September 1. On this day in 1924 the Dawes Plan went into effect, a financial rescue of Germany that might have prevented the rise of Nazism if begun sooner and made larger or more generous. The Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I had sought to punish the entire nation of Germany, not just the war makers, leading keen observers to predict World War II. That later war was ended with aid to Germany rather than financial punishment, but World War I was followed by the demand that Germany pay through the nose. By 1923 Germany had defaulted on its war debt payments, leading French and Belgian troops to occupy the Ruhr River Valley. The inhabitants engaged in nonviolent resistance to the occupation, effectively shutting industries down. The League of Nations asked American Charles Dawes to chair a committee to solve the crisis. The resulting plan pulled the troops out of the Ruhr, reduced the debt payments, and loaned Germany money from U.S. banks. Dawes was awarded the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize and served as U.S. Vice President from 1925-1929. The Young Plan further reduced Germany’s payments in 1929, but was too little too late to undo the growth of bitter resentment and thirst for revenge. Among those opposing the Young Plan was Adolf Hitler. The Dawes plan, for better or worse, bound European economies to that of the United States. Germany finally paid off its World War I debt in the year 2010. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops remain permanently stationed in Germany.
September 2. On this day in 1945, World War II ended with the Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay. On July 13th, Japan had sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender. On July 18th, after meeting with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, U.S. President Harry Truman wrote in his diary of Stalin mentioning the telegram, and added, “Believe Japs will fold up before Russia comes in. I am sure they will when Manhattan appears over their homeland.” That was a reference to the Manhattan Project that created nuclear bombs. Truman had been told for months of Japan’s interest in surrendering if it could keep its emperor. Truman’s advisor James Byrnes told him that dropping nuclear bombs on Japan would allow the U.S. to “dictate the terms of ending the war.” Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was “most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.” Truman ordered the bombings on August 6th and 9th, and the Russians attacked in Manchuria on August 9th. The Soviets overpowered the Japanese, while the U.S. continued non-nuclear bombing. Experts called the United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that by November or December, “Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” General Dwight Eisenhower had expressed a similar view prior to the bombings. Japan kept its emperor.
September 3. On this day in 1783, the Peace of Paris was made as Britain acknowledged U.S. independence. The governing of the colonies that became the United States shifted from a wealthy white male elite loyal to Britain to a wealthy white male elite loyal to the United States. Popular rebellions by farmers and workers and enslaved people did not lessen after the revolution. The gradual development of rights for the population proceeded to generally keep pace, sometimes outpace a bit, and often lag behind the same development in countries such as Canada that never fought a war against Britain. The Peace of Paris was bad news for Native Americans, as Britain had restricted Western expansion, which now opened up rapidly. It was also bad news for everyone enslaved in the new nation of the United States. Slavery would be abolished in the British Empire considerably earlier than in the United States, and in most places without another war. The taste for war and expansion was, in fact, so alive in the newly formed nation, that in 1812 Congressional talk of how Canadians would welcome a U.S. takeover as liberation led to the War of 1812, which got the new capital city of Washington burned. The Canadians, it turned out, had no more interest in being occupied than would the Cubans, or the Filipinos, or the Hawaiians, or the Guatemalans, or the Vietnamese, or the Iraqis, or the Afghans or the people in so many countries over so many years where U.S. imperial troops have taken on the role of the British redcoats.
September 4. On this day in 1953 Garry Davis established a World Government. He had been a U.S. citizen, a Broadway star, and a bomber in World War II. “Ever since my first mission over Brandenburg,” he later wrote, “I had felt pangs of conscience. How many men, women and children had I murdered?” In 1948 Garry Davis renounced his U.S. passport to become a world citizen. Five years later he created a World Government which signed up nearly a million citizens and issued passports that were often recognized by nations. “The World Passport is a joke, Davis said, “but so are all the other passports. Theirs are a joke on us and ours is a joke on the system.” Davis camped out in front of the United Nations in Paris, disrupted meetings, led rallies, and generated extensive media coverage. Denied entrance to Germany or return to France, he camped on the border. Davis objected to the UN as an alliance of nations designed to use war to end war — a hopeless contradiction. Many years have only seemed to strengthen his case. Do we need to overcome nations to end wars? Many nations don’t make war. Few make it often. Can we create a global government without global scale corruption within it? Perhaps we can begin by encouraging each other to think like Davis when we use words like “we.” Even peace activists use “we” to mean war makers when they say “We secretly bombed Somalia.” What if we were to use “we” to mean “humanity” or more than humanity?
