Conscientious objection and Ukraine

Amid the horrifying situation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I was concerned every time I heard that Ukrainian men aged 18 – 60 were banned from leaving the country.

I studied war resistance and conscientious objection extensively while a student at Scattergood Friends School. All males in the US were required to register for the draft at the time of their eighteenth birthday. I was a Senior at Scattergood then (1969). I went through the process of applying for and was granted conscientious objector status while I tried to prepare my family for my decision to turn in my draft cards. Which I did.

This is a bit ironic because Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee discussed conscientious objector counseling at our recent meeting. That was brought up in part related to the war in Ukraine. Also, as an opportunity to engage our youth in discussions related to war and peace. And because of the writings of a member of the yearly meeting. John Griffith and Draft Resistance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered a general military mobilization.

In a declaration signed late Thursday, Zelensky said that “in order to ensure the defense of the state, maintaining combat and mobilization readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations,” a broad-based mobilization was ordered, including in the capital, Kyiv and all Ukraine’s major cities.
It ordered the “conscription of conscripts, reservists for military service, their delivery to military units and institutions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” and other state security services.

At the same time, Ukraine has banned all-male citizens 18-60 years old from leaving the country, according to the State Border Guard Service.

The statement said that following the introduction of martial law in Ukraine, a temporary restriction had been imposed.

“In particular, it is forbidden for men aged 18-60, Ukraine citizens, to leave the borders of Ukraine,” the statement said. “This regulation will remain in effect for the period of the legal regime of martial law. We ask the citizens to take this information into consideration.”

Ukrainian males aged 18-60 are banned from leaving the country, Zelensky says in new declaration From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Caroll Alvardo, February 24, 2022

A New York Times podcast tells the story of an animator named Tyhran, who unsuccessfully tried to cross the border into Poland.

I can’t imagine myself doing military stuff […] I have no experience in it. I’m afraid of holding a gun […] I cannot imagine myself holding a gun.

Tyhran says he was shamed at the border by guards and others seeking to cross, but may try again to cross illegally.

They are bombing and people are dying. Everyone is running […] They are not going to stop. They just want to destroy.

In Ukraine, the Men Who Must Stay and Fight. As hundreds of thousands of citizens flee the Russian advance, the country’s government has ordered men ages 18 to 60 to remain. New York Times podcast, March 1, 2022

What international law says

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. Although it does not specifically guarantee a right to conscientious objection to military service, the UN Human Rights Committee has confirmed this right derives from the protection under the convention.

This means that if a person’s conscience, religion or beliefs conflict with an obligation to use lethal force against other people, their right to conscientious objection to military service must be protected.

Some human rights can be suspended or limited during a public emergency. But the right to freedom of conscience is specifically excluded from this category.

Why banning men from leaving Ukraine violates their human rights by Amy Maguire, The Conversation, March 7, 2022

What should Ukraine do?

The government of Ukraine should cancel its ban on men leaving the country. To maintain it will violate the freedom of conscience of any man who wishes to flee due to a conscientious objection to killing others.

In relation to LGBTQI+ people, the ban could also be regarded as preventing people with a well founded fear of persecution from fleeing to seek refuge outside Ukraine.

More broadly, repealing the departure ban would protect Ukraine from allegations it is failing to protect civilians, as required by international humanitarian law. It is one thing to conscript men into military service, providing training and appropriate equipment (although, even in that case, a right to conscientious objection must be respected).

It is another thing entirely to prevent civilians from escaping a war zone.

Why banning men from leaving Ukraine violates their human rights by Amy Maguire, The Conversation, March 7, 2022

Questions and observations

Obviously, I have no idea about the deep details of either US or Russian policy. I’m horrified by the images and stories from Ukraine and fervently pray for the conflict to end.

But having worked for peace my whole life, I’m alarmed by the nearly universal support for the war in Ukraine.

History has shown the many times a pretext, or even false claims started wars. There were the Gulf of Tonkin incidents that led to the US becoming involved in the war in Vietnam. The false claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Claims that weren’t credible even at the time they were made.

Some might say the US is not directly at war with Russia. But the US involvement is obviously a proxy war.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul joins Garrett Haake to share his reaction to Russia’s strike on a Ukrainian nuclear plant, and to assess the motivations behind President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. “I think people really need to understand that this is just a proxy war for his fight against us,” says Ambassador McFaul. “That’s the way he frames this: the regime there is just a puppet American regime put in place by us.”

