Tag Archives: peace

Video: Arms Limitation in the Nuclear Weapons Age (part 2)

Part 2 of a film that highlights nuclear arms control efforts during the Cold War. View the film on YouTube.

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Video: Dwight Eisenhower on Ending Child Hunger

Excerpt of General Dwight Eisenhower’s July 8, 1948 speech for a United Nations Crusade for Children. Eisenhower talks about the importance of ending child hunger in the quest for peace, a theme still very much relevant today. View the video on Youtube.

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My commentary in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Two hundred years ago this Christmas Eve, America and Britain received a special gift. Only nobody in either country knew about it.

Read my commentary at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Pressure South Sudan’s leaders to end war and hunger

A group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are calling for international pressure on South Sudan‘s leadership to end the nine-month civil war. A statement from the group was released yesterday ahead of a United Nations meeting.

Read the article at Examiner.

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Crusade Of Prayer for Peace

In September of 1961 the Archdiocese of Washington held a Crusade of Prayer for Peace. At this time the Cold War was well underway and the Soviet Union had recently tested a massive nuclear weapon. The United States would soon resume its nuclear test explosions as well. The Cuban Missile Crisis would follow in a year.

I found the prayer card in my late mother’s Saint Andrew Daily Missal.  She lived in the Washington, DC area at the time of the Prayer for Peace event. To read the prayer click on the card below.

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How an Idea of Ike’s Could Help Settle India/Pakistan Nuclear Tensions–And Help Us Win the War on Terrorism

India and Pakistan, two nuclear weapons states, need to build a lasting peace. The two nations suffer from extreme hunger and poverty. This will persist as long as they pour their resources into a costly arms race.

Back in 2004 I wrote about one confidence building measure the two rivals should adopt on the road to peace. Hopefully in 2012 it will take place.  Here is a copy of the article as it appeared on History News Service and History News Network.

How an Idea of Ike’s Could Help Settle India/Pakistan Nuclear Tensions–

And Help Us Win the War on Terrorism

There’s encouraging news about ending the decades-old conflict between India and Pakistan. At the United Nations, the leaders of both nations recently expressed their desire for peaceful coexistence, and called for confidence-building measures.

How crucial is this development for the United States? Extremely. The war against terrorism cannot be won without stability in South Asia. Now is the time for the United States to intensify its efforts to help establish peace between the two rivals.

India and Pakistan are both armed with nuclear weapons. The two nations have frequently exchanged gunfire in the region of Kashmir, which both claim. In 2002, when hundreds of thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops massed on their respective borders, war seemed imminent. South Asia was on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. The crisis subsided but the urgent need for peace between the two adversaries remained.

How can the United States aid the Indian-Pakistani peace process? By means of an old Cold War initiative, originally proposed by the United States. In 1955, in the midst of the Cold War, President Eisenhower presented a diplomatic surprise to the Soviet Union. Why not allow both the Americans and Soviets to fly unarmed aerial observation missions over each other’s military facilities? Such a move, the president surmised, could reduce the possibility of secret military preparations and help build trust through transparency. As Eisenhower stated, “Open Skies” would have the effect of “lessening danger and relaxing tension” between the two heavily armed rivals.

The Soviets didn’t accept Eisenhower’s idea in 1955. In fact, it took nearly 40 years to implement it. In 1992 the United States, Russia and other European nations signed the Open Skies Treaty allowing unarmed aerial observation missions over the respective territories of each nation.

A similar arrangement would benefit India and Pakistan, who fear each other’s military might. Open Skies missions would provide that Indian and Pakistani officials work together on observation flights. This type of cooperation would set the groundwork for future disarmament agreements.

Increased cooperation was Eisenhower’s intention when he unveiled Open Skies. He said at the time, “What I propose, I assure you, would be but a beginning.” His proposal was not by itself going to end the Cold War. It was a confidence-building measure similar to what India and Pakistan have called for at the United Nations.

A joint Indian-Pakistani statement emphasized that such measures could develop “an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding.” This was the very basis of Eisenhower’s original Open Skies proposal during the Cold War.

The security of the United States is greatly affected by relations between India and Pakistan. A successful war on terrorism cannot be carried out without stability in South Asia. Pakistan and Afghanistan form the major front on the war against terrorists. The remnants of al-Qaida, and possibly Osama bin Laden himself, are in that area. For the international community to finish off al-Qaida, uninterrupted cooperation from Pakistan is a necessity. An escalating conflict with India would only draw Pakistani attention and resources from the war on terrorism.