September 5. On this day in 1981, Greenham Peace Camp was established by the Welsh organization “Women for Life on Earth” in Greenham Common, Berkshire, England. Thirty-six women who had walked from Cardiff to oppose the stationing of 96 nuclear cruise missiles delivered a letter to a base commander at RAF Greenham Common Airbase and then chained themselves to the base fence. They established a women’s peace camp outside the base, which they often entered in protest. The camp lasted 19 years until the year 2000, although the missiles were removed and flown back to the United States in 1991-92. The camp did not just eliminate missiles, but also impacted global understanding of nuclear war and weaponry. In December of 1982, 30,000 women joined hands around the base. On April 1, 1983, some 70,000 protesters formed a 23-kilometer human chain from the camp to an ordnance factory, and in December 1983 some 50,000 women encircled the base, cut the fence, and in many cases were arrested. More than a dozen similar camps were modeled on the example of the Greenham Peace Camp, and many others through the years have looked back to this example. Journalists from all over the world for years reported on the camp and the message it promoted. The campers lived without electricity, telephones, or running water, but also without the failure to resist nuclear weapons. Nuclear convoys were blocked and nuclear war practices disrupted. The treaty between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. that removed the missiles echoed the campers in professing itself “conscious that nuclear weapons would have devastating consequences for all mankind.”
September 6. On this day in 1860 Jane Addams was born. She would receive the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize as one of that minority of Nobel Peace Prize winners over the years who actually met the qualifications laid out in Alfred Nobel’s will. Addams worked in many fields toward the creation of a society capable of living without war. In 1898 Addams joined the Anti-Imperialist League to oppose the U.S. war on the Philippines. When World War I began, she led international efforts to try to resolve and end it. She presided over the International Congress of Women in The Hague in 1915. And when the United States entered the war she spoke out publicly against the war in the face of vicious accusations of treason. She was the first leader of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919 and of its predecessor organization in 1915. Jane Addams was part of the movement in the 1920s that made war illegal through the Kellogg-Briand Pact. She helped found the ACLU and the NAACP, helped win women’s suffrage, helped reduce child labor, and created the profession of social worker, which she viewed as a means of learning from immigrants and building democracy, not as participation in charity. She created Hull House in Chicago, started a kindergarten, educated adults, supported labor organizing, and opened the first playground in Chicago. Jane Addams authored a dozen books and hundreds of articles. She opposed the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I and predicted that it would lead to a German war of revenge.
September 7. On this day in 1910, the Newfoundland Fisheries case was settled by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. That court, located in the Hague, resolved a long and bitter dispute between the United States and Great Britain. The example of two heavily militarized and war-prone nations submitting to the rule of an international body and peacefully settling their dispute was widely seen as an encouraging example for the world, and remains such to this day, despite the outbreak four years later of World War I. Within weeks of the settlement, a number of nations submitted cases for arbitration to the Permanent Court, including a dispute between the United States and Venezuela. The actual settlement of the Newfoundland Fisheries case gave both the United States and Britain some of what they had wanted. It allowed Britain to create reasonable regulations for fishing in the waters of Newfoundland, but gave the power to determine what was reasonable to an impartial authority. Would the United States and Great Britain have gone to war in the absence of this arbitration? Likely not, at least not right away, and not over the question of fishing. But had one or both nations desired war for other reasons, fishing rights might have served as a justification. Less than a century earlier, in 1812, somewhat similar disputes had served to justify a U.S. invasion of Canada in the War of 1812. Just over a century later, in 2015, disputes over trade agreements in Eastern Europe were leading to talk of war from the Russian and U.S. governments.
