Speaking Our Peace The Lilliputians
& the Giant

By Paul Olson, NFP President
Global Warming Copenhagen: Games People Play
By Professor Bruce E. Johansen
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The Most Dangerous Place on the Face of the Earth
Whiteclay
Updates on Nebraska's tiny reservation border town.
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Report from the President

Paul Olson
NFP President

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.

Fran Kaye Named ATM Peacemaker of the Year

Ruth Thone

"Do not despair. Act. Speak out."

What Would a Responsible Plan
to End the U.S. War in Afghanistan
Look Like?

NFP

When President Obama picked up the flag of the Afghanistan war and began to wave it as his own, he did not have an obvious plan for an end game. The goals and definition of ‘victory’ of the U.S. war in Afghanistan changed during the first months of his presidency.

Why It's So Hard to Change Public Attitudes: The Example of Global Warming

Hendrik van den Berg
UNL Professor of Economics

American culture is so tightly wrapped around consumption and individualism that we refuse to grasp, much less accept, that our individual striving for larger houses, bigger automobiles, 16-oz. steaks, and frequent weekend fights to Las Vegas constitute a collective irresponsibility of earth-shattering proportions.

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History

We have had four themes throughout our life almost from the beginning, the search for peace through negotiation and especially through the reduction of nuclear armaments, the pursuit of non-violence, an opposition to globalization that gives untrammeled power to multi-national corporations, and an assertion that we will not stand by while the rights of persons of color and other marginalized populations in our society are trampled.

Nebraskans for Peace was founded in 1970 as the opposition to the Vietnam War grew throughout America. It had been preceded in 1968 by a predecessor organization called Rural Nebraskans for Peace founded by a number of farm, rural and church leaders – Reverend Nye Bond, Merle Hansen, Arlo "Dutch" Hoppe, Fred Schroeder, Wes and June Webb and Rev. Tom Rehorn. A little later Henry and Evelyn Schutz and Ted Reeves were active in the organization, and a little later Don Reeves. Justice as well as peace were always concerns of Rural Nebraskans for Peace. Even before this the Populist Party in Nebraska and its great political leaders, William Jennings Bryan and George Norris, had won elections as anti-war candidates and as advocates of justice for labor, farmers, and other excluded or marginalized groups. Anti-war sentiment was particularly powerful in Nebraska in the 1920s and 30s when many people felt that World War I had accomplished nothing.

Dwight Dell of the Beatrice area, who had run for the U. S. Senate as a peace candidate in the 1950s, soon joined the Rural Nebraskans for Peace group, and some of the earliest of Nebraskans for Peace clusters included Hughes and Lela Shanks representing both peace and civil rights concerns. The earliest formal meetings of the group that emerged as the group planning for Nebraskans for Peace came after a local clergyperson, either Don Goll or Darrel Berg (our informants differ on this), came back from a national "Clergy and Laity Concerned about the War"? meeting with the promise from CALC of a bit of seed money for a state wide organization. In the early discussions of the direction of NFP, as Don Reeves recalls, some discussants wanted NFP to focus on Vietnam alone; others said that Vietnam was only the symptom of deeper ills and that the range of these ills blocking peace and justice needed tackling, the position that Rural Nebraskan for Peace had held for some time. The "peace-and-justice" position prevailed and gave long term life to NFP.

From the beginning of their effective organizing lives, Rural Nebraskans for Peace and NFP thought of themselves as truly peace and justice organizations. In the early days tractorcades of Nebraska farmers supported African American civil rights protests in Omaha. When student unrest overflowed in 1970, after the killing of students protesting the Cambodian invasion and civil rights violations on the Jackson State and Kent State Campuses, NFP organized a rally on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus that included the major civil rights groups representing persons of color as well as the major anti-war groups.

NFP soon evolved a leadership structure. At that time, the first president of Nebraskans for Peace was Don Reeves of Central City. The first coordinator was a young student named Mike Shonsey, the second was Nick Meinhardt, the first full-time NFP coordinator, and the third was a nun who had been teaching in Lyons, Nebraska, who was also something of a feminist, Marita Heller. Succeeding coordinators included Dick Littleton, Marilyn McNabb, Betty Olson, Larry Zink, Bobbie Kierstad and Tim Rinne. In the 70s, Marilyn McNabb brought national peace movement organizing skills to NFP, and in the period of 86-90 Larry Zink brought to it a systematic statewide organizing strategy that was very helpful in making the organization truly a general Nebraska one.

Prior to Tim Rinne's tenure, however, Betty Olson's coordinatorship was the longest, extending from 1976 to1986. It most significantly shaped the organization as NFP "permanentized" itself, in the phrase of Don Reeves. To add to its effectiveness, it undertook a large number of organizing efforts and affiliated itself (or intensified its relation) with a number of national peace organizations such as Clergy and Laity Concerned and the Chilean Campaign for Human rights. During this period Betty Olson was significantly assisted by the work of Mary Alice Park who kept the organization's messages flowing and by Loyal Park who kept its funds in order..

