Report from the President

PAUL OLSON NFP PRESIDENT

What NFP Got Done in 2009

This has been a pretty good year for NFP. Obviously the national climate has been a little more favorable to peacemakers since the last election, and the Nebraska political climate may be a bit more so too. People are even becoming complacent again. If popularity was determined solely by the number of bumper stickers seen in Lincoln, you’d think that NFP was the most popular organization in the state. Unfortunately that’s not the case. We still have an uphill battle to persuade Nebraskans of the folly of our common resort to violence and war, and we are continuing to have a tough go of it in the area of finances — to do what we need to do and pay our excellent staff a living wage.

The mission of Nebraskans for Peace is to work at the reduction of violence as a tool for coercion from the local level to the international. Our job is to push for justice for people who, without justice, have nothing to lose if they resort to violence.

We have five priorities:

  1. Reducing local violence in homes, schools and cities;
  2. Opposing economic, racial and gender-based injustice in Nebraska and nationally;
  3. Opposing our current overseas wars;
  4. Preventing the militarization of space and the use of space to control other nations;
  5. Stopping military pollution in the state and international conflicts over foreign oil by promoting local renewable energy development.

Priority 1: Local Violence: We worked on enforcement of anti-bullying policies in local schools, on equivalent anti-bullying protection for gay and lesbian children, and on assisting mentoring programs to counter tendencies toward bullying. We worked with the attorney general to pass the dating violence sections of LB63, and we are now assisting the Nebraska Department of Education in implementing that bill. We contributed some funds to a Standing Rock Indian reservation domestic violence center.

Priority 2: Economic and Social Injustice: The most notable achievement was the completion of Mark Vasina’s documentary on Whiteclay, which has galvanized public sentiment across the state and prompted the Legislature, Attorney General and Liquor Commission to act. We also helped to mitigate some of the worst proposals in the Unicameral’s immigration legislation, and we endorsed a series of black-white dialogues on racial injustice in North Omaha.

Priority 3: Opposition to Our Overseas Wars: It is difficult to say anything original about this priority as all peace movements have worked against the War in Iraq, opposed a new Iran war, sought to de-escalate the War in Afghanistan and encouraged negotiations between Israel, Palestine and the Arab world. We cannot claim credit for Obama’s move to pull back in Iraq — though the national peace movement certainly contributed to the possibility. We continue to work on the situation with Iran by visiting our representatives. And, as we have done since 2002, we continue to argue for a UN nation-building and peacekeeping initiative in Afghanistan and Pakistan, instead of the U.S. and NATO build-up there that’s certain to lead to a Vietnam-like quagmire. We have promoted a number of dialogues about Israel-Palestine, while at the same time arguing that American military aid to Israel and Islamic military aid to the Palestinians should be suspended, while the two sides continue to kill each other and refuse to talk. Some of our members have also worked hard to close down the “School of the Americas,” which has been associated with gross human rights violations by right-wing Latin American governments.

Priority 4: StratCom, Space and Nuclear Weapons: We continue to push for U.S. support for a new space treaty to “Prevent an Arms Race in Outer Space” (PAROS) and to collaborate with our Czech and South Korean allies on opposing StratCom’s war-making operations in their countries. We count Obama’s reconsideration of the proposed Missile Defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic a victory for grassroots democratic action, as do we also his stated commitment to push for ending, once and for all, StratCom’s nuclear threat. State Coordinator Tim Rinne traveled to South Korea in promotion of this work and, along with State Board member John Krejci and NFP members Anita Fussell and Don Tilley, was instrumental in getting the United Nations Association-USA to adopt a resolution in support PAROS in the Congress and UN. This past August, a few of our chapters sponsored events to remind us that Hiroshima/Nagasaki-style nuclear destruction must not be allowed to happen again, and we continue to work with the city of Hiroshima in sponsoring these events.

Priority 5: The Environment and the Military: All three of Nebraska’s Superfund cleanup sites — Mead, Grand Island and Hastings — are World War II-era armaments plants that contain carcinogenic substances endangering our air, land and water. Though our senators, our representatives and the executive branch have not responded to our petitions to accelerate these cleanups, we intend to persevere because the threat will not abate on its own. On the other hand, with the help of State Senator Ken Haar, we are working to legislatively support development of Nebraska’s vast wind and solar energy potential to lessen our dependence on foreign oil — and the military conflicts this dependency necessarily entails.

In the past year, we haven’t produced ‘utopia’ or even a nonviolent and just society, but we have worked at the creation of such a society. We have begun working with churches and other groups to forward these goals. Although we now have eleven chapters, four college chapters and 1750 members, we need to increase these numbers and boost our funding, if we are to ever create the peaceful and just world we hope for.

What NFP Hopes to Do in 2010

Each fall, the NFP State Board conducts an priorities planning process in which we review what we did the previous year and specify what we hope to do in the year to come. Much of our 2010 plan is a direct continuation of what we’ve been doing.

Priority One: Local Violence: In the area of anti-violence work, we will continue to ask what our school districts are doing about bullying and dating violence and evaluate how successful they’re being in reducing school violence. We will also work on the problem of violence against women — both here at home and in the war zone. Rape has always been a feature of war, but it is now a genocidal tool in many arenas. New laws and international mandates are needed to combat this crime.

Priority Two: Anti-War and International Law: We will push for the end to the U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan and for the substitution of a UN peacekeeping and nation-building mission. We will counter propaganda for military intervention with arguments for increasing the U.S.’s share of economic aid to these war-torn regions — to be administered by the people living there. We will argue for reduced military aid to Israel and for a stepped-up movement toward a solution to the issue of Palestinian statelessness.

Priority Three: StratCom: In cooperation with our national and international allies, we will continue to press for the U.S. to enter into meaningful negotiations for a treaty Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), and to back all diplomatic efforts to reduce and abolish all nuclear weapons stockpiles, as mandated in the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. International accords are our best hope for reining in StratCom’s new authority to militarily dominate space and offensively wage the ‘War on Terror’ with conventional and nuclear weapons.

Priority Four: Racial and Economic Justice: We will continue to organize and work on the Whiteclay issue until the situation is remedied. On the immigration front, we will seek to tamp down the overt racism in the present climate, to encourage state government to create accurate measurements of who is a legal resident, and to conduct a legislative study examining the impact of INS raids on immigrant families when a parent is deported. With the Appleseed Center and others, we will organize campaigns promoting interracial and gender equality on our college campuses, and strive for increased employment and development opportunities in North Omaha, and greater sensitivity and accountability by law enforcement.

Project Five: The Military and the Environment: To try to lessen the dangers climate change poses to our environment, we will encourage Nebraska’s federal delegation to support strong legislation restricting greenhouse gas emissions. Given the growing nature of this threat, a weak federal bill or international accord will not give the Earth’s species a chance to adapt. We will conduct this lobbying campaign through op-eds, letter-writing, congressional visits and general hell-raising, including protests here in our own backyard against the burning of coal—the single worst source of greenhouse gases and the primary fuel of Nebraska’s public power districts. Finally, we will support the legislative agendas of Nebraska state senators who are trying to end our addiction to coal and promote the solar and wind power resources readily available in this state.

We can’t promise that we will get all of this done, but the 1750 of us can surely try.

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