Women Against Military Madness

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Women Against Military Madness is a Minnesota based "peace" organization.

Mission

A non-violent, feminist organization that works in solidarity with others to create a system of social equality, self-determination and justice through education, action and the empowerment of women. WAMM's purpose is to dismantle systems of militarism, economic exploitation and global oppression.[1]

History

Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) is still saying “No to war” as the group celebrates 40 years of organizing and fighting back.

On January 16, 2022, people gathered on the spot where WAMM held its first demonstration in 1982. They stuck signs in the snowbanks and fences, and their chants were heard for blocks around, “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!” “Coups and sanctions cost lives, we don’t believe the media lies!”

Back in January 1982, more than 100 women attended the WAMM’s founding conference where they decided, “No meeting without action!” Kristin Dooley, WAMM’s director, described the first-ever march, “They braved the ungodly cold weather to walk along University Avenue near the University of Minnesota.” A New York Times reporter happened to drive by, took pictures and published the story. Soon newspapers across the country read about the group of women holding signs from Moms Against Bombs and Women Against Military Madness.

Dooley continued, “WAMM helps educate and helps us see the world and see the kind of things the U.S. government tries to pull here at home and abroad.”

People walking by the protest got to read all the signs WAMM has made over the years, “No tax money for war,” “Fund human needs not war,” “Abolish nuclear weapons,” “Stop U.S. bombing of Syria,” “Hands off Cuba,” “Hands off Ukraine,” and “Let Palestine live! End U.S. aid to Israel.”

Chants continued, “Money for jobs, not for war, end all sanctions now! Money for COVID relief, not for war, end all sanctions now!

Statements from founding members of WAMM were read to the crowd.

Founding member Polly Mann, now aged 102, had outlined her vision for the group, “We would have to get a grant to hire a staff person who would create an inventory of all the women's groups in the country who have peace as an objective. This should include national offices of all U.S. churches. With such an inventory a national meeting would be held at which the subject of world peace would be the objective. For example, details should be sought such as recommended reading material, conferences, etc.”

Dorothy Van Soest, longtime member of WAMM and author of the recent novel Nuclear Option, paid homage, “Nuclear Option would not exist if it were not for the WAMM women whose unstoppable demands for a peaceful and just society have inspired and called me to action for 40 years. I am deeply grateful to Marianne Hamilton and Polly Mann who founded WAMM at Loretta’s Tea Room in Minneapolis in the fall of 1981 by bringing together eight other women – Cathy Anderson, Pam Costain, Moira Moga, Eleanor Otterness, Pat Powers, Mary Shepard, Lucille Speeter and Mary White – who, like them, were committed to challenging the shift in national priorities taking place at that time from human services to military spending. The spirit of that day is imbued within me and reflected in the character of the unstoppable protagonist of Nuclear Option, as well as in several other characters.”

Through the years, WAMM saw the importance of linking issues locally, nationally and internationally. They worked alongside many groups at the forefront of many social, economic and racial justice issues. Community members came to salute WAMM’s long history and honored them with praises.

Meredith Aby-Keirstead, Anti-War Committee member stated, “WAMM sees the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and the need to struggle for human rights here at home. We have walked on the picket lines together for nurses here in this city, marched together for Black lives and protested together against Line 3. WAMM knows our solidarity with other countries needs to extend to solidarity with others here at home.”

Dave Logsdon, president of Vets for Peace Chapter 27, said, “We Have one of the best and most vibrant chapters in the entire country. We'd be nowhere with the energy, knowledge and support of WAMM.”

Erika Zurawski of MN Immigrant Rights Action Committee said, “WAMM has been with us step by step in our struggle for immigrant rights since our founding in 2006. You have radical politics and don’t let that fade or die and never compromise your values. WAMM, you have taught us well.”

Sarah Martin, member of WAMM’s Middle East Committee, thanked everyone for being out and supporting WAMM today. She described how this committee came to be and how supporting the heroic people of Palestine and their struggle helped turn the tide on U.S. public opinion regarding Palestine. Martin proudly exclaimed, “WAMM is still saying no to war and declaring, ‘We demand justice, we demand peace!’”[2]

From the very beginning, WAMM published a monthly newsletter to inform our members and the community about peace and justice issues.

In the 1980s, WAMM opposed the nuclear arms race and the U.S intervention in Central America. An appearance on the Donahue Show brought hundreds of letters to WAMM from women around the country.