September 8. On this day in 1920, Mohandas Gandhi launched his first non-cooperation campaign. He had followed the Irish campaign for home rule in the 1880s which included a rent strike. He had studied the Russian mass strike of 1905. He had drawn inspiration from numerous sources and created a Passive Resistance Association in India in 1906 to resist new discriminatory laws against Indians. Back in his native, British-occupied India in 1920, on this day, Gandhi won approval by the Indian National Congress for a campaign of nonviolent noncooperation with British rule. This meant boycotting schools and courts. It meant making clothes and boycotting foreign cloth. It meant resignations from office, refusal to support the occupation, and civil disobedience. The effort took many years and advanced by stages, with Gandhi calling it off when people used violence, and with Gandhi spending years in prison. The movement advanced new ways of thinking and living. It engaged in the constructive program of creating self-sufficiency. It engaged in the obstructive program of resisting British operations. It engaged in efforts to unite Muslims with Hindus. Resistance to a salt tax took the form of a march to the sea and the illegal manufacture of salt, as well as attempts to enter an existing salt works, which included brave protesters stepping forward to be violently beaten back. By 1930 civil resistance was everywhere in India. Prison became a mark of honor rather than shame. The people of India were transformed. In 1947 India won independence, but only at the cost of splitting Hindu India from Muslim Pakistan.
September 9. On this day in 1828 Leo Tolstoy was born. His books include War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Tolstoy saw a contradiction between opposing murder and accepting war. He framed his concern in terms of Christianity. In his book The Kingdom of God Is Within You, he wrote: “Everyone in our Christian society knows, either by tradition or by revelation or by the voice of conscience, that murder is one of the most fearful crimes a man can commit, as the Gospel tells us, and that the sin of murder cannot be limited to certain persons, that is, murder cannot be a sin for some and not a sin for others. Everyone knows that if murder is a sin, it is always a sin, whoever are the victims murdered, just like the sin of adultery, theft, or any other. At the same time from their childhood up men see that murder is not only permitted, but even sanctioned by the blessing of those whom they are accustomed to regard as their divinely appointed spiritual guides, and see their secular leaders with calm assurance organizing murder, proud to wear murderous arms, and demanding of others in the name of the laws of the country, and even of God, that they should take part in murder. Men see that there is some inconsistency here, but not being able to analyze it, involuntarily assume that this apparent inconsistency is only the result of their ignorance. The very grossness and obviousness of the inconsistency confirms them in this conviction.”
September 10. On this day in 1785 the King of Prussia Frederick the Great signed the first post-independence treaty with the United States. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce promised peace but also addressed how the two nations were to relate if one or both were at war, or even if they fought each other, including proper treatment of prisoners and civilians — standards that would forbid most of what war consists of today. “And all women & children,” it reads, “scholars of every faculty, cultivators of the earth, artizans, manufacturers and fishermen unarmed and inhabiting unfortified towns, villages or places, & in general all others whose occupations are for the common subsistence & benefit of mankind, shall be allowed to continue their respective employments, & shall not be molested in their persons, nor shall their houses or goods be burnt, or otherwise destroyed, nor their fields wasted by the armed force of the enemy, into whose power, by the events of war, they may happen to fall; but if any thing is necessary to be taken from them for the use of such armed force, the same shall be paid for at a reasonable price.” The treaty was also the first U.S. free trade agreement, although 1,000 pages too short to resemble a modern free-trade agreement. It was not written by or for or about corporations. It included nothing to protect large companies against small ones. It established no corporate tribunals with the power to overturn national laws. It included no prohibitions on national restrictions on business activities.
September 11. On this day in 1900, Gandhi launched Satyagraha in Johannesburg. Also on this day in 1973 the United States backed a coup that overthrew the government of Chile. And on this day in 2001 terrorists attacked in the United States using hijacked airplanes. This is a good day to oppose violence and nationalism and revenge. On this day in 2015, tens of thousands of people in Chile demonstrated on the 42nd anniversary of the coup that put the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet in power and overthrew the elected president Salvador Allende. The crowd marched to a cemetery and paid tribute to the victims of Pinochet. Lorena Pizarro, leader of a relatives’ rights group, said “Forty years on, we are still demanding truth and justice. We won’t rest until we find out what happened to our loved ones who were arrested and went missing never to return.” Pinochet was indicted in Spain but died in 2006 without being brought to trial. U.S. President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and others involved in overthrowing Allende have also never faced trial, although Kissinger, like Pinochet, has been indicted in Spain. The United States provided guidance, weaponry, equipment, and financing for the violent 1973 coup, during which Allende killed himself. Chile’s democracy was destroyed, and Pinochet remained in power until 1988. Some sense of what happened on September 11, 1973, is provided by the 1982 film Missing starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. It tells the story of U.S. journalist Charles Horman who disappeared that day.
