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USA: Remembering the unsung American soldiers and veterans who resisted the Vietnam War

Tuesday 16 August 2022, by siawi3


Nonviolence Radio

Remembering the unsung American soldiers and veterans who resisted the Vietnam War

Paul Cox of Veterans for Peace San Francisco discusses a new exhibit honoring the overlooked antiwar movement within the military.

Nonviolence Radio Team

August 3, 2022

Photo: American GIs during the Vietnam War. (Veterans for Peace San Francisco)

When Paul Cox was called by his draft board to serve in the U.S. war on the people of Vietnam, he did not feel he could, or should object. Once he arrived, however, he began questioning the motives and purpose of the war and felt it was a duty to do something about it, finding a community of other GIs and veterans who were also opposed. In this interview, Paul describes his experiences as part of a resistance movement within the military to the Vietnam War, and helps us to understand the larger implications of this largely untold history, including the power of overcoming political polarities in the work of peace, and the role of military personnel in ending war.

This interview is to highlight the Waging Peace in Vietnam Exhibit at the Veterans’ Gallery in San Francisco through August 14.
Waging Peace in Vietnam exhibit. (Paul Cox)

Stephanie: Well, good morning, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Nonviolence Radio. I’m your host, Stephanie Van Hook. And I’m here in the studio with my co-host and news anchor, Michael Nagler. Good morning, Michael.

Michael: Good morning, Stephanie.

Stephanie: So, Michael, today we want to talk about Waging Peace in Vietnam. This is an exhibit that travels around the world. It’s in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, but it’s now being displayed in San Francisco, thanks to Veterans for Peace. And I had the opportunity to speak with Paul Cox from the Veterans for Peace chapter in San Francisco about the background of this exhibit and what it means, and what people might expect to learn in an exhibit about resistance to the Vietnam War.

Now, here’s the important thing. When we hear of resistance to the Vietnam War, generally think about what, Dan Ellsberg and kind of the hippy movement and protest movement that happened with people outside of the military. What’s different about this exhibit and this presentation is it tells a different story.

And the story it tells is that during America’s war in Vietnam, tens of thousands of GIs and veterans created a robust movement in opposition to the war. We’re talking about GIs and veterans. And yet, this history is unknown. Who often tells a story of nonviolent resistance to the war in Vietnam within the military? And why don’t we tell that story? This is something that we’re going to understand better.

So, this is an exhibit, and it’s also a companion book, and it shows how the movement unfolded, the GI movement unfolded from antiwar coffee houses springing up outside of military bases to hundreds of GI newspapers giving an independent voice to active soldiers, to stockade revolts, and even strikes and near mutinies on naval vessels, and in the Air Force.

So, this is a really fascinating interview with Paul Cox. Michael, you had something to say?

Michael: Just one thing, Stephanie. Thank you, yeah. I want to emphasize the importance of this movement because many people – and I lived through this, of course, many people during the anti-Vietnam resistance were saying we’re being disloyal to the troops, we’re not supporting our troops. And so, it’s critically important to know that we were supporting a very critical element within the military.

Stephanie: Absolutely. And I think what I want to start off with is just learning a little bit more about Veterans for Peace, who they are. Because we’ve had numerous people from Veterans for Peace here on Nonviolence Radio and so it’s important to re-establish that for our listeners each time, who they are and what they’re doing and especially the San Francisco chapter. So, this is Paul Cox.

Veterans for Peace

Paul: In San Francisco we started an organization we called, “Veteran Speaker’s Alliance,” in 1983, during Reagan’s war on Central America, or wars in Central America. And we were kind of really anxious and convinced that Reagan was going to send American troops there.

And we formed – in order to – a fairly large group of us, in order to speak in schools about our experiences in war. Some of them were Korean War vets. There was one guy who was a WWII veteran, but most of us were Vietnam veterans. And we wanted to just talk to high school kids and say, “Whatever the recruiter is telling you about the military, that ain’t it, you know? You got to make up your own mind, but don’t necessarily believe what you hear from these guys whose job it is is to get you to sign on the line.”

And we did that for a number of years. And then VFP itself started a couple of years later as a national organization. Ours, we just saw ourselves as kind of regional, San Francisco Bay Area kind of folks. And eventually we joined VFP as a chapter. And then there have been other chapter formed around the Bay Area. So, there’s several chapters. San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Rosa, and the immediate area around the chapter that I’m in, in San Francisco.

