War is never the answer

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has dominated the news for six months now. There is news about two new developments.

  • The Russian draft to force men into the military
  • The use of weaponized drones

Russian conscription brings back memories of the draft in this country for the Vietnam War.

I came of age during the Vietnam War years. Organized a draft conference, walked with the entire student body of Scattergood Friends School (all sixty of us) fourteen miles into Iowa City during the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, became a draft resister. The entire country was in an uproar. Young men and their families lived in fear of induction based on a lottery system. Over 58,000 Americans were killed.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

I’ve often despaired at the absence of an antiwar movement since our plunge into a ‘war on terror’ that is an excuse to have military presence and conflict in any place politicians define a threat.

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

An anti-war demonstration against Israeli militarism

This photo was taken during a demonstration to bring attention to Israeli militarism. Christine Ashley, then head of Scattergood Friends School, offered to take the Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Peace and Social Concerns Committee to Iowa City for this demonstration in 2014. This occurred at the time when we were holding our annual sessions at the school. The sign I’m holding is from an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) campaign to call attention of military spending and its consequences. That is a picture of a drone on the sign. You can see a War Is Not the Answer sign in the background, as well as a button on my camera strap, which I have been wearing for many years.

The peace and social concerns committee asks the clerk of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) to mail the following letter to our Congressional delegations. 

Jeff Kisling and Sherry Hutchison, co-clerks 
[Note: the photo below is of Sherry Hutchison]

 The Israeli government, with U.S. aid, now has the most powerful military in the Middle East.  In 2008 Israel attacked Gaza, with 1400 civilian casualties.  In 2013 Israel attacked Lebanon, with 750 civilian casualties.  Currently Israel is engaging in a massive military siege of Palestine, with over 800 civilian deaths so far.  All three of these Israel assaults have involved devastating destruction of schools, hospitals, power plants, and other infrastructure. 

Tragically, we the American taxpayers are paying for this human rights travesty. Israel receives 9.9 million U.S. dollars each day in military aid from us. This makes it our largest aid recipient in the world. While Americans are struggling to make ends meet and our government struggles to maintain our own infrastructure, we are subsidizing Israel to conduct activities in direct opposition to international law.  

We ask that no more military aid be given to the Israeli government. 

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2014

Sherry Hutchison

Drone terrorism

Recently Russia has begun to use weaponized drones against Ukraine. I remember how devastated I was when I learned of how people, how the children in Iraq and Afghanistan were terrorized by the sounds of drones circling overhead. Knowing an attack could be triggered at any moment, with untold numbers of civilian casualties. Death by remote control.

In a recent news story, a reporter from NBC News spoke about this, about how unnerving it was to hear the sounds of the drones overhead.

Drones: The Face of War Today, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) October 13, 2016

It was fascinating to learn how a drone strike helped trigger the formation of Des Moines Mutual Aid, which has been the focus of my work for the past two years.

One year ago today (January 2021) Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad. 

This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.  

A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming. As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder.  

This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread. Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.  

In the past year DMMA has expanded its work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies.  

We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.  

The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid, DSM Black Liberation Movement, and The Great Plains Action Society.  

The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).  

The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.  

Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised.   

All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.  

These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize. But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.  

Much gratitude to you all.  

In love and rage, 

Des Moines Mutual Aid 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s