The United States must use its best diplomatic tools, such as Open Skies, to assist India and Pakistan. The use of diplomatic measures, great and small, cannot be overlooked as an essential tool against terrorism. The furthering of peace and economic prosperity worldwide will make terrorism less likely to prosper.

There are other reasons for the United States to be heavily active in promoting peace between India and Pakistan. The gravest risk facing South Asia is nuclear war. Both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998 and possess effective missile capability. One nuclear strike could kill millions and bring about a nightmare of unimaginable proportions. A step-by-step process toward nuclear disarmament in South Asia is imperative.

Clearly, a stable Pakistan at peace with India is in the best interests of the entire world. Adopting an Open Skies agreement will help create the atmosphere India and Pakistan need to resolve their disputes. Its successful implementation would set a formidable model for arms control and peace that other regions of the globe could emulate. The United States and NATO can offer considerable expertise to help formulate the agreement.

An Open Skies initiative will help lay the foundation for amicable relations between India and Pakistan. This is one of many steps that will be needed to achieve peace in South Asia. The stakes are high. A failure to resolve the differences between India and Pakistan will prolong tension in South Asia, increase the chance for war and rob valuable time and resources from the fight against terrorism.

Article originally distributed in 2004 by the History News Service.

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Building the Future in Ivory Coast with School Meals

WFP has resumed school feeding in Ivory Coast. But will the funding pipeline be maintained by donors for the program to continue? (file photo by WFP/Ramin Rafirasme)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) this week and spoke of hope for the future. Hope was something not often talked about when this African nation was embroiled in violence last year over a disputed election.

The fighting is now over. A chance for Ivory Coast to build a promising future has begun. Clinton said, “I am inspired by how quickly not only the government but the people have moved from the violence and conflict of last spring to successful legislative elections in December and to a commitment that is in the air to build a better future for all Ivoirians and particularly for the next generation.”

Hunger, though, is still a major threat in the Ivory Coast. A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, “In spite of the improved security situation, food security remains a major concern. Access to food for many households is being constrained by the disruption of their livelihoods.”

Catherine Bragg, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN news, “I don’t want the world to move on and say everything in Côte d’Ivoire is fine.”

Humanitarian aid is critical for this country traveling the road to peace. A whole generation of children in the Ivory Coast needs nutrition and education, something many had to go without during the months of fighting and displacement. In January, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) started to provide school feeding to 600,000 children in 3,400 schools around the country. The initiative also provides food for about 25,000 voluntary teachers.

The school feeding gives these children a very important meal, which includes rice, of about 700 calories. Providing food at school boosts attendance rates not to mention class performance. So two key areas of Ivory Coast’s recovery are addressed with this program.

This free meal is of the utmost importance for so many impoverished families that lost so much during the conflict. Funding, though, is the critical issue going forward. WFP relies on voluntary donations from the international community. Food to reinforce peace depends on keeping the donor pipeline moving.

WFP says that the Ivory Coast school feeding program is only 11 percent funded. The program can run for the time being. However, by April supplies will be needed to maintain the school feeding. Donations now are critical because it can take several months for a donation to translate into delivered food. If no action is taken there is the the risk of children facing reduced rations or even losing their school meal come spring. This would impact the recovery process and the health and education of children.

As Clinton said while in the Ivory Coast, “Families need good schools to send their children to attend, everyone needs good healthcare, and I am very hopeful that the president’s agenda will help revitalize this dynamic, very important country at a time when we all need to do more to set a positive vision for the future.”

School meals are a vital building block for this vision. So it’s important that this program be supported and evolve into a national school feeding program for the Ivory Coast. Such a vision need not be too far off in the future, if the will exists now.

Article first published as Building the Future in Ivory Coast with School Meals on Blogcritics.

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Starting a Peace Race with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Fears of a nuclear-armed Iran may provoke a Middle East arms race, one that would place even more burdens on an impoverished region.

We see a similar scenario in Asia with India and Pakistan, where malnutrition rates are high while spending on nuclear weapons continues. The World Food Programme’s relief operation for flood-ravaged Pakistan has faced severe funding shortages.

At the same time, costly nuclear missile tests by Pakistan and India have gone forward; and in North Korea there have been famine conditions as the country has developed its nukes.

We need to challenge all these countries. But not to an arms race; rather to what President Kennedy called a “peace race.” This is our best hope for unifying the world in eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons and lifting this burden off all peoples.

This unity must first begin at home between Democrats and Republicans. A starting point should be ratifying a pact eliminating all nuclear weapons testing, finally finishing a job started long ago by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Back in 1963 when Kennedy put before the Senate a treaty with the Soviet Union limiting nuclear weapons testing, he gained strong support from the other side of the aisle. Republican Senator Everett Dirksen met with President Kennedy to help him win over key votes for treaty approval.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican who actually started the road toward the treaty during his administration, lent his support in the form of a letter to the Senate. Eisenhower urged the treaty be passed as “people are frightened… world fears and tensions are intensified. There is placed upon too much of mankind the costly burdens of an all out arms race.”