And we’re involved in many things. We have people – we have 160 chapters around the world. Mostly in the U.S., but we have a chapter in Ireland, Vietnam, England, and Okinawa. We have everything from antinuclear activism that’s working very strong to try to prevent development of the waste dumps in New Mexico. We have Gamers for Peace, the young vets that are trying to take on then issues of sort of violent, you know, splatter games that are available and try to talk to young – other young veterans about the negativity of those things.

We’re involved in so many issues. Support for the Okinawans who are opposed to a U.S. military base being built there. We have groups that are trying to grapple with what’s going on with Ukraine and Russia and NATO at this point. I could go on. I mean we have – and I personally have been working on the Agent Orange issue since 2005, trying to get some justice for the Vietnamese who were very seriously damaged by the herbicides that we sprayed in Vietnam and who have gotten really not much.

Actually, we’ve made some headway in the last few years. The U.S. has made some commitments to clean up some of the hotspots, the contamination that still exists there. But very little has been provided to those people, those 3 million Vietnamese, whose health has been very seriously damaged by their own exposure or their parent’s exposure.

Stephanie: That was Paul Cox from Veterans for Peace, the San Francisco chapter, talking a little bit about how the beginnings for Veterans for Peace, VFP, in San Francisco that started with a speaker’s bureau that then branched out into other projects. Including this one project that we’re highlighting on the show today, which is the Waging Peace in Vietnam exhibit that’s taking place in San Francisco until August 14th.

Michael, what is going to come up a lot in this interview with Paul Cox, who is a veteran himself, is the making of the work of reparations, the work of atonement for participating in war and violence, and these acts of reparation and atonement take the form of projects, but also you can hear in what he has to say that there’s a deep sense of regret that’s encouraging him to do work in projects. And I wonder if you have something to say about that.

Michael: Oh, yes. You know me, Stephanie. Always have something to say with the extreme version of that regret, which is very healthy. And on a human response, the extreme version of it, of course, is PTSD, when it kind of goes underground psychologically and wreaks damage on the person who suffers from guilt and has no way of relieving it.

So, this reparations movement has been a boon to some of those vets who get to go to Vietnam and undo some of the harm that they’ve done. Which I think is just, you know, morally and politically and in every way, exactly correct maneuver. Now, however, it must be said that there is a danger here. And that is if you know ahead of time that you’re going to make reparations for whatever damage you’re going to cause, sometimes it makes you feel like, “Okay, I’ll cause this damage, and we’ll just fix it.” And of course, the damage that’s done by war cannot be fixed.

Stephanie: Well, what’s going to come out in this is that a lot of people didn’t have the choice to really think through. It’s more that you get yourself into a situation, and you realize this is so vastly against your conscience. Or even later, you realize that something has happened, right?

Michael: Yeah.

Stephanie: So, I do want to push back on that idea that we often – people consciously put themselves in a situation where they feel that it’s against their conscience ahead of time. I don’t know.

Michael: Yeah. I’m not sure. I think that the people – anyone who goes into war at any time, even though on the surface of their mind, they’re feeling all the rah-rah and this is great, and I’m defending my country and so forth. And I’m not trying to take that away. But I think underneath that there is a nagging feeling that you should not be doing this to other human beings.

There’s this hard and fast distinction between us and them – myself and yourself doesn’t really have a psychological reality, when you get right down to it. And science has been able to demonstrate now that if you inflict suffering on other beings, you experience that suffering yourself. So, we try to go around and patch up what has happened to these veterans, but you know, the only real solution will be to stop waging war.

Stephanie: And/or participating in organizations like VFP. And so, I asked Paul what this exhibit was to get us started in our interview, and this is what he had to say.

Waging Peace Exhibit
The Waging Peace in Vietnam Exhibit at the Veterans’ Gallery in San Francisco. (Paul Cox)

Paul: Yeah. The Waging Peace exhibit will run until August 14th. It’s at the Veterans Building, in the Veteran’s Gallery in the Veteran’s Building, which is just off the lobby. And the Veteran’s Building is at 401 Van Ness, right across from City Hall. It’s a lovely space that we’ve been given, and we’ve had a number of historic displays there. The current one is Waging Peace in Vietnam, GI’s and veterans who opposed the war.