Amb. McFaul: Putin’s fight in Ukraine ‘is just a proxy war for his fight against’ the U.S., NBC Universal, March 4, 2022

Some of my questions and observations are:

  • Why was it not possible to meet Putin’s demand that Ukraine would not join NATO?
  • Who benefits from this conflict?
    • The war industry
    • Energy
      • Shutting down Russia’s oil industry
      • Shutting down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline
      • Terminating Russian oil imports
      • Calls to increase US oil and gas production
      • Calls to increase renewable energy
    • The President’s approval ratings
  • Why is it so easy for Congress to provide billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, but not for social programs in the US?
  • Where is the concern about adding to the national debt?

Bear Creek Friends Meeting

Fog of War

I’m horrified by all the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

There are many aspects beyond the actual fighting that I’m having trouble understanding or believing. Not much of which is being covered in the mainstream media. Vitally important issues that should inform decisions being made now, and in the future.

This confusion has been expressed as the fog of war.

The fog of war is the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding one’s own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign.

Fog of War. Wikipedia

Access to fossil fuel sources has been and will continue to be a major part of all wars and conflicts.

It is past time to stop fossil fuel emissions. That is the existential global threat. Nothing else will matter as our environmental catastrophe rapidly worsens.

And yet what is informing political decisions in this country is the impact on gas prices. Capitalism.

Releasing strategic oil reserves is an example of the kind of decisions being made now that are absolutely wrong. Burning fossil fuels is indefensible as our environmental catastrophe accelerates. But that hasn’t slowed down fossil fuel emissions, yet.

As Jade Begay says, the current conflict will drive up domestic oil and gas development.

This makes it clear that not only are oil and gas used to carry out war but are also a root cause for exponential climate change. Second, as an organizer who is actively working to shut down fossil fuel infrastructure, I am hyper aware that this conflict will potentially drive up domestic oil and gas development, onshore and offshore gas leasing, and/or potentially roll back recent wins when it comes to fossil fuels, thus contributing to an increase in carbon emissions. Finally, I’d be remiss to not mention the impact that militaries have on the climate, when it comes to the U.S., our military is the single largest institutional polluter in the world, which creates more greenhouse emissions than 140 other countries.

Jade Begay. Climate justice campaign director for the NDN Collective, said Russia’s oil and gas money allowed it to pay for the invasion, according to an article in Indian Country Today.

There is this triangle between Russia, China and the US, where China buys Russian oil for its economy. And the US buys products from China. Which means Russian profits come indirectly from the US economy. Which means the US is helping to financing the war in Ukraine.

Another part of the fog of war is a strengthening relationship between Russia and China.

Releasing strategic oil reserves is an example of the kind of decisions being made now that are absolutely wrong. Burning fossil fuels is indefensible as our environmental catastrophe accelerates.

Indigenous communities have a unique perspective on Ukraine’s tragic and horrific situation. They understand what it’s like to be invaded by a colonial power. They see the war not only as an attack on human rights, but an attack on Mother Earth.

Indigenous leaders speak out on Russia’s Ukraine invasion, Healing Minnesota Stories, March 3, 2022

Is what is happening in the Arctic another part of the fog of war? Indigenous people above the Arctic Circle are wary of what Russia’s attacks foreshadow, according to the Indian Country Today article Monitoring the Arctic in Russian invasion of Ukraine.


Hearing from Quakers in Kyiv, Ukraine

I recently wrote about support for Quakers in Kyiv, Ukraine, including the peace posters sent from students at Monteverde Friends School in Cosa Rica.

This morning at our meeting of Bear Creek Friends, we approved sending the following message to Quakers in Kyiv and were very relieved to receive the following response from them.

