A peace lesson for children from a Nazi

March 8, 2014 at 3:26 am | Posted in Rearing peaceful children | 6 Comments

forpeace6A friend of mine, Kozo Hattori, asked: “How can we teach children to prioritize peace? How did you experience peace as a child?”

Well, I’m afraid my mind wandered to the opposite of this: What was taught — or not taught — to a child who grew up to prioritize war?

I am thinking of Albert Speer, the German architect who managed arms production for Hitler. I read his book Inside the Third Reich, and a passage about his youth has always stuck with me. He wrote:

“A whole generation was without defenses when exposed to the new techniques for influencing opinion.”

This is on page 8 of the book. The “new techniques,” of course, were things like Hitler’s speeches, and fascist control of mass media. Why, according to Speer, were so many young people “without defenses”? Because:

In school, there could be no criticism of courses or subject matter, let alone of the ruling powers in the state.” . . .

“There were no courses such as sociology which might have sharpened our political judgments.” . . .

“Even in our senior year, German class assignments called solely for essays on literary subjects, which actually prevented us from giving thought to the problems of society.” . . .

“One decisive point of difference from the present was our inability to travel abroad. Even if funds for foreign travel had been available, no organizations existed to help young people undertake such travel.”

And he wrote, as I began:

“It seems to me essential to point out these lacks, as a result of which a whole generation was without defenses when exposed to the new techniques for influencing opinion.”

His point about travel I find especially striking. I am glad that I have had the opportunity to travel to many areas which have been or still are regarded as enemies — Palestine, Nicaragua, Russia. I think this is hugely important for youth — and so did Albert Speer.

(Speer served twenty years in prison after the war, and was then released. His book was published in 1970.)

Kozo’s question:



The “permanent war footing” stays permanent

February 17, 2014 at 3:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

forever war coverIn last month’s State of the Union address, President Obama said America “must move off a permanent war footing.” Also: ” . . . our leadership and our security cannot depend on our military alone.”

I’m all for that!


But later in that same speech he mentioned how great it was when “our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon” in the Philippines.

I am certainly glad we helped, and of course it had to be the Marines, because we don’t give agencies like USAID the logistics power the military has — but why couldn’t we?  If disaster relief is so important to us, wouldn’t it be more efficient to have it done by professionals who did not also have to be trained as marines?

But of course we don’t really want the disaster relief on its own, I’m afraid; we want it as something for our military to do.

A blog in Foreign Policy in Catherine A. Traywick, in January, pointed this out:

“Officials from both nations quickly framed the catastrophe as a justification for a broader U.S. military presence in the Philippines. Two weeks after Haiyan made landfall, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the disaster “demonstrated” the need for U.S. troops in the Philippines. Shortly after that, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg argued that Haiyan underscored his top priority: to deepen the military relationship between countries.”


So the President does not want a “permanent war footing,” but . . . well, yes he does.

About that limited U.S. involvement in Colombia . . .

December 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Posted in General Peace | Leave a comment

namThe Washington Post ran a long piece online yesterday about U.S. involvement in the Colombian government’s war against its two rebel groups.


The U.S. involvement includes intelligence, and smart bombs, but not, the article says, direct participation by U.S. soldiers:

“Under the Colombian program, the CIA is not allowed to participate directly in operations. The same restrictions apply to military involvement in Plan Colombia.”

However, we here at PeaceGarret remember that the government said the same thing about U.S. involvement in El Salvador, just a few years ago in the 1980s; but then in 1996 the government admitted that yes, U.S. soldiers had been involved in direct fighting.  It did this when recognizing 21 U.S. soldiers who had been killed in El Salvador in a firefight. Details:


The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) – Washington, D.C.

Author: Graham, Bradley
Date: May 6, 1996
Start Page: A.01
Section: A SECTION
They stepped forward solemnly yesterday across the lush green Arlington National Cemetery lawn — a wife here, a son there, several teenage children in one case, a graying father and mother in another — all to receive military service awards for loved ones who died years ago in a Central American war where U.S. forces were not supposed to be fighting, or so the U.S. government said at the time.But U.S. troops did come under fire in El Salvador, and fired back, as U.S. authorities now acknowledge. Dozens of soldiers who were there, many of them still in uniform, watched yesterday as Salvadoran children, escorted by U.S. commandos, placed tiny American flags beside the names of 21 killed in action.

Later at an Arlington hotel, about 50 of the more than 5,000 U.S. veterans of El Salvador’s civil war also were honored for service in sometimes hazardous operations for which they have never received the kinds of badges and patches normally issued to U.S. service members after combat.

“For too long, we have failed to recognize the contributions, the sacrifices, of those who served with distinction under the most dangerous conditions,” William G. Walker, U.S. ambassador to El Salvador from 1988 to 1992, told the cemetery crowd. “Only today, a full four years after the achievement of peace, are we finally and officially proclaiming that those who served and those who died did so for the noblest, the most unselfish of reasons.”

