Does War Have a Future? Peace Action National Board Member Larry Wittner on History News Network

June 3, 2014

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?

 

National officials certainly assume that war has a future. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditures totaled nearly $1.75 trillion in 2013. Although, after accounting for inflation, this is a slight decrease over the preceding year, many countries increased their military spending significantly, including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, 23 countries doubled their military spending between 2004 and 2013. None, of course, came anywhere near to matching the military spending of the United States, which, at $640 billion, accounted for 37 percent of 2013’s global military expenditures. Furthermore, all the nuclear weapons nations are currently “modernizing” their nuclear arsenals.

Meanwhile, countries are not only preparing for wars, but are fighting them―sometimes overtly (as in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and sometimes covertly (as in portions of Africa and the Middle East).

Nevertheless, there are some reasons why war might actually be on the way out.

One reason, of course, is its vast destructiveness. Over the past century, conventional wars (including two world wars) have slaughtered over a hundred million people, crippled, blinded, or starved many more, and laid waste to large portions of the globe. And this enormous level of death, misery, and ruin will almost certainly be surpassed by the results of a nuclear war, after which, as Nikita Khrushchev once reportedly commented, the living might envy the dead. After all, Hiroshima was annihilated with one atomic bomb. Today, some 16,400 nuclear weapons are in existence, and most of them are far more powerful than the bomb that obliterated that Japanese city.

Another reason that war has become exceptionally burdensome is its enormous cost. The United States is a very wealthy nation, but when it spends 55 percent of its annual budget on the military, as it now does, it is almost inevitable that its education, health care, housing, parks and recreational facilities, and infrastructure will suffer. That is what the AFL-CIO executive council―far from the most dovish institution in American life―concluded in 2011, when it declared: “There is no way to fund what we must do as a nation without bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarization of our foreign policy has proven to be a costly mistake. It is time to invest at home.” Many Americans seem to agree.

Furthermore, a number of developments on the world scene have facilitated the abolition of war.

One of them is the rise of mass peace movements. Many centuries ago, religious groups and theologians began to criticize war on moral grounds, and non-sectarian peace organizations began to emerge in the early nineteenth century. Even though they never had an easy time of it in a world accustomed to war, these organizations became a very noticeable and, at times, powerful force in the twentieth century and beyond. Drawing upon prominent figures like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, sparking new thinking about international relations and world peace, and mobilizing millions of people against war, peace groups created a major social movement that government officials could not entirely ignore.

Another new development―one originally proposed by peace organizations―is the establishment of international institutions to prevent war. The vast destruction wrought by World War I provided a powerful incentive for Woodrow Wilson and other officials to organize the League of Nations to prevent further disasters. Although the League proved too weak and nations too unwilling to limit their sovereignty for this goal to be accomplished, the enormous carnage and chaos of World War II led government officials to give world governance another try. The resulting institution, the United Nations, proved somewhat more successful than the League at averting war and resolving conflicts, but, like its predecessor, suffered from the fact that it remained weak while the ambitions of nations (and particularly those of the great powers) remained strong. Even so, the United Nations now provides an important framework that can be strengthened to foster international law and the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

Yet another new factor on the world scene―one also initiated by peace activists―is the development of nonviolent resistance. As staunch humanitarians, peace activists had pacifist concerns and human rights concerns that sometimes pulled them in opposite directions―for example, during the worldwide struggle against fascist aggression. But what if it were possible to battle for human rights without employing violence? This became the basis for nonviolent resistance, which was not only utilized in dramatic campaigns led by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., but in mass movements that, subsequently, have challenged and toppled governments. Indeed, nonviolent resistance has become a new and powerful tool for people to drawn upon in conflicts without slaughtering one another.

In addition, the modern world has produced many other alternatives to mass violence. Why not expand international exchange and peace studies programs in the schools? Why not dispatch teams of psychologists, social workers, conflict resolution specialists, mediators, negotiators, and international law experts to conflict zones to work out settlements among the angry disputants? Why not provide adequate food, meaningful employment, education, and hospitals to poverty-stricken people around the world, thus undermining the desperation and instability that often lead to violence? Wouldn’t the U.S. government be receiving a friendlier reception in many countries today if it had used the trillions of dollars it spent on war preparations and destruction to help build a more equitable, prosperous world?