September 12. On this day in 1998, the Cuban Five were arrested. Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González were from Cuba and were arrested in Miami, Florida, charged, tried, and convicted in a U.S. court for conspiracy to commit espionage. They denied being spies for the Cuban government, which in fact they were. But no one disputes that they were in Miami for the purpose of infiltrating, not the U.S. government, but Cuban American groups whose purpose was to commit espionage and murder in Cuba. The five had been sent on that mission following several terrorist bombings in Havana planned by former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles, who lived then and for many years to come in Miami without facing any criminal prosecution. The Cuban government gave the FBI 175 pages on Carriles’s role in the 1997 bombings in Havana, but the FBI did not act against Carriles. Rather, it used the information to uncover the Cuban Five. After their arrest they spent 17 months in solitary, and their lawyers were denied access to the prosecution’s evidence. Human rights groups questioned the fairness of the Cuban Five’s trial, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the sentences but later reinstated them. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the case, even as the five became a global cause and national heroes in Cuba. The U.S. government freed one of the five in 2011, one in 2013, and the other three in 2014 as part of a new diplomatic opening toward somewhat normalized relations with Cuba.
September 13. On this day in 2001, two days after planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President George W. Bush made public a letter to Congress saying “Our first priority is to respond swiftly and surely,” and asking for $20 billion. Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguezes’ son Greg was one of the World Trade Center victims. They published this statement: “Our son Greg is among the many missing from the World Trade Center attack. Since we first heard the news, we have shared moments of grief, comfort, hope, despair, fond memories with his wife, the two families, our friends and neighbors, his loving colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald/ESpeed, and all the grieving families that daily meet at the Pierre Hotel. We see our hurt and anger reflected among everybody we meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about this disaster. But we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands, dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son’s death. Not in our son’s name. Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times.”
September 14. On this day in 2013, the United States agreed to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons in cooperation with Russia, rather than launching missiles into Syria. Public pressure had been instrumental in preventing the missile attacks. Although those attacks were presented as a last resort, as soon as they were blocked all sorts of other possibilities were openly acknowledged. This is a good day on which to refute the nonsensical claim that wars can never be stopped. In 2015, former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari revealed that in 2012 Russia had proposed a process of peace settlement between the Syrian government and its opponents that would have included President Bashar al-Assad stepping down. But, according to Ahtisaari, the United States was so confident that Assad would soon be violently overthrown that it rejected the proposal. That was prior to the pretended urgency to launch missiles in 2013. When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry publicly suggested that Syria could avoid a war by handing over its chemical weapons and Russia called his bluff, his staff explained he hadn’t meant it. By the next day, however, with Congress rejecting war, Kerry was claiming to have meant his remark quite seriously and to believe the process had a good chance of succeeding, as of course it did. Sadly, no new effort was made for peace beyond the removal of chemical weapons, and the United States went on inching its way into the war with weapons, training camps, and drones. None of that should obscure the fact that peace was possible.
September 15. On this day in 2001, Congresswoman Barbara Lee cast the only vote against giving U.S. presidents a pass to wage the wars that would prove such disasters for years to come. She said, in part, “I rise today really with a very heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow for the families and the loved ones who were killed and injured this week. Only the most foolish and the most callous would not understand the grief that has really gripped our people and millions across the world. . . . Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet, I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States. This is a very complex and complicated matter. Now this resolution will pass, although we all know that the President can wage a war even without it. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, let’s step back for a moment. Let’s just pause, just for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control. Now I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it today, and I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful, yet very beautiful memorial service. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.”