I agree that the U.S. soldiers in El Salvador were brave, and had unselfish motivations; and I assume that there are brave U.S. soldiers in Colombia now who are also pulling triggers for unselfish reasons.

Leaving Afghanistan, a.k.a. the Zero Option: a message from Chalmers Johnson from beyond the grave

December 3, 2013 at 2:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



Yes, it is presumptuous of me in the extreme to surmise what Chalmers Johnson would say about our potential departure from Afghanistan, but . . . someone needs to.

Background: Chalmers Johnson was an American foreign affairs analyst (d. 2010) who wrote Blowback and other books in which he described how the U.S. military presence around the world does us more harm than good. Our worldwide network of military bases regularly kicks hornets’ nests (that’s my summary); Johnson wrote Blowback before the 9/11 attacks, and the book predicted them, in a way.

Johnson’s wife, Sheila K. Johnson, wrote in April 2011 about the event that got her husband writing about this specific subject:

“On September 4, 1995, three American servicemen abducted and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl, provoking widespread anger and demonstrations on the island. In response, Chal began to write extensively about those American bases on Okinawa, which had been established as World War II ended and never stopped growing.”



Do things this bad happen in Afghanistan? Yes, they certainly do; innocent people are regularly killed by our attacks, for example, such as the 2-year-old boy last week.

Johnson wrote that such violence of our worldwide military occupations draws retribution upon the U.S., a.k.a. blowback. His argument makes sense to me. I assume that today’s Afghan orphans will be tomorrow’s terrorists. One example of the U.S. killing an innocent Afghan that I always remember is the tall guy who was killed by a drone because he was tall:

“In February, 2002, along the mountainous eastern border of Afghanistan, a Predator reportedly followed and killed three suspicious Afghans, including a tall man in robes who was thought to be bin Laden. The victims turned out to be innocent villagers, gathering scrap metal.”


I read this, and I assume that this guy’s family will now hate the U.S., understandably, and could be expected to exact revenge if they can. Most Americans, however, it often seems to me, apparently assume that Afghans are the most forgiving people in the history of the world, who will continue to pardon us as we repeatedly kill their 2-year-olds, tall men, etc.  


I think Chalmers Johnson would say that our departure from Afghanistan, all things being equal (i.e. assuming we do not just move all the bases and hardware to Uzbekistan or somewhere else nearby) would probably make us more secure in the long run.






Hey India, what do you think?

November 27, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

indiaI continue to be surprised at how many visitors I get from India — blog visitors, I mean, not actual visitors, although you’re certainly welcome to drop by in person if you like. This graphic from today (so far) is typical.

People from India searching for children’s peace stories . . . as I’ve said, I wonder if both Muslims and Hindus there, or any other two groups who often do not get along with other, are both sitting at home at night searching for peace stories for their children. That would be touching and wry and sad and promising, wouldn’t it?

But who knows what’s happening — I don’t hear from the visitors. Are they happy with what they find here? Disappointed? Thrilled? Appalled? I would assume that most of my peace stories over on my “peace stories for children” page would not appeal to people outside my culture, because they include, let’s see, the story of an ancient American Mennonite, the story of a Portuguese queen, Bible stories, a bit about my German grandfather . . . this is not something most people in India would gobble up, I assume. But then again, they must have a sense this is a gringo blog when they see their search results, right?, and they click anyway.

So I’d like to invite each and every Indian out there to leave a long comment and then swing by for some hot cider.  Peace.

Veterans Day story: Homeless veterans

November 10, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

(I wrote this post two years ago, and unfortunately it is still relevant.)

Americans support their troops during wars; but then years later—or months later!—when some of those veterans are homeless, attitudes change . . . our national consensus is that people who make poor choices, or who get unlucky, should sleep outdoors or in their cars.

My day job is in affordable housing, so I pay attention to this.  Many veterans really are homeless.  Here is a group that advocates for them:


And here are a few stories of actual homeless veterans:


There’s a children’s story of a veteran who was lucky enough not to be homeless — my grandfather — on the Peace Stories for Children page.

The U.S. plan for peace, such as it is, does exist!

November 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Posted in General Peace | Leave a comment

forever war cover

I often wonder if the United States has any long-term plan for achieving peace and eventually standing down in the Middle East/Southwest Asia area — or if the idea is to just blast everything we don’t like with drones, forever.

Well, I remind myself that there is a plan – a National Security Strategy. (This is the public plan, anyway; and I assume it is indeed pretty much what national security directors are aiming for, despite the cynicism I have built up after years of watching these guys do dumb things like invade Iraq, support despots in Central America, etc.)

