Most people of a certain age are familiar with the old saying that goes something like this: “You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.” That philosophy informs my approach in promoting peace while wearing my 51-year-old U.S. Army dress uniform and carrying a peace flag. I am unfailingly friendly, courteous and cheery when greeting people at various venues, most recently over the weekend when the Minnesota Twins were in town for a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians.[Read more…]
If you agree with our press statement below, contact your Senators and ask them to support S.1039 – Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use this link from AFSC.
This statement by Don Bryant and Francis Chiappa was sent to the media on June 20, 2019
Cleveland Peace Action calls on the Trump Administration to reverse military escalations in the Gulf of Oman and vicinity, to cease its bellicose and dangerous rhetoric, and to either return to the bargaining table with Iran or opt back in to the Iran-US nuclear agreement. While Secretary of State Pompeo was swift to blame Iran for the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last Thursday, saying “the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman…that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.” Yet there are at least three other proxy groups operating in the area that have such military capabilities: the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel. We should be wary of false intelligence as it has justified past wars.
Escalatory statements and actions from the Trump Administration raise the possibility of war, either by intention or miscalculation and accident. The Trump Administration is counting on the American public to be sufficiently outraged and to support a war. Europe and China are opposed to war in the region. Many, if not a majority in Congress, are wary of this march towards war and there are bills under consideration to prevent the Administration from initiating war. The American public might be less inclined towards war if they knew that the U.S. is taking sides in a regional conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. And that we have taken the side of Saudi Arabia, whose regime is clearly more brutal and repressive than Iran’s.
The Trump Administration has been far too cozy with the Saudis, doing its bidding in the region. This has included withdrawing from the nuclear agreement, issuing economic sanctions on Iran, and now building up military forces in Iran’s backyard. These actions have only emboldened hard-liners in Iran, in mirror-image of U.S. policy, making war a real possibility.
It’s time to de-escalate tensions and focus instead on restraint and diplomatic solutions.
by Mark Weber
Steve Cagan’s very informative talk last night got me to thinking. He mentioned that the United States was less of a presence in Colombia now than in years past. In the early 2000’s there was in South America what journalists dubbed the “pink tide.” In countries like Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela socialist or left populists came to power. Most famous was the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela led by Hugo Chavez. The United States feared that Colombia might be “lost” as well. Insurgent forces in Colombia controlled almost half of the country. I think these were mainly the FARC and the ELN, the two largest groups of insurgents at that time. The United States was determined to keep Colombia as an ally. U.S. representatives worked with then President Uribe (elected in 2002). The result was an agreement called Plan Colombia coupled with counterinsurgency training, which resulted in a spike in U.S. assistance making Colombia the highest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel. With an increase in military aid and funds for aerial spraying of some coca growers in the remote parts of the country, Colombia moved much closer to the top of the U.S. strategic priority list. The aerial spraying program was and continues to be a failure. However, Plan Colombia called for and Uribe implemented a kind of “militarization” of the entire country. This partly resulted in turning the tide in the ongoing civil war with the insurgents led by the FARC. In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and then in 2016, the Colombian Government under the successor to Uribe, President Santos, signed a “peace agreement” with the FARC. In Washington, Colombia was seen as being on the road to “normalization.” In addition the “pink tide” has now receded with right-wing victories in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and in Colombia as Uribe’s puppet, Ivan Duque, succeeded Santos after narrowly beating a leftist candidate who was once a member of the insurgent group M-19. In addition, the ongoing economic and political crisis in Venezuela has taken Colombia out of the political spotlight. Of course, as Steve’s presentation powerfully asserted: Colombia remains an unhappy land with a decline in insurgent fighting but with a rise in targeted killings and other forms of localized violence against citizens whose only agenda is a better life.
By Mark Weber
Colombia, a South American nation of about 43 million people is seldom in the news. It is a beautiful country endowed with a biodiversity exceeded only by that of Brazil. However, it is a nation with the worst human rights record in the world. More targeted killings occur in Colombia than the rest of the world combined. Together, an oligarchy of the military, the large landowners, the church, narco-traffickers, and conservative business elite run the country through a combination of selective enforcement of the law and outright intimidation up to and including murder. Colombia is a worn-torn nation that has just emerged from a 55-year-old civil war with several insurgent groups…Most notably the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Front (ELN).
In 2016, then President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia signed a “peace agreement” with the FARC. Now almost three years since the signing of the treaty, violence has increased in the rural areas of Colombia due to a demand for a return to targeted killings by the new right-wing president, Ivan Duque. Since the treaty, more than 150 former insurgents, who laid down their arms, have been assassinated. On another front, even though the U.S. and Colombia signed a “labor plan of action” to help protect workers in Colombia, the rate of murder of trade unionists continues and has actually gotten worse. Since 2016, 180 trade union workers or organizers have been murdered or have disappeared. Another oppressed sector of the Colombian economy is the campesino or small farmer. Activists who champion the rights of small producers have received death threats and close to one hundred have been killed or are listed as “missing.”
From May 25-June 3, I participated in a Witness For Peace/Solidarity Collective delegation to Colombia. We spent most of our time in the Department of Cauca in Southwest Colombia not far from the border with Ecuador. Using the city of Popoyan as a base, we met with victims of state violence…. campesinos, trade unionists and Afro-Colombians. We journeyed into the mountains to make contact with former FARC insurgents who have given up their guns but who are under regular attack by right-wing para-military groups (death squads) who carry out targeted killings on behalf of the oligarchy. We also visited campesinos who grow Coca and Cannabis because they cannot make a living growing “normal” crops such as corn, sugar cane, or yucca. Aerial spraying of their fields by the Colombian government (but funded by the United States) has destroyed their legal crops, killed farm animals, and sickened children Since the fields of the large narco-traffickers are not sprayed because of their political influence within the oligarchy, the so-called war on drugs amounts to a war on poor people.
This was my sixth trip to Colombia and my fifth to the Department of Cauca in southwest Colombia. In all sectors of the population (except the elite) the level of violence has increase even though the government is supposedly “at peace” with the FARC insurgents.
I would argue that all U.S. aid to Colombia should be suspended until the Colombian government honors both the terms and conditions of the Labor Plan of Action (2012), to protect workers and the terms of the 2016 peace treaty with the FARC so that peace and stability can be restored to a nation that has been at war since the early 1960’s.
Pessimism and hope, three years after the peace accords
Tuesday, June 11th⋅7:00 – 8:30pm
Market Garden Brewery, 1947 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH
Peace accords between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas in 2016 raised hopes. Steve Cagan will report on his most recent visit with the people of El Chocó, along with his photographs. The renewal of armed conflict in the countryside, repression of community leaders, environmental destruction, and regressive economic policies are worrisome, but there are also glimmers of hope.
Steve is a Cleveland-based long-term activist and activist-photographer. He’s made 18 visits to Colombia and the El Chocó area since 2003, working closely with the activist Catholic Diocese of Quibdó, federations of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, and activist NGOs. His photography and writing about the area have been exhibited and published on four continents, though his greatest satisfaction is seeing his photography used as an instrument of struggle by his friends in Colombia.
Free and open to the public. [email protected] is a monthly meeting featuring interesting conversation, camaraderie, food and drink.