September 16. Beginning on this day in 1982 a Lebanese Christian force called the Phalangists, coordinated and aided by the Israeli military, massacred some 2,000 to 3,000 unarmed Palestinian refugees in the Sabra neighborhood and the adjacent Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. The Israeli Army surrounded the area, sent in the Phalangist forces, communicated with them by walkie-talkie and oversaw the mass-murder. An Israeli commission of inquiry later found so-called Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to be personally responsible. He was forced to step down, but was not prosecuted for any crime. In fact, he revived his career and became prime minister. Sharon’s first similar crime came when he was a young major in 1953 and he destroyed many houses in the Jordanian village of Qibya, where he was responsible for the massacre of 69 civilians. He called his autobiography Warrior. When he died in 2014 he was widely and oddly honored in the media as a man of peace. Ellen Siegel, a Jewish American nurse, recounted the massacre, in which she saw an Israel bulldozer digging a mass grave: “They lined us up against a bullet-ridden wall, and they had their rifles ready. And we really thought this is—I mean, it was a firing squad. Suddenly, an Israeli soldier comes running down the street and halts it. I suppose the idea of gunning down foreign health workers was something that was not very appealing to the Israelis. But the fact that they could see this and stop it shows that there was—there was some communication.”
September 17. This is Constitution Day. On this day in 1787 the U.S. Constitution was adopted and had not yet been violated. That would come. Many powers given to Congress, including the power to make war, are now routinely usurped by presidents. Chief author of the Constitution James Madison remarked that “in no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man; not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.”
September 18. On this day in 1924 Mohandas Gandhi began a 21-day fast in a Muslim home, for Muslim-Hindu unity. Riots were taking place in the Northwest Frontier Province of India that would later become Pakistan. Over 150 Hindus and Sikhs had been killed, and the rest of those populations fled for their lives. Gandhi undertook a 21-day fast. It was one of at least 17 such fasts he would undertake, including two in 1947 and 1948 for same cause, still unfulfilled, of Muslim-Hindu unity. Some of Gandhi’s fasts achieved significant results, as have many other fasts before and since. Gandhi also thought of them as a sort of training. “There is nothing so powerful as fasting and prayer,” he said, “that would give us the requisite discipline, spirit of self-sacrifice, humility and resoluteness of will without which there can be no real progress.” Gandhi also said, “A hartal,” meaning a strike or work stoppage, “brought about voluntarily and without pressure is a powerful means of showing popular disapproval, but fasting is even more so. When people fast in a religious spirit and thus demonstrate their grief before God, it receives a certain response. Hardest hearts are impressed by it. Fasting is regarded by all religions as a great discipline. Those who voluntarily fast become gentle and purified by it. A pure fast is a very powerful prayer. It is no small thing for lakhs of people,” meaning hundreds of thousands, “voluntarily to abstain from food and such a fast is a Satyagrahi fast. It ennobles individuals and nations.”
September 19. On this day in 2013 leaders of WOZA, which stands for Women of Zimbabwe Arise, were arrested in Harare, Zimbabwe, while celebrating the International Day of Peace. WOZA is a civic movement in Zimbabwe which was formed in 2003 by Jenni Williams to encourage women to stand up for their rights and freedoms. In 2006, WOZA decided to also form MOZA or Men of Zimbabwe Arise, which has since then organized men to work nonviolently for human rights. Members of WOZA have been arrested many times for peacefully demonstrating, including at annual Valentine’s Day protests that advance the power of love as preferable to the love of power. Zimbabweans had participated in presidential and parliamentary elections in July 2013. Amnesty International observed high levels of repression prior to the elections. Robert Mugabe, who had been winning dubious elections since 1980, was re-elected president for a five year term, and his party regained majority control of Parliament. In 2012 and 2013, nearly every significant civil society organization in Zimbabwe, including WOZA, had their offices raided, or leadership arrested, or both. Twentieth-century thinking might advise WOZA to resort to violence. But studies have found that, in fact, nonviolent campaigns against cruel governments are over twice as likely to succeed, and those successes are usually much longer lasting. If Western governments can keep their noses out of it, and not use courageous nonviolent activists as tools for installing a Pentagon-friendly president, and if people of good will from around the world can support WOZA and MOZA, Zimbabwe may have a freer future.