You’re our friends, the best friends on the planet,
those who send kind and deep words.
We are happy to have you with us and believe that God will make a miracle and stop the war.

https://www.facebook.com/QuakersKyivUkraine/

Quakers Of Kyiv, Ukraine / Квейкери Києва

Welcome to the page of Ukrainian supporters of Quakerism.
Religious Society of Friends is a Protestant Christian church, known for its humanistic orientation, human rights and environmental guidelines, etc.
The Quaker prayer meeting is first and foremost a time of peace. This is an hour free from unnecessary words.
Quakers in the world have different currents. We, the Quakers of Kyiv, belong to the liberal trend without the well-known religious speechifying and lexicon.
Seekers of friendship, peace, truth, and equality are cordially invited to the meeting, following the Spirit’s guidance in affairs, ready for the hour of silent worship.
Details on messenger:
m.me/QuakersKyivUkraine
by e-mail: quakers@ukr.net

Mutual Aid and War

The more I experience being part of a Mutual Aid community, the more I learn about Mutual Aid, the more I am convinced Mutual Aid is how we should all live. I just realized that might be the only way we can live, survive.

I recently learned the term prefigurative politics which is to model the organization and social relationships that the group is advocating. Mutual Aid groups do this.

Mutual Aid is about replacing the vertical hierarchies of power with a flat or horizontal hierarchy where we all have a voice.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mutual Aid and war as Russia invades Ukraine. Dictatorships like Putin’s Russia represent the ultimate vertical hierarchy. But all nation states are built on vertical hierarchies.

I’ve been wondering how Mutual Aid can be applied to global powers waging war.

  • Our world, that has been colonized by imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, runs because of the oppressive and exploitative forms of power
  • Thus, to liberate ourselves and each other from this system, one of our main tasks is to confront hierarchy and hierarchical forms of power. 
  • Mutual aid is a form of prefigurative politics, aimed at abolishing hierarchy and hierarchical forms of power in the world by first living out these principles ourselves, bringing new ways of relating to each other into being

Mutual Aid: Non-Hierarchy in Practice by Tammy Gan, Bad Activist

Rather than feeling helpless in the face of war, we should be creating our own communities of Mutual Aid, of peace. That will take us out of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy so we will not be contributing the conditions for the next war.

To address one aspect of war, creating our own Mutual Aid communities would put us in the position of being able to welcome refugees.

mutual aid aims to: form the structure of a new society within the shell of the old; embody the forms of social relations, decision-making, culture and human experience that are its ultimate goal

Mutual Aid: Non-Hierarchy in Practice by Tammy Gan, Bad Activist

Beyond our personal experiences, our world, that has been colonised by imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, runs because of the oppressive and exploitative forms of power. 

For our world, as is, to run, there must be an inherent valuing of some bodies over others. This is what we mean when we talk about “racial capitalism”, the idea that capitalism emerged, as Cedric Robinson argued, on the grounds of a civilisation based on racial hierarchy. Racism, in designating and ideologically convincing people that some people are inferior to others, allows for a system of extraction (capitalism) to exploit Black and brown people, while white people carry this out, or benefit from this system, thereby never abolishing it. So hierarchy (racial or otherwise) is the foundation that maintains our structures and system. 

Thus, to liberate ourselves and each other from this system, one of our main tasks is to confront hierarchy and hierarchical forms of power. 

Confronting, is different from attempting to appeal to the people who are in power (e.g. solely depending on billionaires, or politicians), or striving to obtain the kind of power that we’re subjected to (think #girlboss feminism). Instead, confronting means to transform hierarchical forms of power into other forms of power. We must have “power of our own”: moving away from power-over to power-with. This is where spaces and projects that attempt to create that new world, starting from rethinking our relationships, come into play.

Mutual aid is a form of prefigurative politics, aimed at abolishing hierarchy and hierarchical forms of power in the world by first living out these principles ourselves, bringing new ways of relating to each other into being. Specifically, mutual aid aims to: form the structure of a new society within the shell of the old; embody the forms of social relations, decision-making, culture and human experience that are its ultimate goals (i.e. to practice what it wants to see, now); and continuously experiment, and be reflexive through trial and error. 

Mutual Aid: Non-Hierarchy in Practice by Tammy Gan, Bad Activist

And if the wreckage of this inheritance will not be complete; if notwithstanding the crimes committed during this “civilized” war [ World War I ], we may still be sure that the teachings and traditions of human solidarity will, after all, emerge intact from the present ordeal, it is because, by the side of the extermination organized from above, we see thousands of those manifestations of spontaneous mutual aid.

Preface to the 1914 edition of Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (London: Heinemann, 1914).

