Stop Militarizing the Police

August 15, 2014

The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of the Ferguson police is a reminder that the upsurge in violence is not restricted to the Middle East or any one place.  It’s right here in our own communities.

Like the Trayvon Martin killing two years ago, the problems of racism, easy access to firearms, and the assault on our civil rights are all, once again, in the spotlight. I suspect I don’t have to explain why peace activists are taking action, mostly in support of activists of color who are leading the organized response to this latest perversion of justice.  Anti-violence is at the very heart of our struggle.

In this case however there is another element that directly connects to our ongoing work to build a more peaceful and just future – that is – militarism.  It’s time to demilitarize our police.

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ‘wind down’ (though clearly not all the way down) the Pentagon has been offering surplus weapons to local police forces for free.  Tens of thousands of M-16’s, as well as mine-resistant trucks and other battlefield hardware have already been transferred to jurisdictions around the country – but the Pentagon still has lots and lots of free stuff to give away.

A bipartisan chorus has already begun to speak out in Congress against this practice.  Even Tea Party and right wing extremist Ted Cruz is raising alarm.

Tell your Member of Congress where you stand.

How much military hardware has been transferred to local jurisdictions?  It’s not easy to know as the Pentagon makes the trail difficult to track.  Most of the data available comes from local and state officials – like the State of Missouri which CNN reports has received some $17 million worth in transfers from the Pentagon.

I find, and I’m confident you do as well, the images of police in full military gear aiming assault rifles at unarmed protesters upsetting.  We can expect to see more and more of this in the future too, if we don’t do something about the economic terrorism visited upon the poor in our society at the hands of the 1 percent.

We know, for example, the Pentagon has in place plans for dealing with civil disorder brought about by economic or environmental disaster threatening the stablity of the government.  Arming local jurisdictions is a step in the wrong direction.

Since the 1980’s the US government has enabled the militarization of the police force as part of its so-called War on Drugs.  Post 9/11 politics opened the flood gates with grants from the federal government to prepare for the imminent terrorist threat.  Now, as combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, the Pentagon is literally giving battlefield hardware away.

The militarism of policing – both in terms of weaponry and tactics – is a threat to our freedom as great as any coming from outside our borders.  It’s time to put it to a stop.

Write you Member of Congress today!

Please forward this message to your friends.


On Inauguration/MLK Holiday, thoughts on our society’s “Triple Evils”

January 21, 2013

Lead article today on Foreign Policy in Focus. Would love your comments regarding our nation’s progress on Dr. King’s triple evils of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.

–Kevin

What Would King Say of the Obama Era?

By Kevin Martin, January 21, 2013

martin-luther-king-barack-obamaThe coincidence that the presidential inauguration should fall on Martin Luther King Day provides much food for thought. Certainly, Barack Obama’s decision to use King’s Bible for his swearing-in ceremony invites progressives to make an unflattering comparison between the two—Norman Solomon did it quite well with his piece “King: I Have a Dream. Obama: I Have a Drone.”

But beyond simply castigating the years behind us or prognosticating about the years to come, there is a broader, riper opportunity in this coincidence. Let’s challenge our society to look at how well we are addressing what King called the “giant triplets,” or the “triple evils,” of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism, which he enunciated most notably in his April 4, 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, exactly one year before his murder. “When machines and computers, profit motives, and property rights are considered more important than people,” he thundered, “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Were King alive today, he would be astonished to see how much more exploitative our capitalist system has become. Witness the demise of American labor unions, the offshoring of middle-class jobs to low-wage countries to maximize corporate profits, the worst income inequality since the rober baron heyday of the 1920s, and our ongoing addiction to planet-destroying, unsustainable, and finite energy sources. Not coincidentally, the corporate takeover of our government—accelerated by the Supreme Court’s disastrous “Citizens United” ruling—would likely outrage King, as it ought to all Americans.

And while there certainly are some positive, glass-half-full indicators of racial harmony that we can be proud of—much higher rates of interracial marriage being a significant one, to say nothing of the reelection of America’s first black president—there are many more devastating facts that can’t be ignored. There are more black men in prison than in college, surely one of our country’s greatest shames. Wealth inequality, a more comprehensive measurement of economic health for an individual or family, is even worse for people of color than income inequality, which itself remains sky-high. Our failed policies on immigration, the war on drugs, persistent racial profiling—one could go on and on about the challenges of our deeply rooted sickness of racism.

