For the first time, PeaceWorks-KC this year asked several groups to cosponsor its Memorial Day (May 31) observance and share reflections—the Green Party, Veterans for Peace, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Frank Lawrence, of the Green Party, branded weapons of mass destruction as weapons of mass intimidation. He said a 2019 poll indicated two-thirds of Americans are opposed to atomic weapons. Lawrence asked the rally-goers to raise their hands if they didn’t want nuclear weapons. Hands shot up. Next: Raise your hand if you want peace treaties with Russia and China. Hands up! Next: Raise your hand if you want treaties with other countries to talk about getting rid of the bombs. Hands up again, with shouts, “We want peace treaties!”
“It turns out our planet has a very delicate disposition,” said Lawrence. “If you give it too much carbon dioxide, it heats up like Death Valley on a bad summer’s day.” If nuclear weapons were used, he said, a catastrophe would occur like the 1256 volcanic eruptions that dimmed the sun, the moon, and the stars and introduced a mini Ice Age. He lamented, “In over 400 years in our country’s history, we have had only 16 years when we were not fighting with someone. We are the gods of war.”
Two representatives of Veterans for Peace spoke at the rally. “War is a waste of money,” said Theodore John. “I’ve been to war. I’ve seen the destruction of war first-hand. To engage in such activity is madness.” Later, he explained he was in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. “It’s just mind-boggling to think that we should spend money on nuclear weapons,” he said. “I’ve seen the destruction of conventional war. I can’t imagine a nuclear war.”
Anna Bedinger, an associate member of Veterans for Peace (she is not a vet but her family members are), said, “Our message for Memorial Day is to remember all who have died in war, and to understand that no one wins. We recognize that those who fight the wars, and work to manufacture weapons, gain the least, while those who orchestrate global conflict gain the most from continuous war. Many profit from war; more still are misled by the profiteers, through misinformation and false morality. That is why we must continually question war, seeking to work toward peace, for ourselves and for the world.”
Bedinger continued, “Atomic scientists say a child born today has a 50/50 chance of experiencing nuclear war. Over the next seven years, the US government will continue to modernize its nuclear arsenal, spending over $494 billion.” She noted the US leads the way in budgeting to improve nukes, with $35 billion per year, triple the amount of China’s budget. She concluded, “Today, let us remember all those who have fallen to toxic exposure, soldier and citizen alike. Thank you all for gathering in their memory.”
Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, president of the local Physicians for Social Responsibility, began her remarks by commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre. “We’re commemorating all lives lost in war and conflict,” she said. Physicians for Social Responsibility tries to sustain the health of communities and the planet through focusing on (1) militarism, particularly prevention of nuclear war; (2) economic and social justice; and (3) maintaining our environment and preventing environmental crises.
“We need to look at the proposed budget for the nuclear weapon industry,” Huet-Vaughn pointed out. “Over the next 10 years, 2021-2030, we have a proposed budget for nuclear forces of about $630 billion.” That’s about $140 billion more than the Congressional Budget Office estimate for those years in 2019, she noted, adding, “We’re looking at forces outlawed by international law. When we spend the money on these internationally illegal weapons, we’re depleting funds for health care and environmental protection—it’s not just about the money we spend on these weapons but about the money taken away from other areas that would sustain life on this planet.”
Further, in the last 100 years, we’ve gone from less than a 50 percent casualty rate in the civilian population from war to a 90 percent casualty rate, said Huet-Vaughn. “The women and children become the collateral damage of our wars. We cannot be committed to militarism.”