Mike Ferner, president of Veterans for Peace (VFP), will speak in Bloomington on April 29, at 7 p.m. in room 2B of the Monroe County Public Library.

Ferner, who served as a Navy Hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War, took care of hundreds of wounded soldiers and was discharged as a conscientious objector. His arrests for "disturbing the war" include disrupting a session of Congress.

Founded in 1985, VFP is a national organization with headquarters in St. Louis and chapters and at-large members around the country. The organization includes women and men veterans of all eras and duty stations, from the Spanish Civil War to the Iraq war.

As its Web site states, the organization's "collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary."

"The title of Ferner's Bloomington talk is 'Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan: A Reflection on Martin Luther King's 'Beyond Vietnam' Speech.'"

Ferner, who was elected the group's president in January, has had a wide variety of experience as an activist. He is a writer from Toledo and served two terms on the Toledo City Council, organized for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and worked as communications director for the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy.

He traveled to Iraq twice, with a Voices in the Wilderness delegation just before the U.S. invasion in 2003 and returned in 2004 for two months as a freelance writer. His book about those trips, Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq, was released in October 2006.

Ferner also authored the "Veterans for Peace Case for Impeachment and Prosecution" of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney and has published articles in numerous online sites: CounterPunch, Common Dreams, Online Journal, Buzzflash, the American Muslim, Smirking Chimp, OpEd News, Afterdowningstreet.org, MichaelMoore.com, MR Zine, Z Net, LewRockwell.com and the Baltimore Chronicle.

He has been a member of VFP since its inception in 1985 and a member of the board for the last two years. When the presidency became vacant unexpectedly at the end of last year, several board members asked him to run for president.

Asked by e-mail what he thought he could achieve as president, Ferner replied, "Being president offers more ways to help build the organizational and financial strength and stability of VFP, which is really important to me. VFP is not just another group to join like most of the other ones we write a check to after being solicited. The members have their heart and soul in it and that makes a big difference."

"Collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent."
- Mike Ferner

The title of Ferner's Bloomington talk is "Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan: A Reflection on Martin Luther King's 'Beyond Vietnam' Speech." That speech, which Dr. King delivered on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York, according to Ferner, "challenged many, many people on the left in America, particularly his own political base in the civil rights movement. King had reached the heights of social change organizing by the time he made that speech. He could have, indeed was counseled to, confine his activism to civil rights. But he saw the economic, physical and spiritual devastation wreaked by the Vietnam War and recognized it was inextricably linked to justice and the cause of civil rights, even if some of his supporters wanted to keep it separate."

Further, Ferner continued, "Because he believed civil rights and the war were of a whole, he challenged his friends and supporters to view it that way. Now, of course, it's relatively easy to recognize why it was important for King to do so, but at the time many people who had their names and careers invested in the civil rights movement were opposed to him 'going too far.'

"On a more modest scale, I've been thinking about the antiwar movement holistically and within a longer arc of history than just the present conflicts. I think there are similarities to what Dr. King saw when he stepped back to reflect on the civil rights movement, and there seems to be an even greater need to challenge current thinking because the antiwar movement cannot claim near the success of the civil rights movement in Martin Luther King Jr.'s time."

Ferner's talk is sponsored by the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition and Bloomington branch of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom.

Linda Greene can be reached at lgreene@bloomington.in.us.

For more information
Mike Ferner: Former Enemies Find New Way Forward -- OpEd News
Canada Declares Victory in Battle of Toledo -- CounterPunch
Camp Hope Holds Obama to 'Change' Pledge -- MichaelMoore.com
'I Will Salute No More Forever' -- MichaelMoore.com