And it is about 25 or so people who were in the military during the Vietnam War and found ways to protest the war. Some of them refused to fight on the battlefield. Some of them went to jail for refusing to fight. Some refused orders to Vietnam. Some went AWOL. And a great number of them published, back in the States, and around the world, published underground newspapers, participated in antiwar GI coffee houses and attended demonstrations.

A lot of people went to jail for their opposition to the war. If for no other reason than the Uniform Code of Military Justice that governs the US military is not the same as our civilian laws. You have very, very limited rights and free speech in the military, and they don’t want to hear what your opinions are. They just want you to take orders and do your job.

The broader antiwar movement was not well-covered for the most part until it really became the dominant force against the war.

Within the military, the military didn’t want to talk about it. I mean, they really did not want GIs to understand that people – that other GIs all over the world, were against the war. And they did what they could to suppress it. There were some news articles about it, but they didn’t cover it as nearly as much as they should have.

And so, it’s a piece of the broader antiwar movement. I mean, the military is made up of people who are citizens of this country. And the same kinds of forces that – and political views that permeate the rest of the country also permeated the military. So, as the war went on, it became less and less popular in the civilian world, but also in the military.

And that piece of the antiwar movement was not well understood. But it was very important. I mean, the military certainly knew that they were having essentially mutinies. People saying, “We’re not going to go out on patrol because you’re just going to get us killed.” Or because they opposed the war in general. They certainly knew about that.

And very often, they didn’t have – the military didn’t have the courage of their own laws to prosecute those things. But very often, they did. So, if they could isolate a person, make an example of them, there were a great number of people who refused orders to Vietnam or refused orders in Vietnam who were pretty heavily persecuted for it.

And in terms of conscientious objection, there were certainly the young men who refused to go into the draft or file for conscientious objector status in order to avoid the draft or avoid the military. But there was a system within the military of conscientious objection too. You could file as a conscientious objector. The criteria was quite different and quite a bit more stringent. And very dependent on your commander’s attitude on whether your conscientious objector appeal would be – or claim – would be accepted. And if it wasn’t accepted, they came down on you heavily.

In the pre-internet days the way you communicated was in person or in print. And there were about 300 antiwar newspapers printed in various places at various times during the war around the world at U.S. military bases. From Europe to Asia and especially in the United States.

And then in a number of – probably two dozen or more bases – civilian supporters, often the families, wives, cousins, and so forth – of people who are GIs, would start a coffee house. That was a place to gather. And for GIs to talk about their experiences and to talk among themselves and to read what the broader antiwar movement was up to.

There were some very famous ones. There was one at Fort Bragg. There was a bookstore at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina. In Texas, there was the Fort Hood “Oleo Strut.” Fort Drum. San Diego had the Movement for Democratic Military, and they had a house and a coffee shop, and so forth. They were all over.

I personally was involved in the bookstore at Camp Lejeune in 1971-72. We had a couple of veterans who had just gotten out of the Army at Fort Bragg, which is about 75 miles away. And we reached out to them, and they decided to come to town. We managed to get a little bit of funding, and we opened up a bookstore called, “United We Stand Bookstore.” And those of us – there were about six or seven of us Marines who started an underground paper called, “Rage,” that we – it was illegal for us to do. Not so much legally to print the paper or to express our opinions, but to distribute it on base was highly illegal.

And we would go – we would print up a bunch of these, fill up cars with papers, and then drive onto base at 3 o’clock in the morning and go through the barracks and pass them out on squad bays. And then when somebody would alert the MPs, you’d see them scrambling some place over in the distance. You’d say, “Okay, time to go.” We’d leave. Come back a week later and do it again.

And the bookstore stocked a great number of very, you know, of the great works of our time related to the Civil Rights Movement and the antiwar movement and the labor studies and the like. There’s photographs of” Rage.” They got a picture of me holding this newspaper that we put out. Yes. And there’s a lot of discussion about the various ways people resisted the war.

GIs in Jail

One of the first was a dermatologist by the name of Howard Levy who was charged – he was in the Army, and he was assigned to train Green Berets, medics, on how to deal with skin problems in Vietnam. And his position was, “What, we go help someone with their, you know, with their skin issues. And then we – that evening, we bomb their village. He says, “That’s just not the way we should be conducting ourselves.”

And he refused to train the Green Berets. And we wound up sentenced to two years in prison for it. And that was in 1965. That was early on. I didn’t come around until much later, five years later, six years later. That’s just one example, but there’s many of those. Many of those examples.