Expensive and dangerous nuclear weapons: Dwight Eisenhower talking about pursuit of a nuclear test ban treaty in March of 1960 (audio and photo courtesy of the Eisenhower Library)

The Limited Test Ban Treaty won approval from the Senate one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis when the US and Soviets almost went to nuclear war. The 1963 treaty was a first step towards arms control in the fast-escalating nuclear age.

President Kennedy signs the Limited Test Ban Treaty in October, 1963 in the Treaty Room at the White House (courtesy Kennedy Library)

But decades later, what Ike and Kennedy started is not yet finished. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty(CTBT) still needs to be ratified. This treaty goes a step further than the limited one of 1963 and bans all nuclear test explosions, including underground. The United States and seven other nations have yet to approve this treaty for it to take effect. Russia has already ratified it.

The U.S. Senate rejected the treaty in 1999 and the bipartisan cooperation of 1963 was absent, with almost all Republicans voting together against it. Now, in 2012, is the time to reconsider ratification for the sake of America’s national security.

Resuming nuclear weapons testing places additional costs on an arsenal that already costs Americans at least $52 billion a year. Progress toward nuclear disarmament is needed to reduce this burden which drains our treasury. But costs alone are not the only issue.

What would Russia and China’s reaction be should we resume nuclear weapons tests? As the Russian deputy foreign minister said, his country intends to fully comply with its CTBT commitment, “if other nuclear states do likewise.” But if we resume nuclear testing, will Russia follow? What will China do? Would a new arms race come next?

The CTBT is an important step toward nuclear disarmament, because you reach a wall in arms reductions if you are leaving the door open to new nuclear testing and development.

A CTBT would increase momentum toward gaining a disarmament agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons, and offer hope of arms reductions in Asia, where China and rivals India and Pakistan have nuclear weaponry.

Arms Control Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher says, “Nowhere would these constraints be more relevant than in Asia, where you see states building up and modernizing their forces. A legally binding prohibition on all nuclear explosive testing would help reduce the chances of a potential regional arms race in the years and decades to come.”

But without a commitment to end nuclear weapons testing, it is far less likely such agreements will ever take place. Unity among the nuclear states is also needed to implement diplomatic pressure to get North Korea and Iran to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

One way Kennedy gained support for the limited test ban treaty was to ensure that the U.S. would commit to extensive research into technologies needed to ensure the reliability of the nuclear arsenal.

Today, there are opportunities to quell fears that the CTBT is not verifiable, and that nations could cheat the treaty. As Jonathan Medalia writes in a Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. could add additional planes for its nuclear detection system operated by the U.S. Air Force. This Atomic Energy Detection System has been place since the start of the Cold War, even detecting the Soviet Union’s first tests in 1949 and 1951.


The Air Force’s WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft collects air samples from areas around the world where nuclear explosions have occurred. (U.S. Air Force photo)Enhancing our own technical means would complement the treaty’s existing monitoring system which, even though not fully operational, detected North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

In ratifying the CTBT, the U.S. can join Russia and urge other nations to follow their lead and take further measures to reduce nuclear weapons. As diplomat Gerard Smith once wrote, “In urging others not to acquire this awesome capacity, the United States and Russia may persuasively say that they have found it expensive, dangerous and, ultimately, useless.”

Nuclear weapons in the world is a shared risk among all nations, for the cost of the armaments, the danger of terrorist theft, and the international tensions are a burden all countries feel. It is in the interest of all nations to end nuclear testing once and for all, and work toward further agreements reducing the nuclear menace.

Article first published as Starting a Peace Race with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on Blogcritics.

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American Epic Highlights War, Peace, and Child Hunger

This child in Sudan is receiving food aid from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Many more children in the world are in need of food safety nets. (NRC Sudan photo)

Herbert Hoover’s book American Epic Volume Four gives a country-by-country breakdown of the siege of hunger after World War II. Detailed reports reveal the crisis of child hunger and the desperate race to find solutions.

The book is a great history of the World War II era and the fight to save millions from starvation after the fighting had ended. It tells a story not often covered in the histories of this time period.

But I think the book represents more than an outstanding history. It’s something we can learn from in today’s struggle to win peace.

When I saw Hoover’s book a few years ago, I asked: Why not have something like this today? Why not have a country-by-country look at all-important child feeding? I felt this was not being covered enough in the news. The “silent tsunami” of high food prices had struck and the number of hungry children worldwide was fast growing.