Food Not Bombs

When a billion people go hungry each day, how can we spend another dollar on war? Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer movement that recovers food that would otherwise be discarded, and shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities in 65 countries in protest to war, poverty, and destruction of the environment. We are not a charity but dedicated to taking nonviolent direct action. Our movement has no headquarters or positions of leadership and we use the process of consensus to make decisions. We also provide food and supplies to the survivors of natural disasters, and people participating in occupations, strikes, marches and other protests.

As grocery stores empty out and food shortages loom, food-sharing projects like Food Not Bombs (FNB) take on new urgency. FNB volunteers collect food from bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants, cook together, and share meals and groceries in public spaces with whomever comes. Volunteers also take part in nonviolent direct action to change the social structures that produce hunger. FNB-like initiatives have already appeared in restaurants that offer free meals to laid-off workers and in grocery-delivery networks. There’s an increasing need for flexible, mobile, horizontal approaches to food distribution.

Eight anti-nuclear activists formed the first FNB group on May 24, 1980 at the Occupation Attempt of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in Cambridge, MA. Their basic insight was that hunger is unnecessary in a country that spends millions on weapons of mass destruction.

Mutual Aid Dispatches, April 6, 2020

Prefigurative politics are the modes of organization and social relationships that strive to reflect the future society being sought by the group. According to Carl Boggs, who coined the term, the desire is to embody “within the ongoing political practice of a movement […] those forms of social relations, decision-making, culture, and human experience that are the ultimate goal”.[1]


Split Screen

I’m trying to sort out confused feelings about war and peace through a split screen of foreign versus domestic.

I was caught off guard by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was unrealistic to think there wouldn’t be another war between nations anytime soon.

But we haven’t had peace in this country, either.

I had forgotten Martin Luther King, Jr, was outside a California prison, which was holding Vietnam War protesters when he said, “there can be no justice without peace, and there can be no peace without justice.” December 14, 1967.

So, there is this dichotomy of war between nations versus domestic injustices. Domestic injustices mean there is no peace here.

This quote from Muhammad Ali relates to this.

Under no conditions do we take part in war and take the lives of other humans.

It is in the light of my consciousness as a Muslim minister and my own personal convictions that I take my stand in rejecting the call to be inducted. I do so with the full realization of its implications. I have searched my conscience.

Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong…they never called me ______.

Muhammad Ali

I’ve been blessed to have become part of numerous oppressed communities in this country. Where there are so many injustices. Where there is so much violence, much of it state sanctioned.

The scenes and stories from Ukraine are devastating to see. And while it is good to see the response of so many who want to help, I wish there were similar responses to our own domestic tragedies.

A friend this morning tells me others have noted similar disparities in the response to the plight of Palestinians. He said, “Once again I am reminded of how ‘White’ my thinking is.”

And there are the dispiriting stories of racial discrimination in support among the Ukrainian refugees.

My experiences with Mutual Aid have convinced me that is a way to peace.


The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution.

Ronnie James

The first, and possibly the most important, is that it was not always this way, which proves it does not have to stay this way. 

What we have is each other. We can and need to take care of each other. We may have limited power on the political stage, a stage they built, but we have the power of numbers.

Those numbers represent unlimited amounts of talents and skills each community can utilize to replace the systems that fail us.  The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution. The more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war. Organized groups like The American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense showed that we can build not only aggressive security forces for our communities, but they also built many programs that directly responded to the general wellbeing of their communities. This tradition began long before them and continues to this day. Look into the Zapatistas in Southern so-called Mexico for a current and effective example.

Ronnie James, The Police State and Why We Must Resist

Support for Ukraine

Here is some information related to support for Ukraine.

  • There is news from Quakers of Kyiv, Ukraine, including how to connect for meeting for worship.
  • Information from Mennonite Central Committee who have been in Ukraine since the 1920’s
  • Posters of support 7/8 grade students at Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica. sent to Ukraine Quakers.
  • There will be a ZOOM meeting for worship sharing related to Ukraine at 7:00 pm Central on Thursday, March 3. Everyone is welcome. Email me for the link. jakislin@outlook.com