And early on, they were individual people such as Howard Levy or the Fort Hood Three. Three young GIs at Fort Hood who refused orders to Vietnam and wound up doing several years in jail or in the stockade for it. And then later on, as the antiwar movement within the military grew, there were demonstrations at Fort Hood four years later that had somewhere between 1000 and 3000 GIs who were celebrating Armed Forces Day by renaming it Armed Farces Day. And they marched in Killeen, Texas in great force.

And the military put that event off limits. Didn’t slow anybody down. By thousands, people went out to march and listen to music and talk.

Stephanie: For those of you just tuning in, we’re listening to an interview with Paul Cox from Veterans for Peace, the San Francisco chapter. They’re hosting an exhibit in San Francisco until August 14th on GI and veteran resistance to the Vietnam War. He just described in this portion that we listened to – coffee houses. There were coffee houses that sprung up around military bases and newspapers that were then distributed across bases.

All of these actions, people are risking – they’re risking punishment from the military in doing these things. And they’re also risking the kind of isolation that came with being within the military and not being for what was taking place. So, it’s a very powerful story, one that we don’t hear much of in contemporary culture and popular culture about resistance to the war.

I’m going to talk to Paul later in the interview about Ukraine and other military ventures in our world. How we often forget to look at the people who are holding the weapons and waging the war for us and realizing that not everybody is for it in there. And that there’s a pocket – there’s pockets of resistance happening – if there’s pockets of resistance happening on the outside, they’re certainly happening on the inside of the military. Those stories are going to be harder to hear because there’s going to be more invested in not showing people that the military doesn’t agree with what’s happening. Michael?

Michael: I just want to point out that there’s a historical development here. The little that we know about ancient war – I mean Greek and Roman times, there’s not a whisper of resistance. There’s no feeling that war itself is wrong. Of course, it was much less destructive and depending much more on the courage of the individual and cooperation and so forth.

But as time goes on, this kind of unease with the whole institution starts to grow. So, I think with Vietnam, we really reached a watershed. And things are going to be different. Of course, unfortunately, the fact that modern war is waged technologically at a distance, out of sight, makes the awareness of what you’re doing much more difficult. So, those are the two forces that we’re struggling with.

Stephanie: Let’s go back to Paul Cox.

From Civil Rights to Antiwar

Paul: The antiwar movement, in many ways, grew out of the Civil Rights Movement. And which was happening in the early 60s. Well, it’s been happening for centuries. But what we call the Civil Rights Movement, starting in the late 50s and into the 60s. And it radicalized a lot of people – Black people and white people and all sorts of folks – about the nature of the U.S., our internal and foreign policies.

And so there was opposition to the war before we ever sent troops there in 1964. There was quite of opposition to the war. There are theories. I don’t know where the truth lies. That one of the reasons Kennedy was assassinated was because he made the decision to pull us out of Vietnam. We had about 17,000 troops there as advisors to the South Vietnamese government. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but that’s a valid theory that one of the reasons that he had to be taken out was that he was going to radically change the direction of U.S. foreign policy with respect to Vietnam.

But as the war really heated up for the United States, that is we sent troops in and had our first big battles in 1965, the opposition really started to grow And also, you know, there was some opposition from thoughtful people in the military, such as David Duncan and Howard Levy and a few others and the Fort Hood Three, that represented a start of that effort too.

As the antiwar movement grew, a great number of the people in the antiwar movement understood that the military was key to creating conditions for ending the war. And they were, to the extent they could find the antiwar GIs, such as I was after I came back from Vietnam, they tried to provide resources to us.

So, for example – this was later on, in 1971-72 when I was doing this paper – we were doing this paper. There was an organization called, “United States Servicemen’s Fund,” that raised funds from antiwar activists and organizations in this country. And then when we put a paper together, and we sent them a copy, they’d send us a hundred bucks.

Now, it was costing us about $300 for every issue that we put together. And the rest of that money came out of our own pockets. But that there was – for me, it was very powerful that there was somebody who cared enough to send us some money for what we were doing. That was a real strong motivator for me to keep doing it. Because it wasn’t easy to do, and it was dangerous as hell. And I could just easily have sat on my hands in the barracks and played cards and, you know, skateboarded and things like that that we would do with our free time.

