Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) describes itself as “a nonviolent feminist organization that works in solidarity with others to create a system of social equality, self-determination, and justice through education and empowerment of women, [by]… dismantl[ing] systems of militarism and global oppression.” The organization directs its accusations of injustice and oppression almost exclusively at the United States. It has opposed everything from the U.S.-led war on terror, to U.S.-enacted sanctions aimed at isolating hostile nations around the globe, to any “U.S. foreign policy that uses military action to respond to world conflicts.” Governed by a Steering Committee of “volunteer activists who use consensus decision making,” WAMM currently has approximately 2,100 member households, most of which are located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.
WAMM’s roots trace back to the fall of 1981, when ten women began to meet on a regular basis in a Minneapolis business establishment called Loretta’s Tea Room “to figure out how to most effectively respond to the threat of nuclear war, the huge increases in military spending and the massive slashes in human services budgets.” “Inspired by polls that showed most women were anti-war,” these women organized a January 16, 1982 founding conference that drew 100 attendees. Throughout the remainder of the decade, WAMM “opposed the nuclear arms race and the U.S intervention in Central America.” Its popularity was boosted when some of its members appeared on the Phil Donahue television program.
Locally, WAMM supported “Native American spearfishing rights, Minnesota nurses and P9 meatpackers strikes, the welfare rights group Up and Out of Poverty, [and] the struggle to get Honeywell to stop producing land mines.” It also joined coalitions demanding “police accountability,” a move founded on the premise that brutality and abuse are widespread among law-enforcement officers. In another widely publicized action, WAMM members demonstrated against war toys by buying out one store’s entire supply of such items just before Christmas, and then returning them all after the holiday. Other actions included freeway bannering; marching through downtown Minneapolis to protest military spending and war; forming “empowerment groups”; visiting Minnesota grade schools with “Tough Dove” the puppet; and distributing “Tools for Tough Times” packets to new members.
In the 1990s, WAMM helped organize the first protest in the U.S. against troop deployment in preparation for the Gulf War. Following the war, WAMM opposed what it termed the “deadly sanctions and continuing bombing of Iraq,” as well as America’s “interventions and bloody conflicts in Panama, Yugoslavia, East Timor, Somalia, and Israel/Palestine.” Moreover, it condemned the “domestic [budget] cuts” that, in WAMM’s view, served only to exacerbate America’s “military madness.”
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.” The organization spreads its “word of peace and justice” into schools and community organizations through its “WAMM Action!” email list and website, a Speakers Bureau, published literature, and public education forums.
One of WAMM’s founding tenets is: “Never a meeting without an action.” True to its motto, the group uses every formal gathering of its membership to engage in acts of civil disobedience or protest against U.S. policies. Among the organization’s more notable recent actions was the occupation of two U.S. Senators’ offices (in Minnesota) to demand that they vote against the 2003 War in Iraq.
WAMM’s programs are based on two core values:
(a) “WAMM condemns a U.S. foreign policy that uses military action to respond to world conflicts and to seize and maintain power over other people and nations. We oppose actions that disregard the dignity of people and the sovereignty of other nations, including economic exploitation, covert operations, the threat of weapons of mass destruction, transfers of arms including military aid, and the manipulation of foreign governments and factions. War … engenders further conflicts … and diverts resources from domestic needs.”
(b) “WAMM opposes the design, manufacture, and distribution of military weapons by the U.S. government and corporations. … WAMM envisions an equitable world where weapons will not be necessary. Diplomacy, international treaties, nonviolent peacekeeping, and international observers are among the tools for resolving conflict without weapons.”
WAMM’s activities are carried out by several Committees:
(a) Iraq Committee/Twin Cities Peace Campaign – Focus on Iraq: This committee “actively opposes military intervention in Iraq” and “encourages religious leaders to make public statements opposing the war.”
(b) Middle East Committee: Working closely with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, this WAMM project “organizes around issues of justice and peace in the Middle East, particularly in relation to U.S. government, military, and corporate involvement in this region.”
(c) St. Joan of Arc/WAMM Peacemakers: This committee “collaborates with members of Minneapolis’ St. Joan of Arc Church to take action on issues of peacemaking and justice”; distributes information packets for young people interested in conscientious objection, or their “right to refuse to kill”; supports the “Jubilee 2000” international campaign advocating debt forgiveness for poor nations around the world; and works with Pax Christi in promoting “Bread Not Stones,” a campaign to reduce military spending.
(d) Depleted Uranium: This committee “works to educate the public about the dangers of depleted uranium munitions to the communities in which they are manufactured, to the communities on which they are used, and to the service people who are exposed to them in the field.”
(e) Tackling Torture at the Top: “Torture is U.S. policy initiated and [is] planned at the very highest levels of our government. … The committee focuses on the responsibility of top U.S. officials for the torture that is occurring in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and other locations that are even more secret.”
(f) Yugoslavia Committee: Opposed to “current U.S. foreign policy toward Yugoslavia and U.S./NATO military intervention in the region,” this committee “seeks to educate the public about geopolitical motivations for U.S. involvement and the breaking of international law in the 1999 U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.” In 2000, the committee sponsored a public meeting in St. Paul as part of the International War Crimes Tribunal established by Ramsey Clark and the International Action Center.
(g) Peacemaker Committee: This committee distributes information to young people, advising them not join the U.S. military.
WAMM leadership consists of three co-directors: Polly Mann, who deems “rampant capitalism” the source of most human misery; Jen Randolph Reise, who describes the United States as “a warmongering country”; and Mary Shepard, who laments that “the winners [of the War in Iraq] are the members of the military-industrial complex: the oil companies, the weapons manufacturers, and ‘consultants’ who will advise Iraq’s leaders (handpicked by the Bush Administration) on how they can change from their dream of Socialism to a market economy like ours.” A former co-director, Paulette Sankofa, has characterized the 9/11 terrorists as men who “resist[ed] global dominance, imperialism, and exploitation of natural resources by the United States and its economic cronies.
A member of the Abolition 2000 anti-war coalition, WAMM receives its principal funding from the Community Solutions Fund (CSF) and the Headwaters Foundation for Justice (HFJ). HFJ is a strong supporter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and claims to be a “catalyst for social change that supports grassroots communities working to create social, economic, and racial justice.” CSF contends that Saddam Hussein was attempting to cooperate with U.N. inspectors prior to the start of the War in Iraq, and that the Bush administration “consciously chos[e] to play on people’s real fears of al Qaeda in order to create the election-season war hysteria.”