Of course, this scenario might depend too much on the ability of people to employ reason in world affairs. Perhaps the rulers of nations, learning nothing since the time of Alexander the Great, will continue to mobilize their citizens for war until only small bands of miserable survivors roam a barren, charred, radioactive wasteland.

But it’s also possible that people will finally acquire enough sense to alter their self-destructive behavior.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/155841#sthash.SW1zL9g5.dpuf


Good News from KC anti-nuke protesters, and help needed for the Oak Ridge Three

January 6, 2014

One of the things we like to highlight at Peace Action is we use all the tools in the activist toolbox, from congressional lobbying to public education to community organizing to supporting pro-peace candidates for election to nonviolent direct action from time to time.

Below are two items related to inspiring nonviolent civil resistance actions against nuclear weapons from Kansas City (which included many of the leaders of our affiliate, PeaceWorks KC) and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The first is an article from Common Dreams and the National Catholic Reporter on a surprise “sentence” from the judge in the trial of peace activists protesting the new bomb factory in Kansas City. The second is an action alert to the judge in Tennessee urging leniency for the Oak Ridge 3, who trespassed onto the nuclear weapons manufacturing facility there but posed no harm to anyone (as a matter of fact they did us all a favor, even the government!).

Every Time I Learn Something: Judge Gives Anti-Nuclear Activists A Break and Platform

by Abby Zimet

Evolution Happens Dept: An uplifting scene recently in a Kansas City courtroom, where a group of Catholic priests – two over 75 – and activists were being sentenced for a July protestat a National Nuclear Security Administration plant that produces nuclear weapon components. After allowing much rowdy evidence and listening intently to defendants’ impassioned arguments – Question: “Don’t you teach your parishioners to obey the rules?” Answer: “God’s rules….We each have our own conscience to follow” – Judge Ardie Bland, who two years before had sentenced other nuclear activists to jail, announced, “If you’re not getting to anyone else, you’re getting to me,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.Noting the activists’ mention of Rosa Parks and others whose actions changed the world – Bland is black – he found them guilty of trespassing, and sentenced each not to prison, fines or community service but to the writing of a one-page essay in response to a series of ethical and political questions, to be made part of the public record in order to “give you a chance to say what you want to say.” With moving, joyful, Louis-Armstrong flavored video of the July action.
Bland’s questions, as reported by National Catholic Reporter:

1. If North Korea, China or one of the Middle Eastern countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion about nuclear weapons?

2. If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, do you think that would have changed your opinion?

3. What would you say to those who say, “If we [the U.S.] do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back”?

4. You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Fr. [Carl] Kabat says that you should disobey ungodly laws. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for example, when Christians used God to justify slavery and the Crusades?

5. How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue that their religion is to crush others into dust?

6. Who determines what “God’s law” is, given the history of the USA and the world?

 

Alert from our friends at Roots Action on the Oak Ridge 3:

On January 28, 2014, three nonviolent protesters against nuclear weapons, Sr. Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed, are scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee, for the supposed crime of sabotage.

They risked their lives, but threatened no one else, when they entered the free-fire zone of a supposedly top-security nuclear weapons facility called Y-2 in Tennessee. They spray painted messages of peace and exposed the lack of security.

Click here to tell the judge how such courageous activists should be sentenced.

In a separate case in Kansas City, nuclear weapons protesters were recently sentenced to write explanations of their concerns to be included in the court records. That seems far more appropriate than prison for people upholding the law and morality.

Since the 1963 limited test ban treaty, the United States has been committed to “the speediest possible achievement of an agreement on general and complete disarmament.”

The law and morality demand disarmament, but those calling attention to the ongoing evil of nuclear weapons production and maintenance stand convicted and face the risk of 30 years behind bars.

Please sign this petition, which we will deliver to the judge before the sentencing.

Please forward this email widely to like-minded friends.

– The RootsAction.org team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, and many others.

P.P.S. This work is only possible with your financial support. Please donate.

Background:
Washington Post: The Prophets of Oak Ridge
Daily News: Elderly Nun, 2 Other Protestors Found Guilty of Sabotage
Transform Now Plowshares
National Catholic Register: Trial Ends With Unusual Sentence

www.RootsAction.org

 

 


All in favor of putting an 83 year old nonviolent peace activist nun in prison for 20 years, say aye. Okay thanks, Obama Administration, way to do your job keeping us safe. Anyone else? Anyone?