But because I was so affected by my experiences in Vietnam, that was not really – would not have been a good thing for me to do, which is just try to get through my tour. And it was healing for me, and it was for me to be involved in those kinds of activities. You know, putting out the paper and staffing this bookstore and talking to GIs on the street and in bars about the nature of the war.

And there were a lot of young Marines who had not been to Vietnam, and they definitely wanted to hear what those of us who had had to say.

Stephanie: So, there you have it, Michael. This is Paul Cox, speaking about being a GI in Vietnam and realizing that he’s participating in creating a paper, and he said it was healing for him. And that he said that he couldn’t just sit on his hands and do other activities that somehow – that were, you know, he used the example, “skateboarding,” whatever it was that people would do with their free time. But he felt like it was his duty to help tell other people about what was taking place and why the war was wrong.

And I think it’s just extraordinarily powerful to hear that when he engages in nonviolent action, in nonviolence, even in the midst of a situation that says, “You don’t have to do this,” his conscience was telling him that, “Yes, you do.”

Michael: I very much agree. And I wanted to also mention his point about the assassination of President Kennedy. I’m almost certain that he is correct, that the reason for it was Kennedy’s threat, if you will, to withdraw us from Vietnam.

Stephanie: Speaking of presidents and politicians and their relationship to the war and ongoing foreign policy, militarism and violence, it relies on a kind of polarization between people as well, that I thought there’s these discussions of Vietnam seem to be happening more frequently within the Peace Movement, especially with Judith Ehrlich’s film The Boys Who Said NO!, about the antiwar movement, essentially, the conscientious objector movement.

But how does this bear on current events today? And if we understand that in order to help end the war in Vietnam, there needed to be bridges built between the polarities of those who are for the war and against the war. Those who were in the military and the those who were not in the military.

And as we look around American society today, I’m sure we can see all kinds of ways that we could build bridges. And this really brings out the power of that. And so, let’s hear a little bit more from Paul on this topic of the issue of polarization and its relationship to Vietnam and also current events.

The Antiwar Movement

Paul: Well, I think there was plenty of polarization. There were plenty of people who called themselves antiwar activists did not understand that the GIs that were doing the fighting were really just working class kids that got yanked into the system and didn’t have the opportunity, the resources, the intention of avoiding that. It was easy enough to avoid if you were a college student. You got a deferment. If you were against the war, and you were in a community, mostly on the coasts, the west coasts and east coast, that had a lot of resources for opposing – you know, for helping you to stay out of the military. Those were options for people.

For many of us – I came from Oklahoma. I had not thought about the war. And when I got my draft notice, I went and joined because it was what I was going to do, you know? It was the Vietnamese that taught me that the war was wrong, you know? I spent 18 months there, and I learned that that way.

But there was plenty – there were some antiwar activists who really did blame the GIs for the war. They could not distinguish between the warrior and the war. And there are many veterans who talk about how they got spit on on the tarmac, you know, by antiwar activists, called, “Baby killers,” and so forth. Or for my part, we were baby killers.

But the people that I ran into when I came back from Vietnam and said, “I really hate this war and I want to do something about it,” were much more thoughtful than that. And they didn’t blame. And so, that was a segment of the antiwar movement that was much more thoughtful. And they didn’t blame me for what I had done or what I had experienced. They helped me figure out that it wasn’t just my fault for having done those things.

And that was very healing for me. It was very, very important that I could sort of redirect the anger I had towards myself to those people who created those conditions.

The antiwar movement itself had people who were just idjits and, you know, “Oh, you’re in the military? You must be awful.” You know, well, that’s because you’ve got the privilege and the understanding that the war is wrong, but you don’t have the understanding of how we all got involved in it, how the working class kids and, you know. If you weren’t a college boy, you were going to get snatched up by your draft board. I mean they were drafting everybody.

Soon as I became available for the draft, I got my draft notice. And I didn’t have the consciousness – I didn’t think I had any options, but I also wasn’t opposed to the idea of going off to war. It seemed like a good thing to do for a young man, “Go make a name.” Turns out, that’s not the case.

Stephanie: So, that is Paul Cox talking about his experiences as a veteran and as an active GI in the Vietnam War. And then he’s getting into discussions of nonviolent resistance against the war within the system.

Michael: I was not only a conscientious objector against the Korean War, not only a conscientious objector of the standard type, but slightly off. I’ll explain that in a second.

