The War Abroad and the War at Home

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The War Abroad and the War at Home

Post by Guysanto » Tue Jul 29, 2008 12:25 am

The following is a talk from a Pax Christi USA gathering that I want to share with you, because it is so powerful.

[quote]Pax Christi USA

The War Abroad and the War at Home
July 10, 2008

He's leaning against a tree
The wood has been sold
The land leased
The water poisoned
The rain kills the birds
Somebody takes aim at him
He raises his arms against the black wood
It is not finished
(Dorothy Soelle)

For many hours I sat trying to get my head around what I might say to you about the “war abroad” – to you, who know the facts, the statistics, the costs of war, especially of the war in Iraq. Dorothy Soelle's brief poem, “Peace: He's leaning against a tree,” finally helped me focus. Its quiet truth bellows into a world engulfed in multiple wars -- and positions in the crosshairs of war's insanely destructive violence the One we follow who raised his arms on the Cross to overcome all evil. It is not finished. It is clearly not finished.

He's leaning against a tree
The wood has been sold --- the rainforests depleted, no holds have been barred in pursuit of global markets
The land leased --- the oil and coal and gold and diamonds and coltan beneath it exploited
The water poisoned --- or stolen and bottled
The rain kills the birds --- and the humans, very old and very young included --- the rain of bombs and bomblets and bullets and shrapnel from IED's
Somebody takes aim at him
He raises his arms against the black wood
It is not finished

I was asked to focus our attention tonight on the “war abroad.”

One part of this “war abroad” that we know too well is being waged in Afghanistan and in Iraq, but it extends way, way beyond the wars, the occupation in those dignified, devastated countries. Under the guise of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), it is built upon the mighty and expanding U.S. capacity for war and, while U.S. economic power and political influence are declining, those committed, as Phyllis Bennis says, to maintaining Washington's superpower status are more likely not less, to choose military force to assert U.S. global reach.

The consequences in every direction are appalling.

The war in Afghanistan, the so-called “just war” evokes for me painful memories of 8 year old Amena who lost 18 members of her family when a US bomb hit the wrong target --- and of cluster bomb fragments scattered like toys among the landmines in the Shamali Valley where Dave Robinson and I watched deminers crawl under lush and untouchable grape arbors trying to make the land safe for returning refugees.

According to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, the war in Iraq will cost 3 trillion dollars. In reality, its costs are incalculable – no dollar value can be assigned to the human lives lost on both sides; to the loss of human dignity; to the loss of bodily integrity; to the mental and psychological damage; to the environmental damage; to the rise in oil prices and its contribution to the food crisis … Andrew Greeley calls it a “stupid, unjust and criminal war.” I know you all agree – this stupid, unjust, criminal and massively destructive war for oil and power and profits.

The land leased – for permanent US bases
The water poisoned
The rain killing the birds …

You have seen the situation of Iraqis for yourselves – or you've heard from people like Cathy Breen and Kathy Kelly and Simone Campbell and Ann Curtis story after painful story of refugees at the end of their rope. Our friends in Christian Peacemaker teams describe the frustrations of life in the Kurdish North of Iraq. Pax Christi Italy delegations visiting Iraq throughout the war have seen the hope and the horror that is often hidden from us. Pax Christi Netherlands staff member, an amazing Muslim woman from Sudan, Naglaa Elhajj, accompanies Christian Iraqis displaced and trapped on the plains of Nineveh between Mosul and Erbil.

The Institute for Policy Studies' recently published book, Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War, describes the Iraq War as bleeding conceptually into the limitless GWOT, another dimension of the “war abroad,” with this Administration relentlessly attempting to conflate the two.

The terrorist threat now occupies the chair of “primary evil in the world” that was occupied by the “communist threat” not so many decades ago. Jim Douglas' amazing book, JFK and The Unimaginable makes a compelling case about the depths to which the powerful enemies of peace went in the past to keep our “enemy” in the line of fire. According to Jim, John Kennedy set his sights on peace, on ending the cold war. He communicated with Kruschev. He communicated with Castro. He moved to pull US troops out of Vietnam. He took courageous and concrete steps with the then-enemy to ensure a future for his children and grandchildren – and for theirs. He gave his life for it.

