Veterans for Peace (http://www.veteransforpeace.org), an anti-war group composed of veterans of conflicts from the Spanish Civil War to the Gulf War, has joined the growing roster of organizations formally condemning US drug policy. Meeting at their national convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the weekend of August 24-25, the veterans endorsed a resolution advocated by New Mexico member Joe Minella.
"This had its origins when at the beginning of the drug controversy generated by Gov. Johnson here in New Mexico, the legislature passed a 'drugs are bad' resolution -- pretty much the same old bullshit," Minella told DRCNet. "I just went back and rewrote all their 'whereas's and 'resolved's and created a counter-resolution opposing the drug war," the six-year Air Force veteran explained. He also took pains to give credit to the November Coalition's Nora Callahan, who helped with the draft.
The resolution passed overwhelmingly despite the opposition of the group's Board of Directors, Minella said. "They said it wasn't our area of concern, but after the vote, even a couple of the board members came up to me and told me I was right," he added. "The board's reluctance to deal with this issue is something we run up against everywhere," he said, "but these institutions have to face the issue."
The group, which claims a membership of roughly 3,000 and holds official non-governmental organization observer status at the United Nations, has been involved in anti-war efforts since its inception in 1984. "We know the consequences of American foreign policy because once, at a time in our lives, so many of us carried it out," says the group's web site. "We find it sad that war seems so delightful, so often, to those that have no knowledge of it. We will proudly, and patriotically, continue to denounce war despite whatever misguided sense of euphoria supports it."
VFP members have taken medical aid to war-torn Central American nations, evacuated children from Bosnian hospitals, and sat down with US high school students across the country "so that they may make choices for themselves based on reality, and not myth."
While VFP is "firmly committed to the abolition of war," as its web site states, the resolution passed in Albuquerque marks the group's first formal denunciation of the drug war.
Calling the war on drugs "primarily militaristic, punitive, and brutal," the resolution said the drug war causes "an unacceptable level of collateral damage" through the dissolution of families, the neglect of children, joblessness, crimes of violence, "historic levels" of official corruption, and the encouragement of vicious criminal organizations.
Citing a litany of abuses, including the erosion of constitutional freedoms, the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of nonviolent Americans, the war-making imposed on Colombia and other countries, the disparate impact on racial and ethnic minorities, and the wasting of government funds that could have gone to social services, the resolution condemned "the arrogant and callous disregard for life and family and children, and the indefensible squandering of enormous resources of the people of the United States, all of which permeates these policies and their application."
As if that were not clear enough, VFP also resolved "that we hereby strongly oppose the efforts by the government of the United States to continue these destructive and cruel policies."
In other business at its convention, VFP also tackled issues ranging from US policy in Colombia, Israel, and Iraq to Native American disenfranchisement and weapons in space, and from US war crimes in the Korean War to the impact of corporate-led globalization on world peace.
Minella told DRCNet the VFP resolution is an organizing tool. "We have already taken it to other groups," he said. "The local League of Women Voters, for example, has a drug study going on here. When we took it to them the first time, before the VFP convention, they said, 'oh, no, this is too controversial,' and buried it. But now we can go back to them and tell them the resolution has some legitimacy, it was passed by the VFP."
The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation's largest veterans groups, have yet to address US drug policy, but according to Minella, their relationship with the US government makes a drug policy approach problematic. "Those groups act as go-betweens between vets and the Veterans Administration," he explained, "and they get federal funding for that, which makes approaching them tricky."
Instead, said Minella, he would be concentrating on local and state level organizations for now. "We're aiming at the county Green Party, then maybe the state party," he said.
Minella told DRCNet he retired early because he wanted to work on the drug issue and on his house. "I haven't done a damn thing on my house so far," he said. But he has organized a vigil during Monday's debate between Gov. Johnson and new DEA head Asa Hutchinson. "The ACLU will be there, the November Coalition, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Friends of Justice from Tulia will be there," he said. "Come on down."