But what really got me out was the 2S deferment for people who had a child. So, very grateful to my daughter, Jessica, for keeping me out of the military. But it was an interesting distinction, I was thoroughly from every cell of my being was against the whole idea, but I wasn’t part of a formal religion. So, the draft board were trying to get me out. They didn’t want me in there, but they didn’t really have an excuse to do it. I wasn’t a practicing anything.

While we were all squirming about how this was going to get resolved, the 2S decision came up, and suddenly it became moot. But yeah, the whole thing was a very emotional experience for me. I still remember talking to that draft board.

Stephanie: Especially the topics that Paul is bringing up of working class kids, essentially on neither coast, you know, in the middle of the United States, who don’t necessarily have examples of people – of different – there tends to be more uniformity the more –

Michael: Conformity.

Stephanie: Yeah, okay. So, that was a powerful influence for him not to feel that he was in opposition to war. Okay, what’s the upshot? Again, I can’t help but think of militarism today and the one conflict that seems – well, there’s conflicts all over, one conflict that seems to be getting a lot of attention is the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

And there’s been so many stories of Russian soldiers either being coaxed out of their militarism by, you know, getting their mom on the phone and giving them a cup of tea. I think a lot of us have seen that YouTube video, or sharing their stories of what they thought was going to happen and what was really happening.

In order to help everybody understand that, as Paul said, it’s not just against the people who are behind the systems, but the systems themselves that help to take young people who feed the nationalism and have them go out and hurt other people for that nationalism.

So, I wanted to get his input on the situation in Ukraine and the way that Russian soldiers can be – as he said, a powerful force for the anti-war movement if treated, as he also explains in his life, without shame. Or else, you know, the strategic use of shame in the way that you’re not a bad person, but what happened is wrong, and we need to change that. So, let’s hear from Paul.
Thoughts on the Russian-Ukraine Conflict

Paul: I think it’s important not to automatically blame a Russian soldier for being a Russian soldier, you know? Patriotism, economics, their own draft all serve to pull in Russian peasant and working class boys into the military. It is not in any way defending what the Russian Army and some of those peasant boys are doing in Ukraine, because some of them have done really horrific things, as did American troops in Vietnam, as did some of my comrades, as did I on some level too. But, you know, just by being there and carrying a gun and behaving in a way I was expected to is really, in its own way, a war crime. And I feel horrible about it.

But I’m also, you know, trying to pay a little bit of the interest on the debt that I owe the Vietnamese through the Agent Orange work that I’ve done and so forth. And so, it’s important we don’t blame a Russian soldier for being a Russian soldier. He’s just answered his nation’s call to do what his nation’s leadership have told him to do. And that’s important. It’s an important distinction.

It doesn’t mean you let the war criminals off the hook. It especially doesn’t mean you let the leadership in Russia off the hook. And I think that’s equally important, you know? It’s the old men who declare the wars, and it’s the young men and women, these days, increasingly, who fight it. And that’s the way of this species, I’m afraid.

There’s this fairly strong push in Russia against the war. And several thousand people got arrested and who knows where they are now. They’re probably still in prison. I’m assuming there is some level of dissent within the Russian Army. I mean these draftees don’t make great Praetorian guards, you know? I mean they don’t make great Spartans. They’re just draftees.

I did read one story about a woman whose son was not all-together, but he got drafted and promised that he would be sent to Siberia or some place. And he wound up in Ukraine. His mom went and got him. She had the paperwork that sort of guaranteed that he would not be sent to a war zone, and suddenly he’s in Ukraine. And so, she headed down and got him. Which was a pretty amazing story. But, you know.

So, there is opposition within Russia of Putin’s war. It may take years for that to develop into something that’s going to oust Putin or get him to back away. I don’t know. I really cannot predict that. What we can do and what we do have influence over is what NATO has done for the last 20 years after they promised the Russians that we wouldn’t expand NATO. We’ve expanded it into 14 new countries.

And so, they’re feeling kind of pressed. And it’s a motivator that Putin uses for his own people to sort of say, “They’re trying to surround Russia and choke us to death, you know? And so, we got to go fight them.” And a lot of Russians are buying that line at this point.

And NATO needs to be brought to bear for its own role. And other treaties need to be had that will indicate that – I mean Putin also talks about expanding the empire back to the old Russian Empire. This is a very dangerous time we’re in, when people are taking these – the leaders are taking these very strange and very dangerous positions.