Even President Obama’s two election victories and the visceral reaction to them are instructive. In 2012 Obama got less than 40 percent of the white vote, and in 2008 just a little more—meaning John McCain and Mitt Romney, two of the worst major party nominees in recent memory (and that’s saying something!) got a lot of votes just for being white. And the hysterical right-wing “We want our country back…” often means “…from that black guy in the White House.”

Meanwhile, most Americans remain in deep denial about the evil of militarism. By any measure, the United States is still, as King termed it in 1967, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” and to further quote and appropriate King’s terrific phrase, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan must doubtless see U.S. troops as “strange liberators,” just as the Vietnamese did.

The United States is military colossus unmatched in history, spending almost as much on war and weapons as the rest of the world’s countries combined. We’re far and away the globe’s number-one arms dealer, and maintain somewhere close to 1,000 foreign military bases (even the Pentagon can’t give a precise number). For comparison’s sake, China just recently opened its first foreign base in the Indian Ocean island of Seychelles.

War has become normalized; ask anyone under the age of 20 if they can remember a time we weren’t at war.

Then there is our domestic culture of violence, which has too many manifestations to name. Our out-of-control gun violence, violence against women and LGBT persons and children, our startlingly violent movies and video games, and our incessant use of war and battle metaphors is just a start.

An extreme example of our country’s delusion about guns and violence was provided recently by Larry Ward, chairman of the “Gun Rights Appreciation Day” planned for inaugural weekend. When challenged about the irony of holding such an event on the MLK holiday weekend, Ward said he thought the event would “honor the legacy of Dr. King,” adding that if African-Americans had had guns, slavery might not have existed in this country. Brevity prevents a full deconstruction of these absurdities, but Ward evidently forgot that King was murdered with a gun.

Clearly the triple evils run deep in our society and don’t just stand alone. They are interlocking and mutually reinforcing.  U.S. military and foreign policy is manifestly racist (dating at least to the genocide of First Nations peoples), and mostly driven by corporate interests bound up in economic exploitation. Economic exploitation obviously has a strong racial component as well.

But the point of all this is not to concede defeat to King’s giant triplets—the point is to stimulate analysis, reflection, and ideas for action to address and overcome them. Racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all human constructs, after all. We are not powerless before any of them.

For example, the Pentagon budget, while gargantuan, will soon begin to decline due to budgetary pressures and the end of the disastrous Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We can begin to rebuild by pushing for deeper cuts to Pentagon pork and putting the savings to work by investing in our communities. Moreover, creating a U.S. foreign and military policy based on widely held values of democracy, diplomacy, human rights, justice, sustainability, peace, and international cooperation—in short, a foreign policy for the global 99 percent—is not only possible; it’s the only antidote to our disease of militarism.

So as we celebrate Dr. King’s 84th birthday, let’s rededicate ourselves to building the Beloved Community he so clearly envisioned. Dismantling the triple evils and replacing them with positive structures and policies would be a great start.

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Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide.


Dr King on Peace, Militarism and Internationalism

January 19, 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference.

By Judith Le Blanc – Field Director, Peace Action – A sermon delivered on January 13, 2013 to the Transcontinental Baptist Church and Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts on the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King. Every year, I enjoy the celebration of Dr King’s birthday because it reminds me of being young and militant and inspired.

Back in the day, we were mindful of having been too young to be involved in the Civil Rights movement. We were anxious for a way to continue the struggle. So we joined the struggle to make his birthday a national holiday: marching, petitioning, and pressing Congress and the Reagan administration.

The rhythm and blues artist, Stevie Wonder led the charge along with civil rights leaders He wrote a song about the struggle for a national holiday to honor Dr King.

We knew when we danced to Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday song in the clubs that we were dancing for justice and honoring the legacy of a movement that fundamentally changed the course of US history.

Nothing like it, to be out dancing in a club and reminded of what Dr King called the “beautiful struggle!” For me and many other young people of color, the fight for his birthday national holiday was really a search for way to carry on the struggle for racial justice. Then as now, we are so painfully aware of how far we must go to realize the dream of racial equity, economic justice and a world without wars.

In 1966, Dr King delivered the Ware Lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, not too far from here, in Hollywood, FL.