The GWOT is precisely what he was trying to avoid. Andrew Bacevich in the Boston Globe on July 1st described the Bush Administration's “considerable legacy” in this regard. He wrote that
• The administration has defined the contemporary era as an "age of terror" with an open-ended "global war" as the necessary, indeed the only logical, response;
• It has promulgated and implemented a doctrine of preventive (not just preemptive) war, thereby creating a far more permissive rationale for employing armed force;
• It has affirmed - despite the catastrophe of 9/11 - that the primary role of the Department of Defense is not defense, but power projection;
• It has removed constraints on military spending so that once more, as Ronald Reagan used to declare, "defense is not a budget item" (the administration's 2009 budget request for defense is over $700 billion);
• The administration has enhanced the prerogatives of the imperial presidency on all matters pertaining to national security;
• It has preserved and even expanded the national security state;
• It has preempted any inclination to question the wisdom of the post-Cold War foreign policy consensus, founded on expectations of a sole superpower exercising "global leadership";
• It has completed the shift of US strategic priorities away from Europe and toward the Greater Middle East, with presidents and would-be presidents now forced to declare their commitment to the defense of Israel.

Out of this framework came AbuGhraib, Guantanamo, “black sites,” the CIAs own secret prisons and extraordinary renditions to places like Egypt and Syria and Morocco – where torture is almost certainly assured, while U.S. authorities “look the other way.”

Out of this framework may yet come war with Iran. I urge you to read Seymour Hersh's article in the July 7th issue of The New Yorker magazine. Hersh describes a major escalation in covert operations against Iran. It looks like the administration has again disguised military operations as intelligence operations in order to avoid telling Congress what is really going on. Everything is justified in terms of fighting the GWOT.

Also out of this framework the U.S. has dramatically increased military activity in Africa. U.S. military sales, financing and training have gone up from about $40 million over the five years between 1997 and 2001 to $130 million between 2002 and 2006 to $1.3 billion in 2009, plus another $100 million in commercial arms sales. The continent will be more volatile and insecure thanks to the pursuit of US national security over against the well-being of the people of Africa.

Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action, uses the example of Sudan. While the Bush administration has publicly denounced the Sudanese government for abusing human rights, Sudan is a strong U.S. ally in the GWOT (also an exporter of oil). In November 2001 the CIA reopened a station in Khartoum and both the CIA and the FBI began active collaboration with the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Sudanese intelligence was crucial to U.S. missile attacks in Somalia in January 2007 and March 2008. Many Somali civilians were killed or injured in those attacks. U.S. collaboration with Sudan and with Ethiopia's dictatorship fuels anti-U.S. sentiment and helped destabilize further an already unstable Somalia, creating even more fertile ground for extremist recruiting activities.

Recently, more than 900 people, including children, were captured as they fled fighting in Somalia. The prisoners were rendered on a plane chartered by the Kenyan government into secret detention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where they were questioned by the FBI and the CIA.

Elsewhere in Africa, the U.S. plans to greatly expand the base it has used in Djibouti since 2002 from 97 acres to over 500 acres. Major new arms deliveries and increased military training have been promised to a dozen African countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country engulfed in unrelenting war and violent conflict.

In Asia, the Bush administration has tightened relations with the government of Japan, pressing for the repeal of Article 9, the peace clause in Japan's Constitution, which “renounced war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat to use force as a means of settling international disputes” and gave hope to people around the world who work for the non-violent resolution of conflicts. That the United States, having dropped atomic bombs on two of Japan's most beautiful cities, is trying to undercut the foundation of policies that prohibit the production or deployment of such weapons on Japanese territory is breathtakingly audacious!
At the same time, in support of the U.S. GWOT, Philippine President Arroyo has increased her government's pressure on the Philippine left, reviving memories of the Marcos dictatorship and its dirty war against the opposition. Politically motivated killings there have soared since 9/11. According to Karapatan, an umbrella group for various Philippine human rights organizations, over 900 men and women, including pastors, labor leaders, student activists, farmers, workers and journalists, have been summarily executed since 2001.
Despite the fact that the Philippine Constitution forbids the basing of foreign troops on Philippine soil, the US military has kept between 100 and 500 personnel in the Philippines for the past five years. Among other things, they are accompanying Philippine troops in their hunt for the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), alleged to have ties with the Southeast Asian terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah.