One of our members had a call the other day. Says, “Why don’t we just call for a cease fire for six months?” And I think that’s an excellent idea. It would give a chance for some cooling off, some reassessment, some negotiation. And most of all, some diplomacy. It’s a dangerous thing that we’re messing with now. And I don’t know, I cannot comment on how the Russian troops could influence that at this point. I don’t know.

Companion Book to the Exhibit

Paul: So, the Waging Peace in Vietnam, GIs and Veterans who Opposed the War is showing at the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness. That’s right across from City Hall, in the Veteran’s Gallery until August 14th. And it’s open from 1:00 to 6:00 Wednesday through Sunday. We’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

We would very much appreciate people coming. We also have the “Waging Peace in Vietnam” book, companion book to the exhibit, for sale at the exhibit. Or the book can be order from That’s New York University – for 30 percent off if you use the password of PEACE30. And that’s the Waging Peace in Vietnam book.

Stephanie: That was Paul Cox from Veterans for Peace, San Francisco chapter, talking about the Waging Peace in Vietnam Exhibit. And it’s been a really interesting look inside of resistance within the military and veterans to the war in Vietnam, as well some of the implications in terms of polarization and reaching soldiers in war as a key to antiwar movements and better understanding systems that play in war. So, we’re very, very grateful for Paul’s interview and for joining us.

And you can find more about the exhibit at And you can see the information about the San Francisco exhibit, right at the top of the page, there’s a scrollbar. And again, the book you can order a book that has the images that are also displayed at this exhibit from And if you use the password Peace30, you get a 30% off discount for that.

Nonviolence Report

So, we’re going to turn now to some nonviolence in the news, because again, looking at a bit of the history of nonviolence, the untold history, we realize that we’re probably sitting right in the midst of untold history happening right around us. But before that, we’ll do a bit of transition with some music from the Rough Guide to Music to Vietnam.


That is Than Quy and the song is called, “Sitting by the Peach Mullioned River.” And it’s from the Rough Guide of Music in Vietnam.

Let’s turn now to some nonviolence in the news with Michael Nagler. Michael?

Michael: Thank you, Stephanie. As usual, I would like to touch back for just one second on something that Paul Cox said because it struck a chord with me, because in the war in Chechnya, you had a very similar phenomenon of the mothers simply breaking through all the formal authoritarian barriers and just going to Chechnya and taking their kids back.

So, it strikes me that there’s a force there that is capable of undoing militarism from the inside. And it’s just beginning to be developed here and there. There are organizations that are tapping into it. But I see it as something very promising that we should go further with.

So, I’d like to tell folks for starters about a new book that’s come out because it’s somewhat parallel here. It’s called Civil Resistance and the Arab Spring: Triumphs and Disasters. And it’s by a very accomplished, a very intelligent journalist named Elham Fakhro. And she draws a number of very challenging conclusions in the book. One I want to cite here, and this is a quote from a review. It shows how the authors in the book – it’s an edited book. The authors show how – here’s the important point, “Civil resistance aiming at regime change is not enough. Building institutions and the trust necessary for reforms to be implemented and democracy to develop is a more difficult, but equally crucial task”.

I would say almost more crucial, that you cannot really have a successful resistance that won’t backslide the way we saw in Egypt and so many other countries with the Arab Spring movement without building alternatives first. And it’s been, of course, a theme that the Metta Center has been stressing. And it’s called, “Constructive program.” You know, building up the institutions that you need before you try to get rid of the ones that you don’t want.”

So moving on. On October 1st, Saturday, coming up very – like tomorrow, Campaign Nonviolence is holding a march in many communities across the nation. They are proposing nonviolent solutions, alternatives, like what I’ve just been talking about, and they want to show that these things exist.

So, I have kind of two feelings about this as I do, for example, about the Ride for Palestinian which just concluded in Berkeley and as we just saw from Elham Fakhro, I’m not the only one that has this feeling that protests and resistance, even resistance that aims at regime change – and Campaign Nonviolence is not going anywhere near that far, yet, are going to be incomplete and probably not very effective unless they have alternatives that are ready to go.

Now, our friends in Washington DC, at Nonviolence International, they have an Ukraine affiliate that’s led by Andre Kamenshikov. And they are supporting the nonviolent resistance to the war and the occupation of Ukraine that we’ve just been hearing about. But in addition to humanitarian support, which as I’ve been saying, I feel it’s a little bit ambiguous because it makes war less costly.

