Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

On This Day in Peace History: the Greenham Common Women and other inspiring people power episodes

A very Happy New Year to you and yours. May 2008 be a good one for you personally and a more peaceful one for the world. We remember that these are sometimes quite politically grim times for a good slice of humanity.

Yet even in the axial Israel-Palestine conflict, most obviously a key focus here, there have been promising glimmers of action and initiatives throughout 2007. Mazin Qumsiyeh has assiduously listed many of them in his excellent mailing list newsletter (see below, after the fold, for a summary).*

More locally in Australia, John Howard was ousted both from government and from his own seat, and David Hicks has finally been released from the Guantanamo Bay gulag, and has just finished serving the remainder of his sentence in his home town. With some of the mainstream media here reporting on this atrociously, it bears remembering that there is absolutely no evidence that David Hicks actually committed any crime whatsoever. He admitted to the charge of “supporting terrorism” as the linchpin of a plea bargain, after years of effort to secure his release. Let’s hope the man is let be to recover something of his life, and all best wishes to him and his courageous father, Terry.

Some reminders of the unstoppable force of the human spirit might be a fitting last post for 2007. This Week in Peace History, published by Carl Bunin and edited by Al Frank, is an interesting and valuable compendium to which you can sign up to receive by email. It is designed to remind us that our agency counts, and to appreciate that we are indeed “part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice.”

On this Day in Peace History – 31st December and 1st January (selection–click on graphic below to visit site)

December 31, 1915

The U.S. branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) was founded.

FOR’s Mission Statement:
“The Fellowship of Reconciliation seeks to replace violence, war, racism and economic injustice with nonviolence, peace and justice.

We are an interfaith organization committed to active nonviolence as a transforming way of life
and as a means of radical change. We educate, train, build coalitions, and engage in nonviolent and
compassionate actions locally, nationally, and globally.”

December 31, 1970

The U.S. Congress repealed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which in 1964 authorized an increase in U.S. military involvement in Vietnam as a response to a reported attack on U.S. naval forces patrolling close to the North Vietnamese border. The reports of the attacks were later revealed to be fictitious.

read what really happened

January 1, 1983

44 women scaled a 12-foot fence at dawn, breaking into a cruise missile base at Greenham Common in Britain and danced on missile silos.

The lyrics to their song: listen

January 1, 1831

William Lloyd Garrison first published The Liberator (four hundred copies printed in the middle of the night using borrowed type), which became the leading abolitionist paper in the United States. He labeled slave-holding a crime and called for immediate abolition.

From the first issue: “I will be harsh as truth, and uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation.”

“Assenting to the ‘self-evident truth’ maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights—among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population.”

January 1, 1987

Ten anti-nuclear activists were arrested for trespassing at the Nevada Test Site, the culmination of a 54-day encampment at the main Test Site gate. The camp established momentum for what became a movement ultimately involving over 10,000 arrests in numerous Test Site protests over the following years in the campaign to achieve a freeze of all nuclear weapons testing. The Nevada site includes more than 14,000 sq. km. (nearly 6000 sq. miles, about the size of Connecticut) of uninhabited land where atmospheric, and later underground, testing had been conducted since the 1950.

About the the Nevada Test Site

January 1, 1989

Kees Koning, a former army chaplain and priest, and Co van Melle, a medical doctor working with homeless people and illegal refugees, entered the Woensdrecht airbase (a second time), and began the “conversion” of NF-5B fighter airplanes by beating them with sledgehammers into ploughshares. The Dutch planned to sell the NF-5B to Turkey, for use against the Kurdish nationalists as part of a NATO-aid program which involved shipping 60 fighter planes to Turkey. Koning and van Melle were charged with trespass, sabotage and $350,000 damage; they were convicted, and both sentenced to a few months in jail.

read more

Kees Koning

January 1, 1991

Early in the morning Moana Cole, a Catholic Worker from New Zealand, Ciaron O’Reilly, a Catholic Worker from Australia, and Susan Frankel and Bill Streit, members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community in Washington, D.C., calling themselves the Anzus (Australia, New Zealand and U.S.) Peace Force Plowshares, entered the Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York.