September 20. On this day in 1838, the world’s first nonviolent organization, the New England Non-Resistance Society, was founded in Boston, Massachusetts. Its work would influence Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Gandhi. It was formed in part by radicals upset with the timidity of the American Peace Society which refused to oppose all violence. The new group’s Constitution and Declaration of Sentiments, drafted primarily by William Lloyd Garrison, stated, in part: “We cannot acknowledge allegiance to any human government… Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind… We register our testimony, not only against all war — whether offensive or defensive, but all preparations for war, against every naval ship, every arsenal, every fortification; against the militia system and a standing army; against all military chieftains and soldiers; against all monuments commemorative of victory over a foreign foe, all trophies won in battle, all celebrations in honor of military or naval exploits; against all appropriations for the defense of a nation by force and arms on the part of any legislative body; against every edict of government requiring of its subjects military service. Hence, we deem it unlawful to bear arms or to hold a military office… ” The New England Non-Resistance Society actively campaigned for change, including feminism and the abolition of slavery. Members disturbed church meetings to protest inaction on slavery. Members as well as their leaders often faced the violence of angry mobs, but always they refused to return the injury. The Society attributed to this nonresistance the fact that none of its members were ever killed.
September 21. This is the International Day of Peace. Also on this day in 1943, the U.S. Senate passed by a vote of 73 to 1 the Fulbright Resolution expressing commitment to a post-war international organization. The resulting United Nations, along with other international institutions created at the end of World War II, has of course had a very mixed record in terms of advancing peace. Also on this day in 1963 the War Resisters League organized the first U.S. demonstration against the war on Vietnam. The movement that grew from there eventually played a major role in ending that war and in turning the U.S. public against war to such an extent that war mongers in Washington began to refer to public resistance to war as a disease, the Vietnam Syndrome. Also on this day in 1976 Orlando Letelier, a leading opponent of Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, was killed, on Pinochet’s order, along with his American assistant, Ronni Moffitt, by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. — the work of a former CIA operative. The International Day of Peace was first celebrated in 1982, and is recognized by many nations and organizations with events all over the world every September 21st, including day-long pauses in wars that reveal how easy it would be to have year-long or forever-long pauses in wars. On this day, the United Nations Peace Bell is rung at UN Headquarters in New York City. This is a good day on which to work for permanent peace and to remember the victims of war.
September 22. On this day in 1961 the Peace Corps Act was signed by President John Kennedy after having been passed by Congress the previous day. The Peace Corps thus created is described in that act as working “to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.” Between 1961 and 2015, nearly 220,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and have served in 140 countries. Typically, Peace Corps workers help with economic or environmental or educational needs, not with peace negotiations or by serving as human shields. But neither are they typically part of plans for war or government overthrow as is often the case with the CIA, USAID, NED, or U.S. personnel working for other acronymed government agencies abroad. How hard, how respectfully, how wisely Peace Corps volunteers work varies with the volunteers. At the very least they show the world unarmed U.S. citizens and themselves acquire a view of part of the outside world — an enlightening experience that perhaps accounts for the presence of many Peace Corps veterans among peace activists. The concepts of peace tourism and citizen diplomacy as means toward reducing the risks of wars have been taken up by peace studies programs and by numerous non-governmental organizations that sponsor foreign exchanges, either in reality or via computer screen.
September 23. On this day in 1973 the United Farm Workers adopted a Constitution including a commitment to nonviolence. Some 350 delegates had gathered in Fresno, California, to approve a Constitution and elect a board and officers for this newly chartered labor union. The event was a celebration of having overcome great odds, and much violence, to form this union of farm workers used to poor wages and intimidation. They’d faced arrests, beatings, and killings, as well as government indifference and hostility, and competition from a larger union. Cesar Chavez had begun the organizing a decade earlier. He popularized the slogan “Yes, we can!” or “Si’ se puede!” He inspired young people to become organizers, many of whom are still at it. They or their students organized many of the great social justice campaigns of the late 20th century. The UFW vastly improved the working conditions of farm workers in California and around the country, and pioneered numerous tactics that have been used with great success ever since, including most famously the boycott. Half the people in the United States stopped eating grapes until the people who picked the grapes were allowed to form a union. The UFW developed the technique of targeting a corporation or politician from numerous angles at once. The farm workers used fasting, human billboards, street theater, civic participation, coalition building, and voter outreach. The UFW recruited candidates, got them elected, and then did sit-ins in their offices until they kept their commitments – a very different approach from making oneself a follower of a candidate.
