Veterans For Peace National Convention, August 3-7

Veterans For Peace will be holding their national convention this year in Portland. The convention runs from August 3rd to August 7th at Portland State University.  There are a number of events open to the public.  You can see a full list of public events here, or view a live feed over the internet here.  For more information please visit the Veterans for Peace website at  Below is an article from the Oregonian covering the convention.

Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War convene in Portland

Published: Monday, August 01, 2011, 3:46 PM     Updated: Monday, August 01, 2011, 5:32 PM

Mike Francis, The Oregonian

More than 300 military veterans will convene in Portland this week for the annual conventions of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, two groups that oppose America's wars.

They will discuss a variety of topics, from post-traumatic stress disorder to efforts to free Bradley Manning, the former military intelligence analyst in prison following accusations by the government that he provided secret military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks. (Convention program and registration information.)

S. Brian Willson, a Portlander and longtime antiwar activist who served as an Air Force officer in Vietnam, will give a talk Friday called "Going AWOL from the American Way of Life." In it, he will suggest that those opposed to the wars and to American foreign policy find a new way to articulate their convictions.

"Not petitioning, not one-day actions, but a withdrawal of support," he explained Monday. "Obstruction, perhaps, like we saw in Tahrir Square."

Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, is the plaza where 250,000 anti-government protesters gathered early this year to express their grievances against then-President Hosni Mubarak. Their efforts, along with the support of Egypt's military and pressure from other governments, led to Mubarak's resignation and to Egypt's transition to a military government with an uncertain future.

Yet the United States, Willson said, hasn't reached the "misery index" that the people of Egypt felt when they massed in the square.

Willson said he would also advocate in his speech for increasing local and regional self-sufficiency, as part of a broader effort that would reduce dependence on imported oil and consequently, reduce the need for violent conflict.

Willson, now 70, is the author of the just-published "Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson," with an introduction by Daniel Ellsberg. It describes the arc of his journey from son of a conservative family, through military service and into antiwar activism. The journey has taken him to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, the Gaza Strip and most famously, perhaps, to a set of train tracks outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord, Calif. That was where he and other protesters sat between the rails in the summer of 1987, in a symbolic effort to stop trains carrying armaments from leaving the base. But when the train failed to stop, as it usually did, and Willson failed to scramble out of the way, it ran over him, severing his legs and fracturing his skull. Willson spent a long time recovering from those injuries. He now wears prosthetic legs and rides a "handcycle" from place to place.

The theme of this year's convention is "Resilience, Resistance and Non-Violent Revolution." It kicks off Wednesday with some off-site activities and a reception and concludes Sunday with a rally and march from the Peace Memorial Park on the close-in east side to the Japanese-American Historical Plaza in Waterfront Park.

In between are multiple workshops, some films, a poetry reading, some musical performances and a reception for the "Tenacity of Hope" art exhibit by and about veterans at the Littman and White Galleries in Portland State University's Smith Room 250.

"We'll always find reasons to have wars," said Willson, who calls himself "a militant pacifist." "We have to understand that the spiral of violence is so toxic that it simply has no end."

-- Mike Francis