As long as the war in Vietnam continued, it was NFP's prime concern, especially the civil rights violations that went with it (i.e. the tiger cages and the violations of the Geneva Convention). But after the war was nominally over for Americans with the fall of Saigon in 1975, Nebraskans for Peace turned its attention to securing a just peace and reconciliation with Vietnam and to justice at home.

At the same time, we also added other concerns. In the international arms race arena, we sought the reduction of nuclear armaments on both the Soviet and American sides and argued against the destructive cost of the arms race. In regard to the Middle East, during the Carter administration we sought to see the Iran hostage crisis resolved peacefully through negotiation, sending Father Darryl Rupiper to Iran to speak with the American hostages.

At home we supported the continuing civil rights struggles of persons of color whether at the Wounded Knee occupation or in the African American community in Omaha. Abroad in the civil and human rights arena, we sought the divestiture of state funds from an apartheid South Africa. So far as America's domestic relations with Hispanic people was concerned, we sought to preserve proper Mexican-American representation before state government by fighting for the Mexican American Commission's existence and continued funding.

In examining American policy for Latin America during the Reagan years, we opposed the illegitimate overthrow of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile and hosted the wife of one of the victims of that carnage, Isabel Latalier. We emphatically questioned the Reagan administration's support of repressive regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador and its illegal support for Contras trying to subvert a legitimately elected Central American government. To deal with Latin America, NFP hired its first human right coordinator, Suzy Prenger, during this time; sent Witness for Peace delegations to Nicaragua, gave leadership to the refugee sanctuary movement, and supported numerous trips to Central America by knowledgeable persons – especially by Bob Epp and Suzy Prenger – who reported what was going in the Contra effort to subvert the Nicaraguan government. We examined the suppression of civil rights in America's Central and South American client states, and acted to help those injured by the war. In order to assist NFP members to understand the sorts of structural inequality that kept down places like Central America, we increased our efforts to provide education concerning the relationships between structural inequality, economic interdependence, and food and hunger issues.

After Ronald Reagan came to office, a whole new series of nuclear issues also came to the fore, especially the Reagan administration's effort to place MX missiles in Nebraska and the development of that administration's theory that it is possible to fight and win a nuclear war. In consequence, NFP helped to develop the Nebraska Freeze campaign which had some success in several parts of the state; it developed, along with concerned people in western Nebraska, the No MX campaign which kept the MX out of that part of the state and led to the radical reduction of plans for that program nationwide.

In the period before the fall of the Soviet Union, NFP sponsored trips to the Soviet Union by American peace activists who could see for themselves the strengths and weaknesses of the peace movement there and what was going on in the Soviet nation domestically. We also sent representatives to commemorations of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; to the United Nations Disarmament talks, and to numerous peace movement marches on Washington, D. C.

We had to have money to survive, and most of it came from memberships, but, in the 80s, NFP also developed the Catlovers Against the Bomb calendar – an idea originated by DeCourcy Squire, Esther Cope and Bill Waters in the first 1984 edition. DeCourcy continued as editor in 1985, 1986 and 1987. Then Betty Olson, former NFP Coordinator, became the CLAB editor beginning with the 1988 calendar and continued on through the 2000 edition. Following her death a committee was set up to carry on this unique fundraiser for NFP, a fundraiser that providers more than a fifth of NFP's funds. Loyal and Mary Alice Park presently serve as co-leaders of the committee.

To the degree that Bush I carried on Reagan's policies, we opposed them. We opposed Bush I's intervention in Iraq in sending American forces to Kuwait prior to our exhausting of all peaceful international means. At the same time, we were among the earliest of American domestic organizations calling for a national health plan, particularly to assist poor people and those not covered enough to have adequate health care. It may not be accidental that a Nebraskan, Senator Bob Kerrey, was among the first national leaders to call for such a plan. From the 80s we had opposed globalization through asking Richard Barnet, the author of Global Reach, to address us. And we continued to support the causes of those who were being oppressed by national economic policies, Nebraska farmers and minorities. We campaigned for the continued funding of the Indian Commission, the Mexican-American Commission, and the Nebraska Commission on the Status of Women.

In the 90s and first decade of the 21st century, Nebraskans for Peace has fought domestically for the same commissions. It has sought for provisions for a living wage, for civil rights for Mexican-Americans, Mexicans and others working at meatpacking plants and for equal protection for Native Americans savaged by the addictive trade at White Clay. Wherever people are marginalized, we have fought for and with them. For example, we have created coalitions that got an anti-bullying policy through the Nebraska State Board of Education, and we have worked with domestic violence coalitions to reduce violence in the home.

We have fought against NAFTA and other globalization efforts that have helped to destroy stability and decent standards of living for millions of people. Now we oppose Bush II's work. We oppose the madness of the war in Iraq used to justify all sorts of torture and violations of civil rights for many Americans. We oppose the cost in blood and in money. Not only do we oppose this but also we oppose the past publication, apparently under University of Nebraska and Afghani exile auspices, of textbooks that encourage Afghani children to jihad, surely part of the problem in Afghanistan now. We oppose the madness of the culture of violence and exploitation abroad and here at home.

(Information provided by Don Reeves, Suzi Prenger, Paul Olson, Mary Alice Park, and Tim Rinne)