- In the 1980s, supported the Marxist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua
- Opposes U.S. embargo of Cuba
- Seeks “to protect our civil liberties threatened by the ‘Patriot Act’ and other repressive legislation”
Veterans For Peace (VFP) was founded July 8, 1985 in Maine as “a non-profit 501(c)3 educational and humanitarian organization dedicated to the abolishment of war.” Its Statement of Purpose reads, “We, having dutifully served our nation do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace and justice.” VFP’s avowed policy is “to restrain our [U.S.] government” from foreign wars, “to end the arms race and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons,” and “to abolish war as an instrument of international policy.” Veterans for Peace was granted permanent NGO (Non-governmental Organization) status at the United Nations.
The founders of VFP are Jerry Genesio (who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1956-62), his wife Judy Genesio, the Reverend Willard Bickett (U.S. Army, World War II), Doug Rawlings (U.S. Army, Vietnam) and Ken Perkins (U.S. Navy, Korea). They created VFP, says the organization’s website, because they “were disturbed by the militancy of the United States and its violent intervention in the affairs of other nations.”
VFP’s first action to gain publicity came in 1986 when it had its members stage a 30-day vigil at the Boston Commons calling for an end to U.S.-sponsored violence in Central America. At the time, President Ronald Reagan was opposing the Castro-supported, Soviet-supported, Marxist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua (where it ruled from 1979-1990). The VFP blamed American support of the Contras, an indigenous anti-Marxist force, for the Sandinista violence. Its members were invited onto the Phil Donahue program to share these views with the larger public.
In 1987 VFP sent members on a “Fact-Finding” tour of Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, leading to a 38-page report — highly critical of American policy — which it presented to members of Congress. As an outgrowth of that mission, VFP stepped up its efforts to help Nicaraguans — sending water-purification experts and truckloads of food, medicine, and toys to that impoverished country. The following year, VFP joined Soviet veterans in signing a joint statement “calling for an end to war” in Nicaragua.
In 1988 VFP endorsed a water purification project for Nicaragua and released a 28-minute video titled Soldiers of Peace “focusing exclusively on VFP’s response to current U.S. policies in Central America.” Featuring a title song by Graham Nash (of popular group Crosby, Stills and Nash) and narration by “VFP member” (and Barbra Streisand close friend) Kris Kristofferson, the video is highly critical of U.S. policies. VFP also joined Soviet Union veterans in signing a joint statement “calling for an end to war.”
In 1988 a group of VFP members started to take a convoy of “about ten trucks, filled with food, medical supplies and toys” to Nicaragua. But these humanitarians, VFP’s web site tells, “were stopped by President Reagan at the border in El Paso.”
In 1989 VFP received an invitation from the Sandinista government “to serve as Official Observers during the February 1990 Nicaraguan elections.” The Sandinistas lost the election, after which VFP immediately ended all assistance to Nicaragua.
In 1990 VFP sent representatives to the 45th Anniversary of World War II Victory Day in the Soviet Union. VFP that year was given a permanent NGO seat at the United Nations. Throughout 1991, VFP chapters and members organized university teach-ins, town meetings, panel discussions, and Congressional postcard / call-in campaigns to voice opposition to the Gulf War.
In 1992 VFP sent a delegation to Cuba to meet with “veterans of Cuba’s war in Angola. While not showing support for Castro’s government,” the group’s history reads, “they do denounce the U.S.-led embargo of Cuba.” VFP will in coming years send more friendly missions to Fidel Castro’s tropical Gulag, one in 2000 bringing an American Little League baseball team to Havana to play against Cuban youngsters.
VFP moved its headquarters to Washington, D.C. in 1997 “to cooperate more with other NGOs and to coordinate programs more effectively. But in 2001 this National Office was moved to its present location in St. Louis, Missouri, with Korean War veteran apologist Wilson (Woody) Powell as its National Administrator.
In the post-Gulf War years, VFP was sympathetic to the plight of the Iraqi people, whose hardships it blamed on American policies rather than on the actions of Saddam Hussein. In 2000, VFP aided Saddam, providing assistance by way of water-treatment facilities to remedy a water-contamination problem that the group attributed to American-led sanctions against the Iraqi government. That same year VFP members join Leftists in Puerto Rico who were using aggressive protest to shut down the U.S. Navy facility at Vieques.
In 2001, VFP co-sponsored, along with the International Action Center, a “Korean War Tribunal” in New York — a political show trial designed to voice anti-American propaganda for the consumption of the world’s leftist media. In 2002, Korean War veteran and VFP member Wilson “Woody” Powell (who in 2004 would be named the Executive Director of VFP’s St. Louis headquarters) “visit[ed] [the] Kokan-ri massacre site in Korea, and [made] an apology to the massacre’s sole survivor.” “Mr. Powell was also a juror for the event,” says VFP’s web site, “wherein witnesses of US atrocities from 50 years ago are flown in from Korea to testify.”
In 2003, VFP, working in conjunction with Military Families Speak Out, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and others, launched the Bring Them Home Now campaign. In November of that same year, a VFP contingent entered Iraq on a fact-finding mission under the guidance of Global Exchange.
At a 2003 International ANSWER-sponsored anti-war rally in San Francisco, local VFP leader and guest speaker Jim Long recalled a rally he had attended in Cuba, where, he said, “Castro was loved by his people, in contrast to President Bush, who had to be protected from protestors in a ‘quasi-military’ operation. … It’s hard for me to determine where the police state is and where the free state is.” Long told the cheering anti-war crowd that “every November 11th he goes to Cuba to take part in a special commemorative ceremony to honor Cuba veterans.”
VFP has endorsed Project USA/Cuba-InfoMed, which seeks to “increase awareness about health achievements in Cuba and the impact of U.S. policies on the health of the Cuban people,” and “to build opposition to the U.S. embargo of Cuba.”
Strongly opposed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, VFP members conduct public forums, meet with elected representatives, and participate in marches to express their views. VFP also seeks “to protect our civil liberties threatened by the ‘Patriot Act’ and other repressive legislation.”
In 2007 the VFP website posted “An Open Letter to Latino and Latina students and all leaders of immigrant rights organizations,” in support of the so-called DREAM Act, which was intended to allow illegal aliens to attend college at the reduced tuition rates normally reserved for in-state legal residents. Said the letter:
“Many [students] came to the United States as children and have finished their high school education. Now, because they lack legal documents, they face an uncertain future that may deny them the opportunity to attend college or find a decent job. The DREAM Act offers them a light at the end of an otherwise dark and uncertain road. I see students on fasts, in marches, lobbying elected officials, all in the name of the DREAM Act’s passage. But BEWARE. Be very careful. Because our honorable youth with their dreams and wishes to serve their new country are being tricked and manipulated in an immoral and criminal way.
“Why do I say this? Simply put, the DREAM Act proposes two years of college as a pathway to permanent residency but it also includes a second option linked to the so-called war on terror – ‘two years of military service.’ Our young people may not see that this is a covert draft in which thousands of youth from Latino families will be sent to Iraq or some other war torn nation where they will have to surrender their moral values and become a war criminal or perhaps return home in black bags on their way to a tomb drenched with their parents’ tears.
“How many of our youth can afford college? How many will be able to take the educational option? Unfortunately very few because the existing system locks out the children of working families with high tuition and inflated admissions criteria. Most will be forced to take the military option to get their green card. But what good is a green card to a dead person? What good is a green card to a young person severely wounded in mind and body?”