilian men, women, and children in refugee camps and war zones. While serving as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995-2002, he remained involved in international efforts as president of the European Council. His backing led to the adoption of the Lisbon Agenda for jobs and growth, and to the designation by the UN in December of 2000 of World Refugee Day. June 20 was chosen in remembrance of a 1951 Refugee Status Convention held fifty years earlier, and to acknowledge the continuing rise in the number of refugees worldwide to 60 million. Guterres’ words were chosen to introduce the World Refugee Day website: “This is not about sharing a burden. It is about sharing a global responsibility, based not only on the broad idea of our common humanity but also on the very specific obligations of international law. The root problems are war and hatred, not people who flee; refugees are among the first victims of terrorism.”
June 21. On this date in 1971, the International Court of Justice determined that South Africa was to pull out of Namibia. From 1915 to 1988 Namibia was known as South West Africa, considered nearly a province of South Africa. It had been highly colonized, first by Germany and then by Britain. South Africa was independent of Britain by World War I, but successfully invaded the German area in support of the Empire. The League of Nations placed SW Africa under a British mandate with South African administration. After World War II, the United Nations continued the policy. By 1960 the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) was a political force, starting a guerrilla campaign with its People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). In 1966, the U.N. General Assembly revoked South Africa’s mandate, but South Africa disputed its authority and imposed apartheid, a whites-only government, and bantustans, or black ghettoes. In 1971 the International Court of Justice upheld UN authority over Namibia and determined that the South African presence in Namibia was illegal. South Africa refused to withdraw, and a debilitating war ensued in the area extending into Angola, which was aided there by Cuban troops. Exhausted, and fearful of the Cuban presence, South Africa signed a ceasefire in 1988. The war took 2,500 South African soldiers’ lives, and cost a billion dollars a year. Independence of Namibia was declared in 1990. Mining of diamonds, other gemstones, and uranium in Namibia had fueled South Africa’s interest in colonizing the area. This is a good day to consider the true reasons for colonization, consequent wars, and their repercussions.
June 22. On this date in 1987, more than 18,000 Japanese peace activists formed a 10.4-mile human chain to protest the ongoing U.S. military occupation of Okinawa. The 1945 Battle of Okinawa was the deadliest assault in the Pacific War—an 82-day “typhoon of steel” that left 200,000 dead. More than 100,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, captured, or committed suicide; the Allies suffered more than 65,000 casualties; and a quarter of Okinawa’s civilian population was killed. Under a 1952 treaty, the US gained full control of Okinawa and ruled over the island for 27 years, confiscating private land to build bases and airfields—including the sprawling Kadena Air Base, which U.S. bombers later used to attack Korea and Vietnam. Over seven decades, the Pentagon contaminated the island’s sea, land, and air with arsenic, depleted uranium, nerve gas, and chemical carcinogens, giving Okinawa the nickname, “Junk Heap of the Pacific.” In 1972, a new treaty allowed Japan to regain some control of Okinawa but 25,000 US troops (and 22,000 family members) remained stationed there. And nonviolent protests have remained a constant presence. In 2000, 25,000 activists formed a human chain around the Kadena Air Base. By 2019, 32 U.S. bases and 48 training sites covered 20% of the island. Despite years of grassroots resistance, the Pentagon began expanding its presence with a new Marine Air Base at Henoko in northern Okinawa. Henoko’s beautiful coral reef was to be buried under tons of sand, threatening not only the coral, but sea turtles, endangered dugongs, and many other rare creatures.
June 23. On this date each year, the United Nations’ Public Service Day is observed by public service organizations and departments around the world. Instituted by the UN General Assembly in December 2002, Public Service Day is rooted in the recognition that a competent civil service plays an important role in fostering successful governance and social and economic development. The Day’s purpose is to celebrate the work of people in local and national communities around the world who are determined to exert their energies and skills to serve the common good. Whether the contributors are paid civil servants such as mail carriers, librarians, and teachers, or people who provide unpaid services to organizations such as volunteer fire departments and ambulance corps, they meet fundamental human needs and are essential to the well-being of society. For this reason, Public Service Day is also intended to encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector. Organizations and departments taking part in the Day typically use a variety of means to meet its objectives. They include setting up stalls and booths from which to provide information about public service; organizing lunches with guest speakers; conducting internal awards ceremonies; and making special announcements to honor public servants. The general public is encouraged to join in on the spirit of Public Service Day by thanking those who provide peaceful and legal services rather than the supposed service of participation in warfare. We might all ask ourselves: Where would we be without the public servants who restore our power after a nasty storm, keep our streets free from sewage, and collect our garbage?