May 9, 2013
Last year, three nonviolent peace activist senior citizens armed with bread, candles and bottles of human blood breached “security” at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee nuclear weapons facility in order to protest the insanity of nuclear weapons. The government, in its infinite stupidity, is charging them not only with trespassing, which they admit to, but with “sabotage,” which could mean a 20 year prison sentence (possibly a death sentence given the ages of the protesters). The only thing they “sabotaged” was the “credibility” of the plant, which is the main point of the prosecution, in effect copping to incompetence at securing the facility where the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan was built, and where uranium for nuclear weapons and nuclear power is still produced today (and they want to build a new plant with gajillions of our tax dollars of course!)
What a disgrace! Sister Megan Rice (n 83 year old nun!), Greg Berje-Obed and Michael Walli deserve the Nobel Peace Prize (way more than our president), not 20 years in prison. We’ll keep you posted on how we can all support these peace heroes and she-roe! In addition to the TV news story below, the Washington Post ran a very good (long though) feature article about the case recently. 

 


“On the Morning, April 4, Shots Ring Out in the Memphis Sky…” MLK Jr. on this date in 1967 and 1968

April 4, 2013

martinlutherkingpublicdomain1

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A sad anniversary for sure, but also an occasion to recall and be inspired anew by one of the most ardent champions of nonviolence, social justice and peace this profoundly violent, warmongering, unjust country has ever known.

Exactly one year before his death, at Riverside Church in New York City, King delivered one of his greatest speeches, “Beyond Vietnam: A time to Break the Silence,” which remains for me one of the strongest clarion calls against war I’ve ever encountered. You can read the speech or listen to the audio here.

There are so many highlights of the speech for me, but two always stick in my mind, King’s accurate depiction of the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” (still true) and his assertion that the Vietnamese must view Americans as “strange liberators.” Were he alive today he would surely say the same of the Iraqi and Afghan people, no?

And perhaps the most enduring message for me is King’s denunciation of the “giant triplets” – racism, extreme materialism and militarism – which continue, 46 years hence, to plague on our society.

King’s impact is immeasurable, and touches so many people in so many fields, including not just politics or organizing but culture and especially music, which has a unique ability to stir peoples’ emotions (as King himself knew as a preacher!) Here are some moving musical tributes to King:

Nina Simone’s “Why (The King of Love is Dead)” (from a King tribute concert)

Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Motel in Memphis”

Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain”

U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

If you want to stoke your anger or righteous indignation at King’s murder, here are two articles in the independent media today on the subject of the conspiracy to kill King:

How the Government Killed Martin Luther King, Jr. by Carl Gibson

The Conspiracy to Kill to Kill MLK: Not a Theory but a Fact by Ira Chernus


A Decade Ago, The World Said No to “Pre-emptive” War and Yes to Peace

February 15, 2013

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Ten years ago, in the largest demonstration in history, over 15 million people worldwide hit the streets to call for peace instead of George Bush’s “pre-emptive” war of aggression against Iraq. While we didn’t stop the war, that day remains an inspiration for many who marched. The New York Times called us “the other world superpower,” and veteran columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote a moving article calling the demonstrators the nicest people he’d ever met.

I was in New York City, freezing my tuchus off with our Japanese friends and colleagues from our sister peace group Gensuikin, who arranged to come all the way from Japan to stand in solidarity with the U.S. peace movement. The heavy handed, menacing (near snarling, to be truthful) police presence in Manhattan that day was overwhelmed by the power of hundreds of thousands of nonviolent peacemongers!

Were you there in New York, or in another city in the United States or another country? Have any stories, photos or videos to share?

Soon, a documentary film We Are Many about that beautiful day will be released (see the website and a teaser for the film). We’ll keep you posted as to the premiere and ways to promote and distribute the film as we get the details.


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.


“The Ultimate Weakness of Violence…”

January 15, 2013

“… is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.

Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

How have we as a human species not learned this profoundly simple wisdom yet?

Happy Birthday MLK! May your words and deeds continue to inspire us to create peace with justice!


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