Locally, we supported Native American spearfishing rights, Minnesota nurses and P9 meatpackers strikes, the welfare rights group Up and Out of Poverty, the struggle to get Honeywell to stop producing land mines in coalition with the Honeywell Project, and joined coalitions for police accountability. WAMM members demonstrated against war toys by buying out one store’s supply before Christmas, then returning them all after the holiday.

WAMM became known for its creative and consistent legal nonviolent activism. WAMM members engaged in freeway bannering, weekly downtown marches, empowerment groups, visiting schools with “Tough Dove” the puppet, and distributing “Tools for Tough Times” packets to activate members.

In the 1990s, WAMM and coalition partners held the first protest in the U.S. against troop deployment leading up to the Gulf War, which lead to an appearance by WAMM Co-Director Lucia Wilkes on Larry King Live. Since then, WAMM has fought the deadly sanctions and continuing bombing of Iraq.

The interventions and bloody conflicts in Panama, Yugoslavia, East Timor, Somalia, and Israel/Palestine were another focus of WAMM’s anti-war work. A campaign against the “Contract On America” helped us link domestic cuts to military madness.

Locally, we worked against police brutality, and WAMM and coalition partners defeated attempts to mandate Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) in Minneapolis public high schools.

Since September 11, 2001, WAMM has been focused on opposing the “war on terrorism” in all its forms, including attacks on the civil liberties of immigrants and activists.

WAMM continues to support direct action and coalition building, and we also encourage women to act through committees, empowerment groups, and individual activism. We are spreading the word of peace and justice into the schools and community organizations through our WAMM Action! E-mail list and online, literature tables, and regular public education forums. [3]

FRSO influence

According to the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria, writing in 2015;

For the last three years, the presence of members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a dogmatic Stalinist sect, on WAMM’s board and the influence of their ideology has resulted in increased intolerance from the WAMM board towards anyone with a differing viewpoint.
Freedom Road has publicly taken a position in support of the Assad government in Syria. FRSO leader Joe Iosbaker has stated that “the Syrian government ought to be defended”. He traveled to Syria in June as part of a delegation to certify Assad’s fraudulent re-election in the midst of the bloodiest war on the planet. Iosbaker returned to claim that he had witnessed democratic elections where Assad was “given the mandate by the people of Syria”.
While WAMM for decades was a respected democratic, feminist organization, its recent actions have abandoned those roots and generated discord within the Twin Cities peace community.[4]

Personnel

Minnesota Peace Project

In 2009, Roxanne Abbas, of Women Against Military Madness, helped form the Minnesota Peace Project.

“Never a meeting without an action!” Most of us know and live by WAMM’s motto, but we don’t all have the same preferred mode of action. Some like to hit the streets. Some write letters to the editor. Some plan or attend educational programs. Some lobby their members of Congress. And some do it all.

Several WAMM members are leading the development of a statewide network of peace activists and groups with the working name “the Minnesota Peace Project” to influence foreign policy through their elected officials in the U.S. House and Senate. The group, which is organized by Congressional district, plans to use dialogue techniques to build a mutual understanding of each other’s views and to present documented information from reliable sources to build credibility. District groups will function semiautonomously based on the issues of greatest concern to their members and their opportunities to influence their representative.

Although the project is still in the organizational stages, there has been some progress to report:

Peace activists have volunteered to serve as district organizers for eight of the 10 congressional offices. These 10 organizers will serve as a steering committee for the project.

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer has written a comprehensive “Peace Agenda” for the group to use as its basic platform.

Keith Ellison and Wellstone Action have both offered to conduct a training session on lobbying techniques for group members.

A meeting was held with Amy Klobuchar aides to present the Peace Agenda and to exchange perspectives on the Israel/Palestine conflict. [8]

Meeting Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in New York , September 21, 2010, with 100 leaders and representatives of anti-war, labor, alternative media and Iranian and Palestinian solidarity organizations. Among the participants were Sarah Martin, Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!, Margaret Sarfehjooy, board member of the Minneapolis-based Women Against Military Madness, former attorney general Ramsey Clark, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Sara Flounders from the International Action Center, Brian Becker of the ANSWER coalition, Ramona Africa of the Free Mumia Coalition and Amiri Baraka, poet and activist.[9]

Defending Iran

Several U.S.based "anti-imperialist and anti-war organizationsuary agreed on a January 17 2012, conference call to hold coordinated protests across the country on Saturday, Feb. 4. The demands will be: “No war, no sanctions, no intervention, no assassinations against Iran.”

The ad-hoc group that took part in the call decided that although there were only two weeks to organize, it would invite anti-war forces around the world to join in, if possible, so that this emergency action could develop into a global day of action.

