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Veterans For Peace is a United States organization founded in 1985. Made up of male and female US military veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and other conflicts, as well as peacetime veterans and non-veterans, the group works to promote alternatives to war. The organization has opposed the military policies of the United States, NATO and Israel, and has opposed military actions and threats to Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and Syria.
The stated objective of the group is as follows:
Veterans For Peace was founded by Jerry and Judy Genesio, Rev. Willard Bicket, Doug Rawlings, Ken Perkins, and Gerry Amelot, all of Maine, and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the state of Maine on July 8, 1985. It was approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational organization and recognized as a United Nations non-governmental organization (NGO) in 1990. VFP's first permanent representative to the United Nations was Benjamin Weintraub of Staten Island, New York, who was seated in 1990. Chapters and members are active in communities throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Viet Nam. National conventions are held annually and members communicate through quarterly newsletters as well as daily list-serve news, online discussions groups as well as the national and chapter websites. Veterans for Peace has a national office in Saint Louis, Missouri and members across the country, both organized in chapters and at-large.
At least one unrelated anti-war group from the Vietnam War era had a similar name: "Veterans for Peace in Viet-Nam" participated in a number of demonstrations in 1967. Yet another group with a similar name may also have existed at the time of the Korean War.
VFP first began organizing major anti-war protests in 1987 when, on Easter Sunday, hundreds of VFP members marched on President Reagan's Western White House in California, and Vice President Bush's vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, protesting U.S. support for the Nicaraguan Contra counter-revolution.
Starting in 2003, Veterans for Peace became a major participant of protests against the Iraq War.
In 2004, a Southern California chapters of Veterans For Peace began installing Arlington West, a weekly "temporary cemetery" in tribute to those killed in the war in Iraq, each Sunday in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, California.
In August 2005, Veterans For Peace provided support to Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a US Army soldier killed in Iraq who embarked on an extended anti-war vigil near the ranch of US President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas. In May 2004, one month after the death of her son, Casey, Sheehan had first learned of the organization after seeing coverage of the Arlington West display on television. On August 5, 2005 she spoke at the organization's 20th annual convention in Dallas, Texas, just a day before traveling to Crawford to begin her vigil. Members traveled from California to install an Arlington West display at "Camp Casey," the site of Sheehan's protest.
In March 2006, Veterans For Peace and coalition partners Iraq Veterans Against the War, Gold Star Families for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out joined with Hurricane Katrina survivors and the relief and rebuilding organizations Savin' Ourselves After Katrina, Common Ground Collective, and Bayou Liberty Relief, as well as a number of African-American churches along the Gulf Coast on a march from Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, Louisiana.
Originally titled the Veterans and Survivors March, it quickly took on the moniker of Walkin' to New Orleans, in tribute to the famous song by Fats Domino. The marchers traveled the Gulf Coast advocating an immediate end to the war in Iraq and redirection of funds to help rebuild areas Katrina damaged not only in New Orleans, but also in Mississippi, and Alabama. The march and the events surrounding it have inspired a plethora of websites and images on the web.
According to Vets for Peace - Peace Action Network, "The military has a clear and dangerous presence at Milwaukee's Summerfest" (June 26 - July 6, 2008). "One exhibit is especially offensive: kids as young as 13 years old can aim automatic weapons from atop a humvee at a large screen to virtually kill people."
Veterans for Peace participated in an anti-war demonstration held on the White House sidewalk in December 2010; dozens of demonstrators were arrested, including Ray McGovern, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges and a number of Veterans for Peace members.
Veterans for Peace takes positions on a number of issues which generally oppose the military policy of the United States, NATO and its allies against nations such as Iran, Russia, Palestine and Syria.
VFP President Leah Bolger stated they and other peace organizations oppose a military attack against Iran in an interview cited by Iran's PressTV news agency. VFP agrees with the Iranian complaint that NATO seeks to "surround and threaten the nation of Iran". VFP has stated "Iran does not have a nuclear bomb. The U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously confirm this and say that Iran has not made the decision to build a nuclear weapon. Yet Iran has three neighbors that possess nuclear arsenals—India, Israel, and Pakistan." VFP endorsed United for Peace and Justice position against a War against Iran. VFP joined Code Pink in praising Ron Paul's moderate stance on Iran.