They have many activities that we can help out with. And one of them, the Jamaican American Businesswomen, held a fundraiser for Ukraine, to which Andre Kamenshikov and other colleagues of his spoke via video. And she raised more than $3000. Well, that may not sound like a big deal, but actually it goes a long way in Ukraine. So, Nonviolence International is encouraging people to organize a fundraiser. And their people in Ukraine can speak directly with your event, so that’s a great offer.

Students, God bless them. This is from Common Dreams, back on the 26th. Students from around the world announced Tuesday their intention to “Disrupt business as usual,” at their universities and schools this fall, pressuring administrators and policymakers to ramp efforts to combat the climate crisis. The students are going to be holding occupations and refusing to attend classes as usual. Dozens of students and student groups cosigned an op-ed that was published in The Guardian promising that their new campaign, which incidentally is called, “End fossil: Occupy!”

This will include young people from across the globe. That’s what’s different now. And they’re demanding nothing less than the end of the fossil economy, which is a big step, but absolutely essential. And taking a quote again from the kids, they’re taking a lesson from student activists in the 60s. Yay. And that the climate justice movement youth will shut down business as usual. They said – here’s an important quote, “Not because we don’t like learning, but because what we’ve learned already makes it clear that without a dramatic break from this system, we cannot ensure a liveable planet for our present and our futures.”

So, look for this occupation movement. It’s going to take place between September and December this year. And they said, “We have no doubt that the youth are a revolutionary subject. We will turn the tide, change history, and smash the fossil economy.”

Let me make my traditional point one more time. If you were to suggest that you have an alternative to the fossil economy, it would make your activities much more – well, much less confrontational and much more acceptable.

So, as you know, I do jump around a little bit because of so much happening all over the world. There’s a group called, “Hebrew International.” Well, HIAS. It’s a nonprofit that protects refugees along with something we haven’t mentioned on the show for quite a while, R2P, the Right to Protection.

Now they have, and have had for some time, a partner in Ukraine. And they are continuing to respond to the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII, which is what that war is about.

Coming down back to our domestic situation here and again drawing something from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, which is a very good source of this kind of news. On the 3rd, that’s Wednesday, at 5pm our time out here, on Zoom, they will have a program called, “Abandon Punishment.” And that, of course, is about restorative justice and how it furnishes, what we strongly feel here at Metta Radio, is a nonviolent alternative to the punitive system, often known as retributive justice.

Now another interesting event of a more cultural nature coming up soon, two of them. Well, three, if I’ve got time, one is organized by the Gandhi Research Foundation, which we visited in Jalgaon in North India. And it’s a national drama competition on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of independence, to celebrate the Freedom Fighters who won freedom and changed history by doing it through nonviolence.

And here, closer to home, Houston, we’ll soon be able to see the opening of the Eternal Gandhi Museum, Houston, EGMH. Yep, this is the first ever museum, at least in North America, where the entire enough is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. Their goal is to preserve and proliferate the greatest and most incredible legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. And they use the term, “Nonviolent conflict resolution,” which as you may know, I have a little bit of disagreement with because conflict resolution can be very short of the in-depth active nonviolence, if you like.

And also, finally, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has organized a Guns to Gardens Project. They’ve already destroyed 1100 guns. It’s a delight to see them being chopped up.

Well, that’s not quite it, but it’s my it for right now, Stephanie. Thank you so much.

Stephanie: Thank you, Michael, for that brief and informative Nonviolence Report. I think even when it’s brief, it’s important for people to understand and absorb that nonviolence is happening. And there’s a lot more out there. You can find stories in your local towns all the time, in your daily life. You can also look at You can go to Pace e Bene, organizations that you’re naming here, as well as the Metta Center for Nonviolence, that’s

So, we had a great show today. We want to thank our mother station, KWMR, as always. And it’s great to be back here in the studio. We want to thank Paul Cox, from Veterans for Peace, for sharing about the Waging Peace in Vietnam exhibit in San Francisco until August 14th. Matt Watrous, thank you so much, and Annie Hewitt and the Nonviolence Radio Team, Bryan Farrell, thank you so much for all your support. To our other stations that syndicate and promote the show through Pacifica Network, very grateful. And to everybody out there, please take care of one another.

Nonviolence Radio Team consists of Michael Nagler, Stephanie Van Hook, Annie Hewitt and Matthew Watrous.