All agreed on the need to stop U.S. imperialism and/or Israel from launching a military attack on Iran. There was also a consensus that the new sanctions President Barack Obama signed into law on Dec. 31 — with the goal of breaking the Iranian central bank — were themselves an act of war aimed at the Iranian people. The political activists on the call raised the danger of a wider war should fighting break out in or around Iran.

While the organizations involved had varied assessments of the Iranian government, they all saw any intervention from U.S. imperialism in the Southwest Asian country as a threat to the entire region and to peace. Some of the people on the call who are originally from Iran and who were in touch with family and friends there conveyed the Iranian people’s anger at the recent assassination of a young scientist.

There was agreement to make “no assassinations” one of the demands to show solidarity with the Iranian population as well as to condemn the U.S. and its allies for criminal activities against Iran and its people.

As of Jan. 19, the organizations that called the actions or endorsed later included the United National Antiwar Coalition, the International Action Center, SI! Solidarity with Iran, Refugee Apostolic Catholic Church, Workers World Party, The World Can’t Wait, American Iranian Friendship Committee, Answer Coalition, Antiwar.com, Peace of the Action, ComeHomeAmerica.us, St. Pete for Peace, Women Against Military Madness, Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality-Virginia, WESPAC Foundation, Peace Action Maine, Occupy Myrtle Beach, Minnesota Peace Action Coalition, Twin Cities Peace Campaign and Bail Out the People Movement.

Individual endorsers include authors David Swanson, “When the World Outlawed War,” and Phil Wilayto, “In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey through the Islamic Republic”; and U.N. Human Rights Award winner Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general.

People could follow developments on the Facebook link: No War On Iran: National Day of Action Feb 4, www.facebook.com/events/214341975322807/.

John Catalinotto represented Workers World.

Anti-NATO meeting

On January 16 2019, about 40 Minneapolis people heard from local organizers who travelled to Ireland for the First International Conference Against U.S./NATO Foreign Military Bases, which took place November 16-18, 2018. Nearly 300 participants from over 35 countries attended the conference, calling for the closure of the nearly 1000 U.S./NATO military bases throughout the world.

The official communiqué adopted by participants at the conference stated: “NATO states’ military bases are the military expression of imperialist intervention in the lives of sovereign countries on behalf of the dominant, financial, political, and military interests, for the control of energy resources, transport roads, markets and spheres of influence, in clear violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.”

The all-woman Minnesota delegation to the conference included Sarah Martin, Carol Walker, and Sue Ann Martinson, all of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), as well as Rhea Smykalski of the Anti-War Committee.

Special attention was called to the Guantanamo Bay U.S. base in Cuba; U.S. bases in Okinawa, Japan and in South Korea; the U.S. base at Ramstein, Germany; bases in Serbia; old and new U.S./NATO bases in Greece and Cyprus; the establishment of the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) with its military bases in Africa; the numerous NATO bases in Italy and Scandinavia; the Shannon airport in Ireland, which is used as a military base by U.S. and NATO; and the newly established bases by the United States, France and their allies on and around Syrian soil.

“The selection of Dublin and Liberty Hall for the conference was historically important and inspiring,” reported Sarah Martin of WAMM. “In their heroic liberation struggle against the English, the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin was pivotal. At that time, from Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the resistance, James Connolly issued a proclamation calling for the overthrow of the British occupation and an Ireland based on democracy, equality and neutrality.”

“However, the Irish government has betrayed this principle of neutrality,” Martin continued. “Beginning in 2003, Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland became a forward base for the war on Iraq as a transit point for soldiers and weapons. To this day, hundreds of U.S. soldiers pass through the airport every day - 6000 in 2017. Thanks to Wikileaks, the full extent of this shameful betrayal is known, including the use of the airport in renditions.”

Carol Walker of WAMM characterized the spread of U.S./NATO bases across the world as a continuation of U.S. policies since its westward expansion in the 19th century. “Ninety military bases, or forts, were used by the U.S. government to pursue domination and conquest of indigenous people,” she said. “So, we are on stolen land, as is all of the United States. And all these forts were very much ‘abroad’ at the time.”

Other attendees of the Dublin conference included Dr. Aleide Guevara, member of the Cuban National Assembly and daughter of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara; Aengus O Snodaigh, member of the Irish legislature and Sinn Fein defense spokesperson; Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize recipient; and Ajamu Baraka of the Black Alliance for Peace and 2016 Green Party candidate for vice president of the United States. The conference declared its support for the global mass mobilizations against NATO’s 70th anniversary summit set to take place on April 4 in Washington, D.C.[10]

References

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