When the U.S. government threatened invasion, VFP conducted public forums, met with elected representatives and participated in marches to express its opposition. As the war began, VFP gathered in Washington, DC, with other veterans groups for Operation Dire Distress. The organization participated in the Bring Them Home Now campaign and supports the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Local chapters continue to conduct educational forums, demonstrations, and ongoing Iraq memorial displays such as Arlington West (portrayed in the documentary Arlington West: The Film) to remember the growing human cost of the war, to end the occupation, and to bring U.S. troops home.
VFP opposed military “humanitarian intervention” in Libya and in Syria as "opposition to all war is the official position of VFP because we know that peace cannot be realized by waging war."
Members and chapters actively participate in efforts to save VA healthcare and defend veterans rights; to provide counseling through the GI Rights Hotline to active duty military needing assistance; and providing alternative information to counter military recruiters in the schools.
Veterans for Peace seeks to protect civil liberties that they believe are threatened by the Patriot Act and other similar legislation.
Veterans For Peace joined Code Pink, World Can't Wait and Afghans For Peace to protest Drones in Chicago in 2012. On their national calendar, April 2013 was marked as the "No Drone" action month. Chapters across the nation held actions, protesting the use of drones.
VFP has called for the dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a "NATO has always been a war-making institution lacking in accountability to the peoples of the nations it claims to represent." VFP states that NATO has waged wars of aggression against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. VFP states that NATO maintains nuclear weapons in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. They back Russia's protest that Russia is threatened by missile base construction on its borders. VFP cites Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Mubarak as examples where NATO did not address human rights abuses by dictators who supported NATO, and charges that NATO supports "Israel's expansionist agenda".
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, VFP called for restraint while agreeing that: "...the hijacked airplane attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon a grievous assault upon innocence; a cause for outrage, sadness and disbelief....At this critical point, we believe it is essential to recognize that terrorists do not represent, nor are representative, of any community or country as a whole. We must not allow terrorism the power to create fear, suspicion and hatred -- or to direct our nation's domestic and foreign policies. We must not surrender to the cycle of retaliatory violence these angry people would push us into. Instead, we must come together and support each other, with faith and trust."
VFP called for the impeachment of President Bush. In a letter sent to each member of the U.S. House and Senate, Veterans For Peace stated that "this administration's war on Iraq, in addition to being increasingly unpopular among Americans, is an unmistakable violation of our Constitution and federal law which you have sworn to uphold. In our system, the remedy for such high crimes is clear: this administration must be impeached."
VFP works with other Vietnam veterans, Vietnamese-Americans, and the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign to secure justice and compensation for the estimated 3 million Vietnamese whose health has been damaged by the 19 million gallons of poisoned Agent Orange and other herbicides that were sprayed over more than 1/8 of the land of southern Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during the American portion of the Vietnam War. In 2005, the Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) sued 36 U.S. chemical companies for supplying the dioxin-laced herbicides to the Department of Defense. The suit was dismissed in Federal District court in 2007 and the reinstatement appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has not been successful. The suit is likely to head to the Supreme Court in 2009. VFP supports this activity because it wishes to promote reconciliation and friendship between the United States and Vietnam governments and people, and help heal the wounds of war.
Each year VFP members from across the country go to Fort Benning, Georgia, to demonstrate for the closing of the Army's infamous School of the Americas, a training center for thousands of soldiers from Latin American countries which VFP identifies as having "long records of human rights abuses."
After revelations of the massacres of civilians by U.S. soldiers during the Korean War, VFP sent several fact-finding delegations to investigate these allegations and bring the hidden history of that war before the public. They continue to work for an end to that conflict through their Korea Peace Campaign.
The VFP has actively supported the end of the U.S. Navy's use of the island-municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico for bombing target practice. VFP continues to support current efforts for cleaning up the environment.
VFP sent fact-finding delegations to Colombia and educated Americans about US military involvement, the murder of union leaders by para-militaries and other human rights abuses, including the use of harmful chemical defoliants in the War on Drugs.