After cutting through several fences, Frankel and Streit entered a deadly force area, and hammered and poured blood on a KC-135 (a refueling plane for B-52s), and then hammered and poured blood on the engine of a nearby cruise missile-armed B-52 bomber. They presented their action statement to base security who encircled them moments later. January 1, 1994. Pictured: Moana Cole

January 1 1994

On the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect, more than 2,000 Mayans in Mexico’s Chiapas state marched into the state capital, San Cristóbal de las Casas, and five neighboring towns, and seized control. Calling themselves Zapatistas, or the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a “declaration of war” was issued. Employees at the Mexican stock exchange were evacuated by riot police. 25,000 Mexican soldiers arrived in Chiapas equipped with automatic weapons, tanks, helicopters and airplanes. 145 deaths were reported, mostly civilians. Massive arrests and subsequent torture of prisoners by the government took place.

More on the Chiapas conflict
*Among them: the work of Jimmy Carter and Walt and Mearsheimer respectively brought the conflict and the influence of the Israel Lobby into the mainstream; several good books were published that may influence the policy discourse (such as those by Joel Kovel, Ilan Pappe); a declaration for one state was adopted; the use of “apartheid” to describe Israel became common usage in 2007, including by Israelis (Shulamit Aloni, Uri Avnery); demonstrations were held outside the Leviev Jewelry Shop in New York; worldwide churches issued a June 2007 declaration for peace with justice; in historic rallies, thousands came together in several cities around the world for Palestine in June; the number of Christian groups that are challenging Zionist myths continue to grow; former scions of zion renounce the racist likud-zionist project (Avraham Burg, Dana Olmert); the UK National Union of Journalists and other unions voted to support the boycott of apartheid Israel; a number of church groups, solidarity, and Palestinian-led groups took practical initiatives to support the Palestinian Civil Society Call to Action, which includes Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS); thousands of people from around the world visited Palestine with actions, witness, and direct support to nonviolent resistance, and much more.

9 comments on “On This Day in Peace History: the Greenham Common Women and other inspiring people power episodes

  1. Kilroy
    1 January, 2008

    This is quite a rubric for 2008, Ann. May the industries of darkness and despair find themselves alone in an empty market. May the agents of good and right enjoy fellowship and good cheer and know strength in one another.

    Peace to you and to my fellow readers at Peoples Geography. It’s been an honor to know you in 2007.

  2. fencer
    1 January, 2008

    Happy New Year to you, Ann — thanks for all the stimulating posts…


  3. homeyra
    1 January, 2008

    Happy New Year PPGG :) and thanks for being here.

  4. Ann El Khoury
    1 January, 2008

    Peace to you Kilroy, the honour is mine in knowing you, dear friend.

    Thank you and very warm wishes for a Happy New Year, dear Fencer. I’ve enjoyed reading Quirk very much.

    Happy New Year, dear Homie, may 2008 be a good one for you.

  5. Ben Heine
    5 January, 2008

    Dearest Ann, best wishes to you too.
    Thanks for all the work you’ve done in 2007 to inform us on important issues. I hope it continues in 2008.
    And success with your thesis !

  6. michael greenwell
    7 January, 2008

    happy new year to yourself.

    2007 is also one of the warmest years on record

    trouble-a-brewing, as if we didnt already know.

  7. Bluebear2
    14 January, 2008

    I just heard of your storm – hope all is well on your walkabout and home as well.

    We’re still cleaning up after our storm.

  8. Kilroy
    15 January, 2008

    Crickey! Had no idea you were serious about a walk about in 2008. I never missed you till you were gone, but now I’m sure we’re all in withdrawal. Sure. I had regular DTs before, but now they’re twice as bad and visit three or four times a day. Don’t worry about us, Luuv. We’ll be fine. Don’t feel guilty. Interferes with the work! :P

    In the meantime – for my fellow Ann addicts – this UAE editorial found by The Fanonite is absolutely priceless. It needs to be dispersed as widely as possible.

    Fanonite writes:

    In the past I would have thought this conspicuous note of dissent was merely a means of mollifying the general public, but in this case this would seem highly unlikely as it would only make the establishment appear more distant. I think this signals a clear break, and that is a welcome development.


    An open letter to George W. Bush. – UAE press editorial

    Jan 11, 2008 – 12:24 –

    Abu Dhabi, Jan 11th, 2008 (WAM): In an unusual style, the Dubai-based Gulf News published today a front page editorial addressing the American President George W. Bush. The editorial, in the form of an open ‘Letter to George W. Bush’ read: ‘Dear Mr. President, On the occasion of your first official trip to this vital region, it is only appropriate to raise a few points which might also be raised by the leaders you meet. Unfortunately, you landed here with prejudice and pre-formed opinions. By describing Israel, moments after you arrived, as the ‘land of freedom’ and ‘justice’, you have shown total ignorance of the political situation in the Middle East and the issue you claim to want to solve in the remaining 12 months of your presidency. Israel, Mr. President, continues to defy every UN resolution, exercise unprecedented oppression on the occupied Palestinian people and persecute its Muslim and Christian population.