June 24. On this date in 1948, President Harry Truman signed into law the Selective Service Act, which became the basis of the modern U.S. system for drafting young men into military service. The act stipulated that all men 18 years and older were required to register with the Selective Service and that those between the ages of 19 and 26 were eligible to be drafted for a service requirement of 21 months. Few young Americans opposed the draft until the mid-1960s, when many college students began to link it with misgivings over the United States’ expanding war on Vietnam. Some also resented the often subjectively-based draft deferments granted by local draft boards for reasons of family status or academic standing. In 1966, Congress passed legislation that rationalized the deferment system but did little to stem student resistance to the draft. Over time, however, modifications were made to the Selective Service Act which removed its conscription powers, and, today, the U.S. military is fully established as an all-volunteer body. Many draft-age Americans undoubtedly value the freedom this gives them to get on with their lives. It should not be overlooked, however, that many young men who do volunteer to serve the nation’s war machine do so primarily because it provides them the only recourse they have to a job, a culturally respected role in society, and self-esteem. Few among them fully consider that those benefits may come only at the risk of their own life and of grave harm and injustice to others. Selective Service remains in place for future military drafts, a practice that has been abolished in many countries.
June 25. On this date in 1918, Eugene Debs, leader of the United States’ Socialist Party and an accomplished orator famous for his scathing attacks on the nation’s plutocrats, was arrested for speaking against U.S. participation in World War I. Debs and his Socialists were hardly alone in their opposition, however. The United States’ entry into the war in 1917 had quickly catalyzed dissent in Congress and among civil libertarians and religious pacifists. In response, Congress passed the Espionage Act, which made it illegal for anyone to incite active opposition to the war. Debs, however, was undeterred. In a speech in Canton, Ohio on June 18, 1918, he spoke truths about war in general that remain relevant more than a century later. “In all the history of the world,” he proclaimed, “the master class has always declared the wars. The subject class has always fought the battles…. You need to know that you are good for something more than slavery and cannon fodder….” The Canton speech, however, would prove to be Debs’s last before his arrest. On September 12, 1918, he was convicted by a jury in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland for violating the Espionage Act. Seven months later the conviction was upheld on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and Debs was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. His subsequent confinement to a cell in Atlanta, however, did not stop him from running for President in 1920. Those who work for peace today can take encouragement in the fact that, despite Debs’s imprisonment, he received nearly a million popular votes in the election.
June 26. On this date each year the UN’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is observed by UN member nations, civil society groups, and individuals around the world. Instituted in December 1997 by a resolution of the UN General Assembly, the Support of Victims of Torture observance recognizes the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that took effect in June 1987 and is now ratified by most countries. The aim of the annual observance is to help ensure effective functioning of the anti-torture Convention, which recognizes torture as a war crime under international law and prohibits its use as a tool of war under any circumstances. Yet, in today’s wars, the use of torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment remains all too common. Documented use of torture by the United States goes unprosecuted and undeterred. The UN-sponsored observance in Support of Victims of Torture plays an important role in calling attention to the problem. Organizations such as the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims and Amnesty International have played active roles in organizing events around the world to boost people’s awareness of issues related to human torture. Such organizations also promote support for the prompt and specialized programs needed to help victims of torture recover from their trauma. Funded by such agencies as The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, rehabilitation centers and organizations around the world have demonstrated that victims can in fact make the transition from horror to healing.
June 27. On this day in 1869 Emma Goldman was born. Growing up in Lithuania, Goldman survived the Russian Revolution and antisemitism driving many to migrate. By age fifteen, a marriage pre-arranged by her father led Goldman, along with a sister, to flee to America. In New York, ten and a half hour days spent working at a coat factory led her to join a newly established labor union calling for fewer hours. As she began speaking out for women’s and workers’ rights, Goldman became known as a feminist anarchist who incited radical behavior. She routinely endured arrests. When President William McKinley was assassinated, Goldman was criticized nationally as one of her lectures had been attended by the assassin. By 1906, she started a magazine, “Mother Earth,” to educate readers on the ideologies of feminism and anarchism. As the US entered WWI, legislation such as the Sedition Act ended free speech, labelling pacifists as unpatriotic. Goldman continued to encourage anti-war efforts through her magazine, and organized a “No-Conscription League,” along with fellow activists Leonard Abbott, Alexander Berkman, and Eleanor Fitzgerald, to oppose “all wars by capitalist governments.” She and Berkman were arrested for conspiring to lower draft registrations, fined $10,000, and sentenced to two years in prison. Goldman was deported to Russia upon her release. While there, she wrote My Disillusionment in Russia, followed by her autobiography, Living My Life. Her last years were spent traveling and lecturing to fans all over Europe. She was allowed a ninety day tour back in the US before her request to be buried in Chicago was granted following her death in 1940.