Quakers Of Kyiv, Ukraine / Квейкери Києва

Welcome to the page of Ukrainian supporters of Quakerism.
Religious Society of Friends is a Protestant Christian church, known for its humanistic orientation, human rights and environmental guidelines, etc.
The Quaker prayer meeting is first and foremost a time of peace. This is an hour free from unnecessary words.
Quakers in the world have different currents. We, the Quakers of Kyiv, belong to the liberal trend without the well-known religious speechifying and lexicon.
Seekers of friendship, peace, truth, and equality are cordially invited to the meeting, following the Spirit’s guidance in affairs, ready for the hour of silent worship.
Details on messenger:
m.me/QuakersKyivUkraine
by e-mail: quakers@ukr.net

February 25, 2022

Despite everything, we prepare for silent prayer worship on Sunday at 10:30 Kyiv Time EET Eastern European Time UTC/GMT +2 hours
We did it and we’ll do it again!

zoom.us/j/718459680
Passcode: 002873

🇺🇦

If you are unable to enter this conference due to the limited number of participants, there will be an opportunity behind this link to enter:
https://zoom.us/j/95573361111
Passcode: d02uNj

February 24, 2022

Dear Friends!

We don’t know anything about how our traditional meeting of worship will go. It is not clear whether the Internet and electricity will be available, whether we will be in the capital or evacuated.

Today all Kyiv people were warned that the city will be bombed. And that all citizens should be ready to hear the sound of sirens go to the bomb shelter.

We don’t lose our temper. God and your prayers help us.

This is the kind of lovely support we get from Costa Rica. (see the following from Monteverde Friends School.)


When I contacted Monteverde Friends School for permission to share the signs from the students, Ellen told me, “The post with the 7/8 class posters for the people of Ukraine has already gone to over 11,000 people, with 112 shares on the post. “

The post with the 7/8 class posters for the people of Ukraine has already gone to over 11,000 people, with 112 shares on the post.

Ellen, Monteverde Friends School

Monteverde Friends School / Escuela de los Amigos de Monteverde

February 24, 2022

Update: Quakers in Kyiv have shared these posters on their page!

Our 7/8 grade social science class discussed the war in Ukraine today and made these posters for the Ukraine people. https://www.facebook.com/QuakersKyivUkraine/

#wearewithyouUkraine


Mennonite Central Committee

MCC has worked in Ukraine since our beginnings in 1920, opening soup kitchens to provide relief to thousands of starving families. Our current projects include relief, peace, health and education.

Since the beginning of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, MCC has worked with partners to assist internally displaced people (IDPs) and to build peace. The UNHCR reports there are some 1.8 million IDPs and conflict-affected people in Ukraine.

“We pray that hard hearts of conquest will be softened. We pray that the very best practices of peace will prevail among leaders. We pray gratefully that your spirit of healing and hope is present.” Rick Cober Bauman and Ann Graber Hershberger, executive directors of MCC, share a prayer for peace in Ukraine. We invited you to pray, give and advocate for peace for our global neighbours in Ukraine.

For more information, or to make a gift, please visit,
mcc.org/crisis-ukraine

Peace and the seeds of war

It is devastating to see the images and hear the stories of the Russian invasion into Ukraine. It is disheartening to feel helpless. Good to see the efforts many governments are attempting for nonviolent means to end the war.

I’ve been praying about the statements below from early Friends admonishing us to look at ourselves, to explore what in our lives might contain the seeds of war.

I don’t say this to call attention to myself because my carbon footprint is many times greater than that of those who live in less industrialized countries. But it was a crystal-clear spiritual message that led me to live without owning a car. This was in 1975. Think of what might have been if all Friends had done so then. Such an example by thousands of Friends would have influenced others to do the same, I believe.

  • Would have resulted in good mass transit systems.
  • Would have dramatically slowed fossil fuel emissions and at least slowed the accelerating environmental catastrophe.
  • Might have prevented multiple wars for oil.
  • Might have meant the Dakota Access and other pipelines would not have been built.
  • Might have meant our children would have a livable future.

I can’t believe the Spirit did not say this to everyone. Did Friends not hear the message? Or if they did hear it, they must have decided to ignore it. On further reflection, I don’t know what the Spirit is saying to anyone else. Again, I’m not saying I’m blameless.

This time of war is an opportunity to listen to the Spirit, to that still small voice. To support each other. During our meetings for worship. To hold worship sharing meetings. And act on that spiritual guidance. Either individually and/or together as a meeting. To make a “commitment to active peace making” as Sidney Bailey says below.