Every year someone is chosen to deliver this address at the general assembly as a call to witness, a signaling of the most pressing issues of the day.

In Dr King’s Ware lecture, he said, “One of the great misfortunes of history is that all too many individuals and institutions find themselves in a great period of change and yet fail to achieve the new attitudes and outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution. “

There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution!

And today we are in such a moment when the militarization of the federal budget is the greatest obstacle to justice at home and global peace. Fifty eight percent of yearly discretionary spending goes to the Pentagon.

We are in a moment when Dr King’s prophetic voice can fortify our resolve to break the cycle of weapons and wars being prioritized over jobs, education and diplomacy.

We, in the peace and justice movement, have come to a moment as Dr King and the Civil Rights movement did. We must break the silence on the impact of US militarism and how it holds back a more just and peaceful world.

In his Beyond Vietnam speech delivered at Riverside Church in 1967, Dr King outlined a rationale for why our country must end the war in Vietnam in order to change the US relationship to the rest of the world and address the urgent needs of our communities.

He spoke about those who had asked, “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, aren’t you hurting the cause of your people?”

He believed those questions revealed a ”tragic misunderstanding”. He had led a movement dedicated to ending legalized segregation and won, yet he and the movement were confronted with continuing obstacles to realizing “The Dream”.

He began to confront the main obstacle to true equality: the economic system. President Johnson began to turn back the war on poverty and build up of the war in Vietnam.

Dr King knew that as long as resources were being sucked into the conflict in Vietnam that there would be no investment in our communities. He said, “I am compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

He began to speak out in the face of, what he called “such cruel manipulation of the poor, the cruel irony of watching Black and white young people on TV as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.”

He said, “ I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

In his Beyond Vietnam speech, he spoke at length about the need to see human kind, other countries, not as enemies but as people with needs that mirror our own. He argued that demonizing the Communists could not rationalize our country’s war and occupation of Vietnam.

He began to develop a deeper analysis of the role of militarism in shaping US foreign policy. He called upon all those who believed in justice to question the fairness of our past and present foreign policies.

He said, “ Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady. If we don’t understand that reality, we will be attending rallies and marching without end.”

Why did his organizing and speaking out against the connection between poverty and war stir such controversy? Because he was pinpointing the root causes of injustice at home and abroad, he connected foreign policy and its impact at home.

He said,” When the bombs are dropped in Vietnam, they explode in our communities.” Dr King said the triple evils of militarism, poverty and inequality; cause our people and the peoples around the world to suffer needlessly. His prophetic teachings resonate today because it continues to be even truer now, than ever.

The bombs dropped in Afghanistan and Pakistan do explode in our communities.

US history has been consistently marked by wars and occupations. Constant wars or threats of wars.

Across the political spectrum a new awareness is growing that wars cannot solve the world’s most complicated problems. In fact wars and occupations worsen the crisis problems: climate change, hunger or democracy as examples.

Our country spends more on the military than any other country on the world, yet honestly and objectively: the US can no longer control the global economy nor politics with war. And can no longer afford to do so. It is the beginning of the end of US world domination.

Many of the realists on the Right are beginning to take note and are searching for ways to promote US interests through other means.

Realists among former generals and even neoconservatives and libertarians are calling for closing US bases, negotiating reductions in nuclear arsenals and ending the war in Afghanistan sooner than 2014. They are realists, not believers in Dr King’s vision, realists.

The Rand Corporation released a report in 2006 on the study of 648 terrorist groups and armed conflicts between the years 1968-2006. They found a majority ended the armed struggles by entering into the political process, and only 7% of those conflicts ended through military action. A majority of armed conflicts were ended through negotiations and a political process not military action.

Military action, as the leading edge of US foreign must, should and could come to an end. Democracy, economic development and protection of civilians cannot be achieved at the end of the barrel of a gun or with drones.

2013 is the moment for a national debate that starts club by club, church, synagogue and mosque, classroom by classroom, editorial page by editorial pages and talk radio shows. A national debate on the need for a fundamental change in US foreign policy.

The bombs are exploding in our neighborhoods, because the crisis problems faced globally cannot be solved through militarism, only worsened. War as Dr King said is the enemy of the poor of all countries.

In the next 2 months we have a call to action to carry forward the legacy of Dr King. We cannot afford to sleep through a moment where great changes, revolutionary changes are necessary and possible.