September 24. On this day in 1963 the U.S. Senate ratified the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, also known as the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty because it banned nuclear explosions above ground or underwater, but not underground. The treaty aimed to and did reduce nuclear fallout in the planet’s atmosphere, which was being created by nuclear weapons testing, particularly by the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. The United States had rendered a number of islands in the Marshall Islands uninhabitable and caused high rates of cancer and birth defects among the inhabitants. The treaty was ratified in the fall of 1963 also by the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. The Soviet Union had proposed a test ban combined with disarmament of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons. It found agreement from the other two on the test ban alone. The U.S. and U.K. wanted on-site inspections for a ban on underground testing, but the Soviets did not. So, the treaty left underground testing out of the ban. In June President John Kennedy, speaking at American University, had announced that the United States would immediately cease nuclear tests in the atmosphere as long as others did, while pursuing a treaty. “The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far,” said Kennedy months before its conclusion, “would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms.”
September 25. On this day in 1959 U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev met. This was considered a remarkable warming of Cold War relations and created an atmosphere of hope and excitement for a future without nuclear war. Prior to a two-day visit with Eisenhower at Camp David and at Eisenhower’s farm in Gettysburg, Khrushchev and his family toured the United States. They visited New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Des Moines. In L.A., Khrushchev was extremely disappointed when the police told him it would not be safe for him to visit Disneyland. Khrushchev, who lived from 1894 to 1971, came to power after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953. He denounced what he called the “excesses” of Stalinism and said he sought “peaceful co-existence” with the United States. Eisenhower claimed to want the same thing. Both leaders said the meeting was productive and that they believed “the question of general disarmament is the most important one facing the world today.” Khrushchev assured his colleagues he could work with Eisenhower, and invited him to visit the Soviet Union in 1960. But in May, the Soviet Union shot down a U-2 spy plane, and Eisenhower lied about it, not realizing the Soviets had captured the pilot. The Cold War was back on. A U.S. radar operator for the top-secret U-2 had defected six months earlier and reportedly told the Russians everything he knew, but he was welcomed back by the U.S. government. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald. The Cuban Missile Crisis was yet to come.
September 26. This is the UN International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Also on this day in 1924 the League of Nations first endorsed the Declaration of Rights of the Child, later developed into the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United States is the world’s leading opponent of the elimination of nuclear weapons, and the world’s sole holdout on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which 196 nations are party. Of course, some parties to the treaty violate it, but the United States is so intent on behaviors that would violate it, that the U.S. Senate refuses to ratify it. The common excuse for this is to mumble something about the rights of the parents or the family. But in the United States, children under 18 can be put in prison for life without parole. U.S. laws allow children as young as 12 to be put to work in agriculture for long hours under dangerous conditions. One-third of U.S. states allow corporal punishment in schools. The U.S. military openly recruits children into pre-military programs. The U.S. president has murdered children with drone strikes and checked their names off a kill list. All of these policies, some of them backed by very profitable industries, would violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child were the United States to join it. If children had rights, they’d have rights to decent schools, protection from guns, and a healthy and sustainable environment. Those would be crazy things for the U.S. Senate to commit to.
September 27. On this day in 1923, in a peace-making victory for the League of Nations, Italy pulled out of Corfu. The victory was decidedly a partial one. The League of Nations, which existed from 1920 to 1946, and which the United States refused to join, was young and was being tested. Corfu is a Greek island, and the dispute there grew out of another partial victory. A League of Nations commission headed by an Italian named Enrico Tellini settled a border dispute between Greece and Albania in a manner that failed to satisfy the Greeks. Tellini, two aides, and an interpreter were murdered, and Italy blamed Greece. Italy bombarded and invaded Corfu, killing two dozen refugees in the process. Italy, Greece, Albania, Serbia, and Turkey began preparing for war. Greece appealed to the League of Nations, but Italy refused to cooperate and threatened to withdraw from the League. France favored keeping the League out of it, because France had invaded part of Germany and didn’t want any precedent set. The League’s Conference of Ambassadors announced terms to settle the dispute that were very favorable to Italy, including a large payment of funds by Greece to Italy. The two sides complied, and Italy withdrew from Corfu. As wider war did not break out, this was a success. As the more aggressive nation largely got its way, this was a failure. No peaceworkers were sent in, no sanctions, no court prosecutions, no international condemnations or boycotts, no multi-party negotiations. Many solutions did not exist yet, but a step had been taken.
