In response to the appeal letter that was mailed in January, our friends & supporters contributed a total of $1075.00 to support our student outreach and other organizing efforts. We are most appreciative of the generous support which comes each year to sustain this important work.
In addition, The Military & Draft Counseling Project received a grant of $800.00 from the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign Escrow Fund in April to support the Equal Access project in Portland Schools.
Student Outreach and Education
We completed 30 equal access visits to Portland High Schools during the 2013-14 school year, visiting each high school 3 times when military recruiter were also present. The military had difficulty, at times, following the school district guidelines for equal access; and we are currently in negotiations with school officials and military representatives to strengthen the rules for school visits.
We also gave 13 classroom presentations arranged with sympathetic teachers when military recruiters were not present. These are typically panel presentations involving Iraq War (and older) veterans and other local activists. We also distributed nearly 8,000 counter-recruiting fliers directly to students from the public sidewalks in front of local high schools during the fall and spring.
In August/September, we will be participating in the annual Opt-Out Campaign, distributing fliers to educate students and parents about their legal right to refuse to allow students’ personal contact information to be released to military recruiters, as otherwise prescribed by federal law. This effort is coordinated by Recruiter Watch PDX.
Protesting Militarism at the Rose Festival
On Sat. June 7th, about a dozen activists from WRL Portland, Veterans for Peace, Chapter 72, Peace and Justice Works, and others held signs and banners at the downtown seawall. This was our annual protest of militarism at the Rose Festival in the form of the military fleet of warships and military recruiting booths scattered among the other booths and carnival rides. As usual, we generated a mixed response and had some interesting conversations with passers-by.
Does War Have a Future?
National officials certainly assume that war has a future. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditures totaled nearly $1.75 trillion in 2013. Although this is a slight decrease over the preceding year, many countries increased their military spending significantly, including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, 23 countries doubled their military spending between 2004 and 2013. None, of course, came anywhere near to matching the military spending of the United States, which, at $640 billion, accounted for 37 percent of 2013’s global military expenditures. Furthermore, all the current nuclear weapons nations are currently “modernizing” their nuclear arsenals.
Nevertheless, there are some reasons why war might actually be on the way out.
Destructiveness and Cost
Over the past century, conventional wars (including two world wars) have slaughtered over a hundred million people, crippling, blinding, or starving many more, and laid waste to large portions of the globe. When the U.S. spends [at least] 55% of its annual budget on the military, it is almost inevitable that its education, health care, housing, parks & recreation, and infrastructure will suffer.
Peace organizations began to emerge in the early 19th century…. These organizations became a very noticeable and, at times, powerful force in the 20th century and beyond. Drawing upon prominent figures like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell…peace groups created a major social movement that government officials could not entirely ignore.
It was not only utilized in dramatic campaigns led by Gandhi and MLK, Jr., but in mass movements that, subsequently, have challenged and toppled governments. Indeed, nonviolent resistance has become a new and powerful tool for people to draw upon in conflicts without slaughtering one another.
Alternatives to Mass Violence
Why not expand international exchange and peace studies programs? Why not dispatch teams of social workers, mediators and negotiators to conflict zones to work out settlements? Why not provide food, employment, education and hospitals to poverty-stricken people? Why not help build a more equitable, prosperous world?