In the 1980s, VFP opposed US-sponsored wars in Central America. On Easter Sunday, Apr 19, 1987, VFP members marched on President Reagan's Western White House in California, and Vice President Bush's vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, protesting U.S. intervention in Central America. From May 4–18, 1987, sixteen members of VFP representing eight states traveled through Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua conducting site visits and interviews with high level government, military, religious and private sector elders, and talking with many average citizens. Following their return, they published a 40 page delegation report that was distributed to 5,000 opinion leaders in the United States including members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the heads of many government offices and agencies, church, labor, and educational leaders, and media pace setters. In 1988, many VFP members participated in the Veterans Peace Convoy which was intended to truck medical and humanitarian aid to the suffering children of Nicaragua. Though the convoy was stopped by U.S. Customs and Treasury officials in Texas at the Laredo border checkpoint, on June 15, 1988, the vehicles were off-loaded into containers at a Texas port facility and about 95% of the cargo reached its destination in Nicaragua. In July 1988, VFP member Joe Ryan, an environmental scientist, of Tallahassee, Florida, established VFP's Nicaragua Environmental Science Project. Ryan spent two years working in Nicaragua training pollution control teams how to correct water contamination problems. The project was credited with significantly reducing the nation's infant mortality rate. Also in July 1988, VFP member Randy Parent of Caribou, Maine, drove a truckload of smelting and casting equipment to Guatemala where he established the Pro-Tierra Machine Tool Project to train members of several indigenous tribes how to make farm tools for the 100,000 members of the Pro-Tierra land reform movement. VFP regularly sends election observers to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
The most recent war in the Balkans began in 1991 when the Republics of Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from Yugoslavia following the death of Marshall Josip Tito Broz. The Republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina followed suit and within a year it was announced the hospitals in several cities were no longer functional, and thousands of refugees had fled to the mountains. As the refugees were ill-equipped to face the coming winter, most were expected to perish. VFP's UN-NGO representative Ben Weintraub was instructed to offer U.N. officials whatever assistance VFP could provide in helping to deliver medical and humanitarian aid. Though the situation in Bosnia worsened, we were never called upon. Following discussions with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), another UN-NGO, the VFP National Office began contacting hospitals around the U.S. requesting pro-bono services for any war wounded children that could be evacuated. Within weeks VFP had secured pro-bono space and services for over 100 wounded children, but I.O.M. had been able to evacuate very few due, unfortunately, to Serbian, Croatian, and U.N. political constraints. In response, VFP organized the Children of War Rescue Project and with assistance from contacts in the U.K., chief among them, Dr. John Morrison of the Ex-Services Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and over 200 other British volunteers, a 63 vehicle convoy including 50 ambulances was staged at Brighton, England. Seven VFP volunteers including three physicians also joined the convoy that traveled almost non-stop for five days and nights. The convoy stopped only to regroup in Croatia. A Spanish battalion of U.N. protection forces assisted with armored vehicles in the evacuation of over 22 wounded children from East Mostar, Bosnia, including at least one family member accompanying each child. The children were airlifted to Ancona, Italy, and once stabilized, from there to hospitals throughout western Europe and the United States. In all, pro bono space and medical services were provided for about 50 wounded Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian children through VFP's Children of War Rescue Project.
Veterans for Peace issued a statement on Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon condemning the targeting of civilians by both sides and the "unjustified and totally disproportionate use of force and violence by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)." In 2009 it issued a statement against Israel's attacks on Gaza condemning attacks on civilians both sides and stating "Bombings, rocket attacks, blockading medical supplies and military invasions will not lead to peace and security but will perpetuate the cycle of death, destruction, fear and insecurity among the people of all countries, including the U.S."
VFP was a sponsor for the Boston March for Palestine which demanded to "Free Palestine! No war on Iran or Syria! and Boycott Israel!" along with the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights and the Palestine Task Force of United for Justice with Peace. Members of the Palestine Working Group support remembrance of Al Nakba, and have made visits to Gaza and participated in "efforts to break the blockade of essential supplies to the area, including the Gaza Flotilla".
According to FOIA documents obtained by the ACLU in 2006, VFP was among the peace groups targeted by FBI monitoring and infiltration by the FBI and local law enforcement terrorism task forces that targeted environmental, anti-war and faith-based groups.
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