Quaker Universalist Conversations

Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifetime Activist

By David Hartsough with Joyce Hollyday – A Review

Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifetime Activist, by David Hartsough with Joyce Hollyday. Foreword by John Dear; Introduction by George Lakey; Afterward by Ken Butigan. (PM Press, Oakland CA, 2014. 243 pages. $20, paperback)

Reviewer Rich Van Dellan is a member of Rochester (MN) Friends Meeting and a longtime convinced Friend.

I was deeply moved by this autobiography by Quaker David Hartsough, who has devoted his life to peace and nonviolent activism.

Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifetime Activist, By David Hartsough with Joyce Hollyday (2014) Hartsough started early. At age 20 at a civil rights sit-in he was threatened by a white man with a knife who said he was going to put it through his heart. Hartsough responded: “Friend, do what you believe is right, and I will still try to love you.” Both the man’s jaw and hand dropped and he left.

Hartsough has been arrested multiple times for nonviolent actions. He has been a war tax resister all of his life. He has traveled to many trouble spots in the world to support nonviolent resistance: Central and South America, Russia, the former Yugoslavia and more.

He was also on the tracks on September 1, 1987, when Brian Wilson was run over by a navy train trying to block arms shipment to the death squads in El Salvador.1 In the protests that followed, he himself had his arm twisted so hard that it was broken in two places.

Hartsough was co-founder with Mel Duncan of Nonviolent Peaceforce and recently helped David Swanson start World Beyond War: a Global Movement to End All war and Promote Enduring Peace. The book devotes multiple pages describing each of these efforts. Both organizations continue today.

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I want to highlight Hartsough’s trips to Kosovo.2 He went with a group from Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1996 to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia right after the Serb shelling of Sarajevo. He had been to that area as a college student years before. The situation was horrible beyond belief under the brutal dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

Hartsough was shocked, yet he was able to find a few small elements of nonviolent resistance and hope. When the delegation returned home after two months, he decided to stay on and go to Kosovo. His view of what happened there is one I had not heard.

Kosovo map Kosovo was 90% Albanian (called Kosovars) ruled by the 10% Serbs. In Kosovo there was a large nonviolent resistance movement involving thousands of people.

They had been pleading for international recognition and help. Hartsough left to travel over Europe and the U.S., seeking support for this movement. He returned in 1997.

The universities were shut down to Albanian students. He accompanied a march of over 20,000 Kosovar students with only flowers in their lapels and wearing white shirts. They were met by a police blockade that charged after ten minutes with horses and tear gas. Hartsough stayed a month or so strategizing and giving nonviolent training. Then he went back to seeking some international support.

The students continued bravely with monthly marches. Hartsough was invited back in the spring of 1998 after a massacre in Drenica,3 and four students came with him. They joined 20,000 women who were attempting to march 30 miles from Pristina to Drenica carrying flowers, candles and pictures of Mother Teresa. The five Americans were arrested. That finally got some publicity, but still no support for the nonviolent movement.

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Some of the Kosovars became frustrated at the failure of the nonviolent movement thus far, took up arms and formed the guerilla Kosovo Liberation Front. They received immediate aid from the CIA and U.S. military. Clinton started the NATO bombing on March 24, 1999, as “humanitarian intervention” that continued for three months, caused many civilian deaths and did not topple Milosevic. In fact, the Serbs rallied behind him increasing his support.
Otpor logo
About that time twelve student activists started a nonviolent movement called “Otpor,” with the clenched fist as a symbol.4 Thousands marched calling for the resignation of Milosevic, and despite severe repression the movement was successful and Milosevic was overthrown on October 5, 2000. He surrendered to authorities on March 31, 2001, and died in jail at the Hague five years later.

Toward the end of his book, Hartsough talks about the need for abolition of war. He speaks to and shares my bias that no significant progress will be made in addressing the other serious problems facing us, including climate change, until war is abolished and the money spent on war worldwide is redirected.

The book concludes with twelve pages of “Suggested DVDs, Books, and Websites for Further Study and Action,” and “The Six Principles and the Six Steps of Kingian Nonviolence.”

The book has much more. It is a treasure trove and I recommend it.

Reviewer’s query after reading about Kosovo:

How many violent movements that we know about had a preceding nonviolent movement for change that did not get supported?

The bombing of Kosovo was considered a success by the Clinton Administration, as Kosovo became an independent state. However, today Kosovo is an impoverished state that lacks basic water, electricity and waste management. The US has a large military base there.5


Notes & Image Sources

1 See Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson (PM Press, 2011), and also the website S. Brian Willson.

Willson’s website “contains essays describing the incredible historic pattern of U.S. arrogance, ethnocentrism, violence and lawlessness in domestic and global affairs, and the severe danger this pattern poses for the future health of Homo sapiens and Mother Earth. Other essays discuss revolutionary, nonviolent alternative approaches based on the principle of radical relational mutuality.”

2 See Kosovo Profile – BBC News. The map is from this source.

3 See Week of Terror in Drenica: Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo, by Human Rights Watch (1999).

4 See “Otpor and the Struggle for Democracy in Serbia,” by Lester Kurtz (International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, 2010). Image source: Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20711581.

5 Examples of the debate over the NATO bombing campaign:

  • “NATO’s ‘Humanitarian War’ over Kosovo” http://www.columbia.edu/itc/sipa/S6800/courseworks/NATOhumanitarian.pdf, by Adam Roberts, in Survival, vol. 41, no 3, Autumn 1999, pp. 102-23, The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Columbia University.