Dear Brothers and Sisters in Veterans For Peace,
It has been a while since I have written, and a lot has happened! We have enacted the voting procedures by-laws amendment so that for the first time all of our eligible members were able to vote on by-laws amendments, resolutions and board candidates. The national office mailed out over 2453 ballots, and while only 532 total ballots were returned, that is a much higher number participating than if only the convention attendees had been voting. I believe it will be much higher next year, but in any case, all eligible members had the opportunity to vote, and that is the critical point.
I am writing this memo on a train riding from NYC to Chicago. I spent the weekend in a strategy planning session of the New Priorities Network (www.newprioritiesnetwork.org). The NPN was created two years ago, and is a network of mostly anti-war organizations that strive to find ways to fund human needs programs by taking money out of the Pentagon budget. At this strategy session, NPN worked in collaboration with some groups that are not necessarily anti-war groups, but see the need to reduce the Pentagon budget in order to fund their priorities, in particular: JOBS. At this strategy session were representatives from Jobs With Justice, UE (electrical workers union), Nuns on the Bus, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), New Priorities Project, and many more. Please watch your in-box for upcoming e-blasts as well as future messages, about ways VFP can work with these other groups on the issue of the federal budget.
As I mentioned, I am en route to Chicago, where I will be delivering a presentation about drones and my experience as a member of the Code Pink delegation to Pakistan. When I get home, I will schedule a time that I can give this same presentation via webinar to all of you. It was a remarkable trip, and it had a profound effect on me. I am so pleased that many of our members have been working on this issue for quite some time; holding protests at Hancock, Beale, and Whiteman Air Bases, General Atomics and Raytheon offices and the CIA, among many other actions. VFP has a working group on drones, and I have been talking to many other organizations that are also dedicated to this issue. We are forming an umbrella group called Drones Watch (www.droneswatch.org) which will be a central location for all kinds of information about drones, drone protests, ways to support drone activists, and will be a vehicle for strategizing about the best ways we can all work together to effectively oppose the illegal and immoral use of combat drones. Polls show that 87% of the American people (and I think Congress is even higher) support the use of drones, so we definitely have our work cut out for us.
I will leave Chicago on Friday and then head down to Fort Benning to participate in the School of the Americas Watch protests for my first time. I have long been an admirer of Father Roy and the work he has done—I look forward to seeing him and so many of my other VFP brothers and sisters who I know make the vigil every year.
My last “Keeping in Touch” memo was written just before the dinner with Iranian President Ahmahdinejad. I felt privileged to be one of a select group of speakers. My remarks were published on the VFP website and you can go into the archives if you missed them, but one thing that I spoke about in the pre-meeting at the Iranian mission, in my remarks at the dinner, and again directly with the President, was that VFP is interested in sending a delegation to visit Iran. The purpose of this delegation would be to find out first hand how the economic sanctions are affecting the people of Iran with the idea of perhaps sending a larger delegation with needed supplies some time in the future; to build people-to-people relationships (particularly with veterans); and to demonstrate that VFP is opposed to military action on the part of Israel and/or the U.S. The procedures to travel to Iran are fairly tricky and though we were hoping for a delegation to travel in mid-December, that is not going to happen, and it looks like mid-January may be the earliest we can make this work. The leader of the Iran Working Group, Faraz Azad is helping to make the necessary in-country connections and arrange the itinerary.
If you are interested in getting more involved in a specific issue, I encourage you to join one of our many Working Groups. The Drones WG and the Iran WG are particularly active right now and are doing some great work. You can sign up to join a WG via the VFP website under “Take Action.”
If you are not on my “From the Prez” mailing list and would like to be, just drop me a line at email@example.com, and it will be done. Those on the “From the Prez” list will receive communications (like the “Keeping in Touch” memos) directly from me right to your inbox. I generally don’t send out more than 2 messages per month, so you won’t be overwhelmed!
In peace and solidarity,
President, Veterans For Peace