    ‘We realise that containing Iran, selling more weapons and securing cheap oil supplies are the main issues on your mind as you tour the region. But you need to look beyond the neocon rhetoric and speak directly to the people who have been unjustly thrown out of their land, victimised for decades by your ‘strong ally’ Israel.

    ‘As for other matters, such as the promise of democracy and human rights, which you are expected to raise in your official talks in the region, we really don’t take them seriously. Your dreadful record on both gives you no moral right to lecture others’.

    Gulf News continued its open letter in its usual editorial page: ‘Lest you forget. Invasion of Iraq. Thousands of dead. Looting the National Museum. Disbanding the Iraqi army. Donald Rumsfeld. Shock and Awe. Jay Garner. Paul Bremer. Inciting sectarianism. Abu Ghraib. Thousands of detainees without charges. Torture. Oil. Ghost WMDs. The Niger connection. Halliburton. Blackwater. Deadly security contractors. Mercenaries. Fallujah. Haditha massacre. Blind support of Israel. Instigating the suffering of Gaza. Ignoring the expansion of illegal colonies. Defying United Nations resolutions. Securing “a Jewish State”. Allowing Israelis to extend the destruction of Lebanon in the 2oo6 war. Providing Israel with new Bunker Buster bombs to attack Lebanese towns. The War on Terror. “The Crusade”. Clash of civilisations. Where is Osama Bin Laden? Afghanistan. Bagram massacre. Bombing media offices. Guantanamo Bay. Kangaroo courts. Indefinite detention. Presidential orders to ignore Geneva Conventions. “Unlawful enemy combatants”. Illegal National Security Agency wiretapping. Fingerprinting visitors. Black prisons. Kidnapping foreign citizens on foreign lands. Khalid Al Masri. Abu Omar. Maher Arar. Central Intelligence Agency. “Aggressive interrogation techniques”. Destroying the torture tapes. Iran tension. Isolating Syria. Embracing Syrian opposition Iraq style. The Chavez coup. Denial of global warming. Rejecting Kyoto Protocol. Marginalisation of the United Nations. John Bolton. Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank. Carl Rove. Alberto Gonzales. Firing attorneys. Nepotism. False democracy promises. Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney’.

    ‘Mr President; The list goes on. You might not be able to recall some of it. But the people around you, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice especially, would. And they realise that on the subject of human rights, your administration has had the worst record of all, surpassing most Third World countries. The tension and the misery in parts of this region can very well testify to this.

    ‘Mr President; In a famous speech in 2003 you announced an “historic” shift in US foreign policy. You pledged to support democracy and liberty while declaring “victory” in Iraq. More than four years later, Iraq is in chaos. It has virtually disintegrated and “the surge” did little to stop the killing or ease the sectarian tension. At the same time, you gave up on your freedom-for-all prophecy. We are all back to the old ways of doing business – arms and oil. The agenda of your current tour is evident.

    ‘Mr President; This is your first official trip to a land you long claimed has a very special place in your heart. The land of the Prophets. However, you started out wrong. By maintaining your support of an Israeli “Jewish State”, you are flouting your own ideals upon which your great country was founded more than two centuries ago. So much for the promise of democracy. What you advocate in fact is the creation of states on religious and racial lines, thereby justifying the atrocious actions of terrorists who hate and seek to eliminate the followers of other religions: The same terrorists you like to blame for every ill on earth and every failure of yours.

    ‘Mr President; It has been reported that you are here to “lecture” us on democracy and human rights. But with a record like yours, you will not be very convincing. The people you are addressing have greater respect for human rights and dignity.

    ‘You also said that your current tour aims to realise the long neglected peace in the Middle East. Regional peace, Mr President, will not be achieved by escalating tension and threatening to change regimes. And most importantly, it will not be achieved by supporting Israel, which continues to defy international law, occupy Arab lands, oppress the Palestinians and rebuff peace initiatives.

    ‘Mr President; We hope you have enjoyed the trip so far. The scenery is great. The food is exotic. As for the more “serious” things, it is unlikely you will make any difference’.


  9. Ann El Khoury
    15 January, 2008

    Thanks for your kind words, loov. I’m cocooned in my study today writing longhand. I only turn on the computer for final edits. Its nice doing things the old way. I’ve not quite got a quill but it almost feels that way :)

    Great find from Ed, that article, and a rare glimmer of light. Thanks for sharing it


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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"