The stage has been set in Washington for a tough battle over the federal budget. Every dollar given to the Pentagon will be taken from food stamps, student loans and healthcare.

Some say that we should make the cuts 50% from domestic spending and 50% from the Pentagon.  But what they do not say is that over 1 trillion has been cut in the last 4 years from domestic programs while the Pentagon has grown.

The truth is that military corporations are making mega profits. They are in the mass media and on Capitol Hill driving the budget debate with fear mongering.

While they push for weapons systems such as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which even the Pentagon, doesn’t want. There is waste, fraud, and abuse, which is where the cutting can and should start.

A consensus is building on sensible cuts to the waste in the Pentagon budget. It is a start. We must move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, human services and diplomacy.

When economic and racial inequality is growing dramatically isn’t that a very serious national security problem? When we hear from some the call for militarizing our communities, our public schools. Armed guards in our public schools?

More guns will not address the crisis needs of the poor, communities of color, immigrants and the middle class or the despair and mental illness that grows when opportunities or public services are denied.

Just as war will not solve the world’s most pressing problems neither will more guns in our communities.

The 21st century struggle for racial justice is for more equity, inclusion and dignity, a more loving society and world. Don’t we all need a little more love? 

It is time to change national spending priorities and move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, education and diplomacy.

We can deal with the debt by expanding the economy, helping the people in our communities to get on their feet and fund the diplomacy that can change the US relationship with countries around the world.

It will be no easy path in the next two months. Military corporations have nearly two lobbyists for every Congressional representative.

Some in Congress have pledged to cut essential human needs programs, put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block and protect the Pentagon from cuts.

We should do now as Dr King did and raise up the necessity that our government must, “Go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism as the path to a better world.”

Given the situation in our world: real danger of acts of terror or nuclear war, climate crisis, scarce resources. The truth is national security is no longer possible. Only collective global security is. Collective global security is achievable through international cooperation, respect for international laws and national sovereignty.

Our world needs more diplomacy, negotiations, and engagement, not threats of war. 

As Dr. King said ”Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to humankind as a whole, in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

Let’s mark Dr King’s birthday this year with some promises.

First, I hope you will do as I do. And every time you hear Stevie Wonder’s Birthday Song on the radio, you will get up and shake your tail feathers. And celebrate what Dr King called the long and beautiful struggle.

And I hope you will remember Dr King’s keen insight into social change when he said: “Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.”

In the next two months, we must meet the challenge of engaging in the fierce struggle to change national spending priorities and move the money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, education and diplomacy.

Because there is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution! 


The Fall of the US Empire – Asserting it in our work as peace and justice organizers, especially to empower people to create something better in its wake!

March 14, 2011

–Kevin Martin, executive director, Peace Action

This is something that has been rattling around my brain for a while, but recent conversations with Phyllis Bennis, Judith LeBlanc, Joseph Gerson, Mario Galvan, and just this weekend, North Carolina Peace Action Vice-Chair Wally Myers and Chair John Heuer have helped crystallize how an umbrella message about the Fall of the US Empire might be very beneficial to our organizing.

First let me say this “frame,” if you will, owes a great deal to the writing of Johan Galtung, generally acknowledged as one of the founders of the field of Peace Studies. Here is a link  to a presentation about the fall of US Empire Wally Myers did at the Military-Industrial complex at 50 conference in North Carolina two months ago (at which Judith spoke about our burgeoning work on cutting the military budget and Moving the Money to human needs), which cites Galtung’s work (very well presented/edited/excerpted by Wally!).

But the point of this post is not analysis or characterization of the US Empire, or even its fall (which Galtung predicts for the year 2020 – i.e. pretty darn soon!). Galtung and others – Phyllis Bennis, Naomi Klein, Andrew Bacevich, William Blum, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Zunes, Chalmers Johnson, to name just a few –  have written plenty on this, especially on the military and political aspects, but also the economic and cultural aspects of the US Empire. My objective is to begin a discussion of the utility of using the Fall of US Empire  “frame” or “narrative” or umbrella, to be non-jargony, in our grassroots organizing.

First off, “Fall” is used intentionally by me, as a double entendre, meaning both decline but also autumn, as I believe the Empire is in its fall/autumn/perhaps even early winter phase of its rapidly shortening life-span.

