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Wanting Peace is NOT Unpatriotic
by Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process,
gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers,
quietly building new structures.

John F. Kennedy

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek,
but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Amidst the demands by the U.S. Presidential administration for unquestioning support of their war on Afghanistan, the mainstream media, acting like cheerleaders for the military, continues to portray peace activists as a fringe minority of mostly environmentalists and other discontents. A "Seattle Times" columnist went so far as to call those wanting peace " pro-terrorist." This rhetoric must end.

Afghan child (all accompanying photos courtesy of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)

Peace activists want justice and imprisonment for the perpetrators of terrorist acts worldwide. They want a recognition that waging war on people also destroys the environment, creating devastation for generations to come.

But they also want acknowledgment that many terrorist acts are committed daily under the guise of governmental policy and free trade. Peace is a troubling concept to those who run our political and economic systems. The military, of course, hates peace. The aging leadership of the nation's armed forces longs for battle to exercise their training. Some Defense Department documents have even gone so far as to define peace as "permanent pre-hostility."

Any US presidential administration loves war. It allows them unprecedented powers to infuse money into the military-industrial complex of the US and through accusations of being unpatriotic, bullies people into spending hard-earned cash.

Lewis Green, regional coordinator for Witness for Peace Northwest, said in his rebuttal to a "Seattle Times'" commentary bashing pacifists, "Throughout the history of mankind, nations, including our own, worked purposefully to create an unjust world, where but one nation, one empire, is first, leaving in its wake the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed."

Monitoring a child's growth at a Red Crescent health clinic in Kabul

Millions of Afghan citizens, the victims of decades of wars by external powers who cared little for their country or their people, have been suffering for years. Yet the US took no notice of them, made no attempts to feed the sick children or to restore their battered environment, until it became a convenient public relations exercise in order to garner support among Muslims for military action.

The current US war effort, while serving to satisfy the desire for revenge, does little to insure peace, protect American citizens, or bring the September 11 criminals to justice. But it does give the US administration unprecedented power to infuse cash into a sagging economy, garner huge support for a military spending budget of vast proportions, and to pass without opposition many bills that will have a profound and lasting effect on our environment and our society.

President Bush has declared the US "good" and the terrorist forces "evil." He has declared consumption of natural resources and spending money patriotic. But it is always dangerous to declare oneself at the top of the moral high ground. Few can withstand the scrutiny that accompanies such a position.

Afghan woman prepares a meal outside her mud house

Lewis Green reminds us that if one accepts the US Administration's definitions of what it means to be patriotic, then the consequences could be troubling. He says, "It is not love for the United States to consume 40 percent (or 60 percent, depending upon how we measure) of the world's resources. It is not love for the United States and the West to perpetuate and justify a wealth gap that leaves 32 million Americans poor and voiceless, and billions of others around the world poor and voiceless, as well. It is not love to train foreign soldiers in the art of counterinsurgency, which is simply a fancy phrase for 'the art of terrorism,' which those soldiers all too frequently use to brutalize their own citizens, primarily, but not exclusively, in their Latin American homelands."

What is good and what is evil to those in power is often determined based on which ideology is more profitable at the time. Ironically, the US often downplays environmental issues as just one of the many factors to be considered in decision making. Yet it could be argued that the quest for environmental resources may be at the crux of our world policy. Rather than lead the world in the design and implementation of alternative energy systems, the US instead chooses to lead the world in trying to squeeze every last drop of fossil fuels from the planet. Most of these fossil fuels are in the Middle East.

To achieve this end, we have influenced the politics throughout the Middle East at the expense of the citizens of these lands whom we know so little about. The US supported World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank have forced people into abject poverty and an inescapable cycle of oppression and environmental degradation. These policies are largely enforced by the 60,000 Latin American soldiers trained at the School Of the Americas (SOW) in Fort Benning, Georgia, many of whom have received extensive training in civilian-targeted warfare.

Group of Afghan refugees seeking water from one of a few water collection areas in Pakistan

The School is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). School of the Americas Watch, an organization dedicated to closing this notorious program of the US Department of Defense, says " This school has a legacy of providing training to some of the most notorious human rights abusers of this hemisphere. SOA graduates have gone on to become dictators, defense ministers and heads of secret police agencies where they have crafted genocidal policies resulting in torture, murder, disappearances and displacement for hundreds of thousands of people." They have decimated the environments of their native lands. Humans and animals alike have suffered under their regimes.

The alumni of WHISC reads like a "Who's Who" in world terrorism. The school's largest customer, Colombia, has had over 10,000 troops trained at the school. Colombia currently has the worst human rights record in all of Latin America.

In February of this year, WHISC graduate Hernan Orozco was sent to prison by a military tribunal for complicity in the Mapiripán torture and massacre of 30 peasants by a paramilitary group. In Guatemala, WHISC graduate Lima Estrada was found guilty of the 1998 murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi. Last year, former Guatemalan dictators Efrain Rios Montt and Fernando Lucas Garcia, both WHISC alums, were brought into court on genocide charges.

The environment of Afghanistan has been thrashed. It problems include deforestation due to the demand for wood to provide heat in harsh winters, desertification, soil degradation and erosion, water pollution due to contamination from unsanitary living conditions, water scarcity as a result of decimated irrigation systems, and contamination of food sources as a result of the use of banned pesticides.

Green points out that the solutions are within our grasp, but there is a price to pay. He says, "Perhaps, the rich may have to be less rich; CEOs may not be able to make 220 times that of the average worker in the United States; we may have to implement fair trade instead of free trade; we may have to drive cars that pollute far less or, heaven forbid, ride public transportation." He warns that, "we may have to think of others as much as we think about ourselves."

(c) 2000 by Michael Collopy from The Peacemakers Speak website

If the U.S. were really interested in waging peace, why don't they collected together all the living winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Among these men and women are people who have created and lived through revolutionary ways of bringing warring factions together. I don't think anyone gave them a call.

But we can benefit from their wisdom. Nobel peace laureate Dr. Jose Ramos Horta, who participated in the struggle in East Timor, created the website. At The Peacemakers Speak website, you can read the views of 16 Nobel Peace laureates about the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and their vision for healing. These messages should make a difference and should influence worldwide policy. But they probably won't.

Nobel laureates Nelson R Mandela, F W de Klerk, and D M Tutu wrote in their joint statement,

"The actions taken should not deepen tensions and further divide the world for it is in those circumstances of strife and division that terrorism finds fertile ground. The recent history of our own country [Africa] has taught that negotiation is the surest means of finding lasting solutions to even the most seemingly intractable political problems."

Claiming to be able to identify the forces that are good and those that are evil is dangerous. Before declaring itself to be the champion of good in the world, the U.S. better take a serious look at its own policies.

Don't be afraid to wage peace. It is THE most patriotic stance.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES (not linked in the text)

  1. See details on the condition of Afghanistan's environment at Countrywatch.
  2. CARE has been quietly helping the people of Afghanistan for years. Find out how to help them at their website.
  3. Visit the American Friends Service Committee. They have been working for years to seek nonviolent solutions.
  4. For decades, the War Resisters League has been waging peace.
  5. The Nonviolence Web Page will give you many links to peace organizations.
  6. Read about the doublespeak used by the military from Bill Lutz, author of Doublespeak.
  7. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Tell them that you want them to take a serious look at U.S. sponsored terrorism worldwide.
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Copyright (c) 2001, Jackie A. Giuliano Ph.D.