So I contacted Jennifer Parmelee of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Washington, D.C. I presented my idea and it took off from there. It led to the creation of an interview series covering school feeding programs worldwide and then the book Ending World Hunger.

Laura Sheahen of Catholic Relief Services/Caritas also was very instrumental in helping develop the series. The feature continues online at Blogcritics today with its most recent update including the Norwegian Refugee Council providing school meals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The idea is to bring the issue of child hunger into the spotlight and talk about solutions, and to connect the issues of hunger and nutrition to the pursuit of peace and development. This is something American Epic does.

A school meal program for Germany saved that country after World War II and it can do the same for others today.

Yet hunger has not been made enough of a priority and low funding plagues relief operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Sudan, and other nations. In East Africa, critical months lie ahead in saving the region after the massive drought last year.

In Sudan food is vital to the peace process. Whether it’s the nutritious peanut paste plumpy’nut (or plumpy’sup for malnourished infants), food for school age children, or agricultural development, it can mean the difference between peace and conflict.

Currently, low funding for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has led to reductions in its school feeding for Afghan children. In Benin, WFP is able to feed only 64 percent of children in the school feeding program. The funding shortages again limit the reach of the program.

There is a lot more that can be done to fight hunger around the globe.

Hoover’s American Epic showed what a food ambassador could do to rally cooperation, both domestically and internationally, for fighting hunger, and why it’s so important that child feeding programs get the support they need. Nutrition matters.

As Hoover said, “Civilization marches forward upon the feet of healthy children. We cannot have recovery of civilization in nations with a legacy of stunted bodies or distorted and embittered minds.”

I think the Congress needs to think of this when they are drawing up the new budget. Think of what the consequences will be of reducing U.S. international food aid – what that will mean for future generations, and what it will mean for our prospects for peace.

I think that is a key lesson to take from Hoover’s American Epic.

Article first published as American Epic Highlights War, Peace, and Child Hunger on Blogcritics.

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Armistice Day, World Peace, and Feeding the Hungry

One of the guns of Battery D, 105th Field Artillery, showing American flag which was hoisted after the last shot had been fired when the armistice took effect. Etraye, France. 11/11/1918Credits: National Archives

It was just a piece of paper. Yet on the morning of November 11, 1918, it meant peace.

For on that paper was a message from United States General John Pershing, ordering ceasefire on all fronts at 11 a.m. Germany had accepted the armistice. The Great War, or World War I, was over.

While the battlefields were filled with the most devastating firepower ever assembled, it was a small piece of paper that was the most powerful instrument of that day.

The announcing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, was the occasion for a monster celebration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thousands massed on all sides of the replica of the Statue of Liberty on Broad Street, and cheered unceasingly. Philadelphia Public Ledger. (National Archives)

Celebrations sprang up across the world. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote, “It was Victory Day, and all Cincinnati helped celebrate this most momentous event in the history of the world.”

Americans fought and died right up to the armistice. Many who survived lived with the effects of shellshock . A whole world was in fact left shellshocked by the Great War, and millions of people were threatened with starvation and poverty as a result.

“Hunger knows no armistice,” a poster for the Near East Relief Committee stated. To tell the full story of World War I and its aftermath is to tell of hunger and great humanitarians.

The article in the Cincinnati Enquirer made it a point to mention the city’s impressive record providing relief throughout the conflict. In fact, in 1917 the paper printed the appeal of Frederick Chatfield, a leader for Belgium relief, who said one dollar a month would save a Belgian child from starvation and give him the extra food needed to keep him from disease. The newspaper even printed the names of those who sent in donations.

Cincinnati adopted the town of Hastiere in Belgium in order to help it rebuild from wartime destruction. Among the buildings damaged was a little church, built in the eleventh century, that was bombarded by shells.

The men and women who suffered through World War I deserved a lasting peace. However, the world was at war once again just two decades later. The Second World War would bring even more destruction than the first.

But on this Armistice Day, 2011, let’s remember that dream of world peace that should have followed the First World War, and not give up on that dream. The pursuit of world peace is the best memorial we can leave to the generation that sacrificed so much in the horror of the first World War.

Lands struck by war can recover. Interestingly, I recently received two messages from Belgium, one confirming that the country is a donor to the UN World Food Programme to help this agency fight hunger in conflict and disaster zones around the globe. The second message is from Hastiere. All is well there, and the little church is rebuilt-the Great War long in the rearview mirror.

Article first published as Armistice Day, World Peace and Feeding the Hungry on Blogcritics.

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