The question is this: can we (peace and justice organizers) benefit from a non-ideological, assumptive, confident, non-threatening, perhaps even patriotic assertion (not an argument or explanation) that the US Empire is ending, and that what matters most is not that inexorable fact (though it won’t necessarily be easy or pretty or without continued war, militarism, recession/depression, coercion, etc.), but what comes next, and how we assure the blossoming of the US Republic (Galtung’s phrase) rather than a turn toward fascism, increased violence (maybe even more so domestically than internationally), repression etc. And, most importantly, how we can build our movements and organization and  empower a new (and hopefully younger and more diverse) cadre of organizers and activists  to create that new, more peaceful, just, compassionate society and Republic in place of the Empire.

Let me underscore this — my thinking is to assert that we are seeing the fall of US Empire and move on to what we do about it and what comes next. It doesn’t really matter if people agree with you about whether the US has been an empire (militarily, politically, economically, socially) or not, because it is ending, the evidence of that is overwhelmingly self-evident to anyone willing to open their eyes to the reality of the world.

If one has to or wants to argue with folks about this (and I think you can choose to not do that and just move on to people who do get it), it is easy enough to connect the dots that are in the news every day – endless wars, unsustainable military spending, loss of US prestige in the world, graveyard of empires in Afghanistan, absurdity of the “war on terror,” spread of democratic revolutions in the Middle East against thugs supported by the US, isolation of Israel despite unending, unconditional US support, budget cuts at state and local levels, attack on public sector unions as the “solution” to budget crises, unprecedented gap between rich and poor, Obama wants to cut low-income heating assistance by $2.5 billion, the cost of one week of the Afghanistan war, climate in severe crisis (actually that is probably a good litmus test, climate change deniers are not worth our time), etc.

I doubt the audience for this would, at least at first, be the general public, though there is a fair bit out there in the mainstream media about US decline, limits of US power, etc. And the word Empire does not necessarily automatically trigger charges that one who speaks it is marxist/commie/socialist/soft on terror, etc. (some will say that of course, again those folks are probably not worth the effort). Actually, some libertarians might be more open to this analysis/frame/narrative than liberal Democrats.

At least at first, the main audience would likely be peace/justice/civil liberties activists and organizers. In part it’s to counter demoralization/fatigue about the seemingly endless wars, caving in by Obama on nearly every issue progressives hold dear, etc. It could help bolster folks and give them credit and respect for the difficult struggle for peace and justice against long odds the last 11 years and point out we have had an impact and some victories and have helped turn the tide.

More importantly, this frame (maybe even a meme if we are really successful in using it, I don’t know) is meant to engage and empower people for creative solutions on what comes next, how we build a more peaceful, just, caring society in the wake of the fall of US Empire, especially as the probable alternative, a turn toward fascism, is such a frightening possibility (and evidence of movement in both directions, solidarity/democracy/justice vs. greed/fascism/oppression is the news right now, every day).

So before going any further, whaddya think? Again, this would not be some new “Campaign to Bring Down the Empire,” but more of a frame, one that can empower people and raise up what is best about our country and society – solidarity, compassion, a sense of fairness and justice, innovation, and a desire for peace –  as we see to the end of what is worst about it – war, militarism, greed, exploitation, racism, injustice.


NPR: Can Next President Deliver on Promises of ‘Change’?

June 16, 2008

National Public Radio: Conversation with John Harwood and Gerald Seib

Conversation with journalists John Harwood(Chief Washington Correspondent for CNBC) and Gerald Seib(Executive Washington editor of The Wall Street Journal), authors of “Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power.” An excerpt of the book: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91415100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


It’s Time to Bring Democracy Back Home

September 21, 2007

I have held my opinion on this blog from some months now regarding the Jena 6 but I cannot any longer.  I felt, at first, that this was not part of our mission at Peace Action.  Then I received a press release from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.  The release condemns the Islamophobic comments of Rep. Peter King (R-NY).  This got me thinking.  The media and Congress shake their fingers at the Iraqi government for not overcoming ‘ethic tension’ and not ‘moving forward with the democracy’ – how can we ‘promote democracy’ abroad while we do not uphold it here at home? 

The charges brought against these 6 teenagers for fighting at an off-campus party includes attempted murder and theft.   