So, the “war abroad” takes the form of “hot wars,” disastrous wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The “war abroad” is also the Global War on Terror – with its misguided assumption that military action can adequately address the deep grievances that spawn terrorism. (more)

But the “war abroad” is also promoted by deep, deep U.S. involvement in every facet of the development and global marketing of deadly weapons. Recently, a few of us from the U.S. participated in a Pax Christi International consultation on disarmament and demilitarization. It was not intended for this meeting to focus on U.S. militarism, but to give member organizations from around the world an opportunity to share their concerns about weapons proliferation and to develop some common strategies in support of global disarmament.

Sitting around the table were representatives of Pax Christi member organizations in Thailand, Pakistan, Peru, Belgium, Canada, the US, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, Japan, Russia and Poland. The concerns they brought to the table were many, including missile defense, nuclear disarmament, landmines and cluster munitions, trafficking in small arms and light weapons, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, depleted uranium, etc.

No matter what the topic, all eyes turned toward those of us from the U.S. sitting at the table. In every instance our country was playing a key – and negative - role.
That the United States
• refuses to support (in fact, tries to undercut) efforts to ban landmines and cluster munitions despite their deadly impact on civilian communities
• failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty
• is debating the Administration's Complex Transformation proposal, which would enable the mass production of nuclear weapons for the first time in two decades
• refuses to live up to its disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty
• exported $66.7 billion in arms for the past five years
• refuses to support effective enforcement capability to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Convention – and on and on
… should be a matter of intense concern to all of us as we evaluate candidates for the presidency of the United States. The question is not whether a candidate will support this or that treaty or reduce this or that expenditure on weapons of mass destruction or slow the production and traffic in arms – though each of these is important -- but whether the next president of the United States will have the courage to move our country to seek an entirely new vision of security --- one that is rooted in right relationships around the world and with the earth herself.
Yes, “the war abroad” is being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan; it's being fought around the world as the Global War on Terror; and it's being fought through a global market in weapons of every conceivable description – from handguns to bunker busters. It's
a war on children
a war on women
a war on the earth
a war on the poor.

But it is also a war that is being energetically, prophetically denounced by all of you – and around the world by other Pax Christi member organizations.

• In the Czech Republic and Poland Pax Christi members are organizing and fasting in resistance to the US missile shield proposal
• In the Philippines Pax Christi members support peace communities in zones of conflict between Christians and Muslims and armed forces
• In Haiti Pax Christi members are organizing gangs into soccer teams
• In the DRC they are countering the influx of arms with peace weeks -- concerts, theater, sporting events, educational forums, peace marches, prayer services, radio programs
• In the UK Pax Christi members are leading the resistance to Trident
• In the Sudan Pax Christi is linking civil society organizations to each other to promote peace and development -- and supporting community security programs
• In Flanders Pax Christi youth are building friendships with youth from war torn countries in the Middle East and Africa – and listening carefully to their stories
• In Palestine Pax Christi members are teaching children how to manage conflict nonviolently; they are creating opportunities for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians; they are nonviolently resisting the occupation
• Pax Christi members from the Netherlands played a major role in bringing together the government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army to begin a process of negotiations toward peace
• Pax Christi Ireland helped lead the International Campaign to Ban Cluster Munitions that has concluded negotiations on a landmine-like treaty
• In Colombia, Pax Christi members are deeply involved in major efforts for peace after decades of war
• In Pakistan, Pax Christi members are opposing blasphemy laws and promoting basic human rights for women and minorities
• Pax Christi is at the United Nations working for disarmament -- for a global end to trafficking in small arms, production of nuclear weapons, stockpiling of cluster bombs and deployment missile shields -- and for human rights, most recently of Islamic activists in Egypt and Morocco and Lebanon; of voters in Zimbabwe; of children everywhere.

Pax Christi Italy friends, in a recent statement on the war in Iraq, wrote: We would like to see fewer national security strategies and more strategies for justice and the common good. In many ways, that's what we are all about – justice and the common good.

I am constantly in awe of your deep commitment to end the “war abroad.” I hope you know that you are not alone. Pax Christi people in Kivu and Davos, Juba and Lima, Belfast and Bogota and Bangkok are part of the circle of resistance we form here tonight. Adelante, friends! And thank you.

Marie Dennis

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
P.O. Box 29132
Washington D.C. 20017

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