The Strategy is on the White House web site:


One of the most obvious things it seems to me we should do is to learn to live without foreign oil, and this is indeed mentioned: Page 30:

“Transform our Energy Economy: As long as we are dependent on fossil fuels, we need to ensure the security and free flow of global energy resources. But without significant and timely adjustments, our energy dependence will continue to undermine our security and prosperity. This will leave us vulnerable to energy supply disruptions and manipulation and to changes in the environment on an unprecedented scale. “

So — that’s good!  It could be worse.  I have low expectations for any sort of peace plan this country comes up with, so I’ll take this.

One thing the Strategy does not mention, that I can see, is the idea that we might be better off having a smaller military presence in some parts of the world; I remember that the presence of bases of ours in Saudi Arabia was a prime motivator of the worst terrorists we’ve seen. I guess that’s too much to ask of a U.S. strategy.


Forbidden Island game — fun, nonviolent, cooperative!

August 10, 2013 at 1:31 am | Posted in Rearing peaceful children | Leave a comment

GAMEWRIGHT-317Many of my regular readers are probably familiar with this family board game already, because you folks are sharp and the game is fairly well-known, but just in case . . . I picked up this game today and my son enjoys it (and so do I), and it’s remarkable that there is no “loser” among the players — either the players reach their goal, or they don’t — and also remarkable that the game is nonviolent.

I do play Stratego and other kill-the-bad-guys games with my kids, so I’m not saying I’m “religious” about this; but it is nice to have a game in which no scout pieces, for example, are repeatedly sent to their untimely deaths so that higher-ranking pieces can triumph and end up with the flag and the milkshake.

Forbidden Island is a race against time; the players work as a team to gather treasure before the sinking island . . . sinks. About sixteen bucks, from GameWright.

The game says it’s for ages 10 and up, but my son is 9 and he took to it easily. Of course, we live in a suburb where all the children are above average, as Garrison Keillor would say. Peace.

Please check out my new reel lawn mower blog!

August 2, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
So long, old friend

So long, old friend

That’s right, I am trying to save the world through reel lawn mowers. I see the occasional blog post about them, but nowhere NEAR the attention these quiet, green machines deserve.

Among other things, you can check out the reel lawn mower commercial I found . . . there may be one or two factual errors in it.

Here’s a link: (Hmm – if I link to my own separate WordPress blog, will that cause a rift in the space-time continuum?):



The Castle Museum in Esztergom, Hungary

July 26, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

This peace blog is going to give way to travel news, for a few posts. (I think that international travel can help young Americans have a more peaceful attitude toward the world, by the way, so these posts and the blog’s theme are not completely unrelated . . . )  (B4Peace friends: I’ll label only this post with the B4P tag.)

I just got back from Hungary. My father was born there, and I still have some cousins there. This was my second trip — I absolutely love the country.

Medieval Hungarian on top of Roman on top of Celtic!

Medieval Hungarian on top of Roman on top of Celtic!

One destination that seems to have too few recommendations on the internet is the Castle Museum in Esztergom. Esztergom is a small city on the Danube, on the northern border of Hungary (next to Slovakia), about 30 miles north of Budapest. Unfortunately there was no train service there, from Budapest, and the bus we took was very slow.  I wish we’d rented a car instead. But the Castle Museum (Var Muzeum in Hungarian) has old rooms, old walls, a small archaeological dig, and a large and well-organized coin display, which all made the trip worthwhile, for me anyway.

The Castle Museum is located right next to the giant Esztergom Cathedral, which is nice but already gets a lot of love on the web. There is an entrance fee to see all of the Cathedral, and the Castle Museum has its own, separate fee; and currently you get access to all the museum’s levels only on a guided tour. But the tours are offered several times a day in English (as well as German, and of course Hungarian) and are worth it.

The castle in question sat on a hill, overlooking the Danube, which had been fortified since Celtic times, before the Roman Empire moved in. The Romans built on top of the Celtic walls there, and then Hungarians built on top of the Roman fort. In the museum tour you get to walk through some medieval passageways that had been filled in, and have now been dug out. Also, there is that room with the glass floor pictured here. The levels under the glass are marked as Celtic-era, Roman, and medieval — I mean, what kind of shallow caveman can’t sit there and stare at that indefinitely??? Just kidding everyone — I realize such digs are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love that room.

The coin collection has six or eight glass cases with well-designed mirrors behind the coins, so you can see both sides of them. The collection includes a giant Renaissance gold coin the size of a tea saucer, and a nice display of the evolution of the depiction of Hungarian monarchs over the centuries. The depictions began abstract, like a preschooler’s doodle, and eventually turned into fine portraits . . . again not captivating for everyone, I know, but I find it the best-presented coin collection I’ve seen.

The tour also has a view from high over the Danube (where we saw an awesome hawk swoop toward us! Hawk not guaranteed — your view may vary!), a walk into a huge old dining hall, and other pre-Roman archaeological finds from the site, pots and tools and so forth.

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