The theft charge stems from one white kid bringing a gun into the house party and threatening the black kids.  The black child being charged with theft took that gun away from the fight to eliminate the threat. 

The potential murder weapon was not the gun, it was a shoe.  A black kid threatened a white kid with a shoe after taking the white kid’s gun – and now that black kid is in jail. 

None of the white children have been charged with anything.  They were never punished for hanging nooses from a tree to spark the fighting in the first place.  They have never been punished for fighting.  The town believes everyone in the country is ‘blowing this out of proportion.”  This is the most disgusting breech of our justice system since Alberto’s political firings came to light.  It’s particularly disturbing how closely these two are chronologically – tells you something about the state of our own ‘democratic’ justice system. 

Rep. King believes Muslims are “an enemy living amongst us.”  In an interview with The Politico, Rep. King said, “Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country. There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate.”  Go to our website to see the full press release.

As the Bush Administration beats the war drum toward Iran telling us they hate freedom, they practice state sponsored discrimination, and we must save the innocent Iranians from their dictator I say, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. 

We have systemic racism that wasn’t discussed until Katrina hit and with the Jena 6 is still a controversial issue.  In an interview with USA Today one local resident called the protest a “knee jerk reaction.”  We have justice system that is far form blind – more like politically motivated.  We have a dictator who shuns the democratic system by ‘staying HIS course.’  More than ever, I am dedicated to eliminating our military presence around the world and focused on cleaning our own house.  I demand justice in Jena, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Columbia, Venezuela, Washington, all over the U.S. and the world.  I am reminded of a bumper sticker that speaks closely to my heart:  “Know Justice, Know Peace.  No Justice, No Peace.”


Wrestling with Modern Imperialism

August 9, 2007

“All I know is that you have participated directly or indirectly in the crime.”
Why is Half of Iraq in Absolute Poverty? By: Layla Anwar

This is a line from an article written by an Iraqi woman named Layla Anwar. The crime she is referring to is, of course, the U.S. occupation of Iraq. She talks about the crimes of apathy and arrogance on the part of Westerners who want to ‘save’ the ‘those people’. This is arrogance is a part of all of our foreign policy – especially in international aid to the supposed ‘third world’, or the global south including the Americas, Africa, and Southern Asia.  She talks about the lack of direct action on the part U.S. citizens to stop war before it began. Of course, she talks about the ramifications of our ‘democracy building’ in Iraq – of how many are starving, are displace, are scarred for life. I found myself torn between my occupation advancing peace ideologies and my education in international development. My life is focused on all the things she condemns and yet I feel my work is important.

Then I remember what drove me to be a part of the peace movement in the first place. I was in Kosovo (Kosova for those in the know) and I worked with a local group, the Kosova Womens Network, deeply entrenched in the feminist movement during the Serbian occupation and today. In my work there I came into contact with the Women in Black from Serbia. They told me their stories of standing in front the Belgrade government buildings asking “how can we talk about democracy in our country while we squash it abroad.” These stories affected me in so many ways. Regardless of the imminent danger they were in; regardless of the stigma and harassment they faced – they stood in solidarity against violence meted out in their names. That is why I joined the peace movement.

And yet, in my inbox today was a recently released study on the ‘progress’ we’ve made in Iraq. According to this study by the University of Michigan, Iraqis are becoming more nationalistic and secular in their government. Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? Is it my place to say one way or another? Certainly it is not my place to make judgments on what is good or bad for Iraq.

It is only my place to emphatically say it is our job as U.S. citizens to expose the crimes of our government. It is my duty to be uncomfortable in acknowledging that the lifestyle I lead is directly related to this war. The same is true for you who are reading this. Every time we turn on our AC, drive the children to work, eat fresh citrus from Mexico, and drink water out of bottles we contribute to the deaths of millions across the world through our modern imperialism.

We live in a system, a globalized system, created hundreds of years ago when the first colonialists boarded their ships to explore and dominate for gold, God, and glory. We perpetuate this system with ‘development programs’, ‘international aid’, and ‘democracy building’. War is not the only way we destroy the culture and infrastructure of other states. The only way to uproot this system is to challenge our idea of what is ‘progress’, ‘democracy’, ‘wealth’, ‘education’, and ‘power’. I challenge you, as peacemongers, to do so in your daily lives. I promise you to take that challenge with you. I bid you peace to do the good work I know you want to do.


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