September 28. This is St. Augustine’s Feast Day, a good time to consider what’s wrong with the idea of a “just war.” Augustine, born in the year 354, tried to merge a religion opposed to killing and violence with organized mass-murder and extreme violence, thus launching the just-war field of sophistry, which is still selling books today. A just war is supposed to be defensive or philanthropic or at least retributive, and the suffering supposedly being halted or avenged is supposed to be much greater than the suffering that will be inflicted by the war. In reality, war inflicts more suffering than anything else. A just war is supposed to be predictable and to have a high probability of success. In reality, the only thing easy to predict is failure. It is supposed to be a last resort after all peaceful alternatives have failed. In reality there are always peaceful alternatives to attacking foreign nations, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and so on. During a so-called just war, only fighters are supposed to be targeted. In reality, most victims in wars since World War II have been civilians. Killing of civilians is supposed to be “proportionate” to the military value of an attack, but that’s not an empirical standard anyone can be held to. In 2014, a Pax Christi group stated: “CRUSADES, INQUISITION, SLAVERY, TORTURE, CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, WAR: Over many centuries, Church leaders and theologians justified each of these evils as consistent with the will of God. Only one of them retains that position in official Church teaching today.”
September 29. On this day in 1795, Immanuel Kant published Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch. The philosopher listed things he believed would be needed for peace on earth, including: “No treaty of peace shall be held valid in which there is tacitly reserved matter for a future war,” and “No independent states, large or small, shall come under the dominion of another state by inheritance, exchange, purchase, or donation,” as well as “No state shall, during war, permit such acts of hostility which would make mutual confidence in the subsequent peace impossible: such are the employment of assassins, … and incitement to treason in the opposing state.” Kant also included a ban on national debts. Other items on his list of steps to get rid of war came close to simply stating, “There shall be no more war,” such as this one: “No state shall interfere with the Constitution or government of another state,” or this one which gets to the heart of it: “Standing armies shall in time be abolished.” Kant opened up a much needed conversation but may have done more harm than good, as he announced that the natural state of men (whatever that means) is war, that peace is something artificial dependent on the peacefulness of others (so don’t abolish your armies too quickly). He also claimed representative governments would bring peace, including to non-European “savages” whom he fantasized as eternally at war.
September 30. On this day in 1946, the U.S.-led Nuremberg trials found 22 Germans guilty of, for the most part, crimes that the United States had and would continue to engage in itself. The ban on war in the Kellogg-Briand Pact was transformed into a ban on aggressive war, with the victors deciding that only the losers had been aggressive. Dozens of aggressive U.S. wars since have seen no prosecutions. Meanwhile, the U.S. military hired sixteen hundred former Nazi scientists and doctors, including some of Adolf Hitler’s closest collaborators, men responsible for murder, slavery, and human experimentation, including men convicted of war crimes. Some of the Nazis tried at Nuremberg had already been working for the U.S. in either Germany or the U.S. prior to the trials. Some were protected from their past by the U.S. government for years, as they lived and worked in Boston Harbor, Long Island, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere, or were flown by the U.S. government to Argentina to protect them from prosecution. Former Nazi spies, most of them former S.S., were hired by the U.S. in post-war Germany to spy on — and torture — Soviets. Former Nazi rocket scientists began developing the intercontinental ballistic missile. Former Nazi engineers who’d designed Hitler’s bunker, designed underground fortresses for the U.S. government in the Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountains. Former Nazis developed the U.S. chemical and biological weapons programs, and were put in charge of a new agency called NASA. Former Nazi liars drafted classified intelligence briefs falsely hyping the Soviet menace — the justification for all this evil.
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.