June 28. On this date in 2009 a military coup, ultimately backed by the United States, overthrew the democratically elected government of Honduras. The country’s leftist president, Manuel Zelaya, was forced into exile in Costa Rica after more than a dozen soldiers rushed into his residence early in the morning and arrested him. The action concluded a long battle over a national referendum scheduled for the same day, by which the president hoped to demonstrate popular support for considering possible reforms to the country’s Constitution. Political opponents, however, contended that Zelaya’s true aim was to eliminate the existing Constitution’s limitation on a president’s tenure of office to a single four-year term. Soon after the coup, U.S. President Barack Obama stated, “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras….” That perspective, however, was soon superseded by the actions of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices, Clinton writes: “I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere…. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.” Not unexpectedly, the U.S.-backed post-coup government that came to power in 2010 rewarded coup loyalists with top ministries, opening the door to governmental and civil corruption, violence, and anarchy that persisted for years. Progressive activists in Honduras continued to organize and work hard for a future in which a legitimately elected government could operate honestly for the good of all, including those who were marginalized and poor.
June 29. On this date in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty, as then employed by the states, was unconstitutional. The Court’s decision also applied to two other cases, Jackson v. Georgia and Branch v. Texas, which both concerned the constitutionality of the death sentence for a conviction of rape. The facts leading to the Furman v. Georgia case were these: Furman was burglarizing a private home when a family member discovered him. In attempting to flee, Furman tripped and fell, causing the gun he was carrying to go off and kill a resident of the home. At trial, Furman was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The question in this case, as in the two others, was whether the death penalty constituted a violation of either the Eighth Amendment banning cruel and unusual punishment, or the Fourteenth Amendment, which assures all persons equal protection of the law. The Court’s one-page majority opinion, based on a 5-4 decision, held that the imposition of the death penalty in all three cases constituted cruel and unusual punishment and violated the Constitution. Only Justices Brennan and Marshall, however, believed the death penalty to be unconstitutional in all instances. The three other justices who concurred with the majority opinion focused on the arbitrariness with which death sentences were commonly imposed, often indicating a racial bias against black defendants. The Court’s decision forced states and the national legislature to rethink their statutes for capital offenses to ensure that the death penalty would not be administered in a capricious or discriminatory manner.
June 30. On this day in 1966, first GIs, Fort Hood Three, refused to be sent to Vietnam. Private David Samas, Private Dennis Mora, and Private First Class James A. Johnson met at Fort Gordon, Georgia before each were reassigned to the 142nd Battalion of the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. Their anticipated deployment orders were issued despite their opposition to the escalating war in Vietnam. Protests taking place across the US led them to use the 30-day leave granted before their deployment date to find a lawyer, and connect with anti-war activists. They managed to meet up with Dave Dellinger, Fred Halstead, and A.J. Muste, well known pacifists with ties to the influential Parade Committee, and set up a press conference in New York City. The Three arrived, backed by hundreds of supporters from civil rights groups at the Press Conference, where they invited other GIs to join them in their refusal to be deployed. Their refusal was simply a call for reason: “The war in Vietnam must be stopped…We want no part of a war of extermination. We oppose the criminal waste of American lives and resources. We refuse to go to Vietnam!” Police were then sent to deliver The Three to Fort Dix, NJ, where they were ordered to leave immediately for Saigon by Commanding General Hightower. Again, they refused, declaring the Vietnam War illegal. The Three were imprisoned, court-martialed in September, and sentenced to three more years with the Supreme Court refusing all appeals. During those three years, hundreds of active duty service members and veterans felt inspired to join the anti-war movement.
This Peace Almanac lets you know important steps, progress, and setbacks in the movement for peace that have taken place on each day of the year.
This Peace Almanac should remain good for every year until all war is abolished and sustainable peace established. Profits from sales of the print and PDF versions fund the work of World BEYOND War.
Text produced and edited by David Swanson.
Audio recorded by Tim Pluta.
Items written by Robert Anschuetz, David Swanson, Alan Knight, Marilyn Olenick, Eleanor Millard, Erin McElfresh, Alexander Shaia, John Wilkinson, William Geimer, Peter Goldsmith, Gar Smith, Thierry Blanc, and Tom Schott.
Ideas for topics submitted by David Swanson, Robert Anschuetz, Alan Knight, Marilyn Olenick, Eleanor Millard, Darlene Coffman, David McReynolds, Richard Kane, Phil Runkel, Jill Greer, Jim Gould, Bob Stuart, Alaina Huxtable, Thierry Blanc.
Music used by permission from “The End of War,” by Eric Colville.
Audio music and mixing by Sergio Diaz.
Graphics by Parisa Saremi.
World BEYOND War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. We aim to create awareness of popular support for ending war and to further develop that support. We work to advance the idea of not just preventing any particular war but abolishing the entire institution. We strive to replace a culture of war with one of peace in which nonviolent means of conflict resolution take the place of bloodshed.