Steve responds to weblog postings today by me and Jonathon and Dorothea with an acknowledgement that there does need to be long range planning on the part of the peace movement, as with any movement. He writes:
What I am saying is that like it or not, it’s policies that make politics happen; it’s politics that make war happen. As important as it is to do the kind of teaching I heard today, teaching about how we’ve arrived where we are and where, exactly, that is, it’s also vitally important that we figure out not only where we want to be but how we might possibly get there. Those of us who envision non-violent solutions to conflict need, for better or for worse, to be more willing to get our hands dirty. Not dirty with blood, but dirty instead with the messy, ugly, unpredictable routes to immediate change that are available to us. In the long run, there are slow, painful, difficult changes to be made by snail-paced processes. These are the changes that will, if anything will, bring us closer to a world built on peace and community. But those slow processes can’t stop bombs from falling, and they can’t stop governments from manipulating public opinion in the name of corporate invasions. Something else has to do that, and that something, I think, is pragmatic strategy. It’s an arrogant kind of idealism that insists on living only in ‘what if’ and ‘someday’ rather than the tangles of ‘right now’. I’m saying that we need to write policy documents of our own, we need to strategize like generals strategize; when a conflict like this one happens, we need to produce plans for peace as thoroughly researched and skillfully proposed as the Patriot Act, PNAC, and ‘A Clean Break’ have been. Because while those three ‘modest’ proposals sicken and horrify me, I have to credit the forethought and determination of the warhawks who drafted them. And I also have to acknowledge that there are no visible corresponding proposals for peace.
A proposal for peace. I agree with Steve that the peace movement or whatever you want to call it has not had a cohesive strategy and plan for peace. Massive rallys and protests are only a beginning.
I’ve been asked if I would ever support a war, or more likely an armed conflict and I answered that there is only one way in which I would support this: if the Union of Nations (UN) implements a strategy of enforcing universal rights for all, if need be backing this up with action including armed conflict. However, as I have also said, it is not the right of any one country or small groups of countries to determine who is or is not violating these rights. If we support universal rights, we must do so for all countries, not just those with a certain strategic location in the Middle East.
If the UN had based its resolutions against Saddam Hussein on the treatment of the people of Iraq, I would have supported action if absolutely necessary. But the resolutions are almost universally focused on “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. And as we have seen, every day this becomes less and less justified as a reason for going to war with Iraq.
Adherance to universal human rights is a strategy, and it’s one we’ve had since the end of World War II, but it isn’t one that governments support because most countries are in violation of the universal human rights, including the US. Governments will only support these rights if we the people hold our leaders accountable for them. Unfortunately, we, the citizens of these countries, have not been doing our job.
Unfortunately, universal support for human rights is considered an ‘unworkable’ strategy unlikely to ever occur. Therefore, I am asked, what is a ‘workable’ strategy. I’ll do my best:
1. Tell President Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Powell to, respectfully, shut up.
This is an easy one to implement, and only involves getting four people to stop talking long enough to realize that everything they say is making a bad situation worse. When they talk about Syria and Iran, when they talk about using Iraq oil reserves for re-construction, when they dismiss the UN’s handling of food and aid in favor of soldiers doing that which they aren’t trained to do, for propaganda purposes, they make things worse.
Has anyone noticed a correlation between Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, or Powell making a aggresive comment and North Korean discussion about nuclear war and weapons?
At the next protest, or within the next letter to congress we should all include the following statement:
A message from the people of the world Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Powell:
Our situation in Iraq is not likely to be improved by verbal attacks against Syria, Iran, France, Germany, the Arab League, the UN, the EU, or anyone else that doesn’t agree with you. If you can’t have these discussions directly with the people themselves, then please don’t have them in the public forum, increasing the world’s fears about the next directions the United States and the so-called ‘coalition’ will take.
These messages from our leaders are ill-thought and irresponsible. It is up to the people of this country, and other countries, to let them know that we don’t approve of these conversations and the implied threats and possible consequences.
2. Now, more than ever, protest.
I am not one for blocking roads or freeways or painting my face red, but I do believe in the power of protest. Now more than ever we need to send a message to Bush and Blair and Howard, and other members of the coalition that we do not consider support for the troops to be the same as support for actions on the part of the administrations. We did not support this war, but they gave it to us. We need to let them know we’ll not forget this, and what they’ve done.
It’s absolutely critical that we make people in countries, in particular the US, know that not supporting Bush, Blair, and Howard is not the same thing as being a traitor, and turning our backs on the service people who are only following orders.
More importantly, the protests tell others that they are not alone in their viewpoint. They are a way of bringing together people and providing a voice. In comments at Jonathon Delacour’s Dave Rogers wrote:
Call off the street protests, they simply distract from the debate and actually play to the strengths of those you oppose. Raise money. Organize. Find smart people who can articulate a vision for Iraq, preferably smart people _from_ Iraq and other middle east contries. Find someone like Tony Blair, hell, conscript Tony Blair – that might even be better, to lead the debate for actually delivering on this promise of a free and democratic Iraq.”
This is truly wrong and moves to silence protest as effectively as telling the protestors we’re traitors for not supporting the war. This is saying that protest does no good, when protest lets others know that they are not alone in their views. Dave says we need to organize — exactly how do we do this without the publicity that comes with protest? Protest is a way of people getting the word out about an organized effort. Without protest how would the information be published or the monies for future effort be collected? Through osmosis?
Regardless of your approval of protests or not, if you are concerned about the direction this war is taking, about government actions (regardless of what government), about bias in the media, anything — you have a duty and an obligation to make your concerns known, one way or another. Not doing anything, is not an option.
3. Ensure honesty in the media
Last week Al-Jazeera tried to start a English language version of their site, which continues to get hacked and pulled. Regardless of agreement or not with Al-Jazeera, we must support the right of all media to air their news and views. This act, to suppress the news of an entire media network is probably the most dangerous action that’s happened so far in this war, because it’s a deliberate sabatage of freedom of speech.
We have a moral obligation to let media sources know that we expect and demand neutral news reporting. We must let news organizations know that obvious bias in the news is not only not acceptable, it will cost them customers. Send emails or letters to local television and radio stations and newspapers. Follow this up with emails and letters and calls to the major networks. Tell them you’ll no longer be a customer if they continue this bias.
In protests make note of this bias, and be aware of network bias in protest coverage. In other words, during a protest hide the loonies and force the networks to focus on the more plentiful but more mundane protestors. Be aware that the statement you think you’re making about blocking a freeway will be twisted when its reported. Don’t give anyone ammunition to make the peace movement, or whatever we want to call it, into a movement of nuts who represent only a tiny fraction of the country.
If you see bias, then call it for what it is. Tell your co-workers, your spouse, your friends, your weblog readers that this story is biased, and say why. Don’t give rhetoric — give alternative sources of the same news. Be an effective agent for truth in journalism.
Regardless of whether you’re supportive of Bush or not, the war or not, we should all demand that news organizations show the news and leave the interpretation to the consumers.
This might come as a huge surprise to people who know my strong anti-war sentiments, but I agree with recent firings of journalists who have participated in events that compromise their credibility. When you become a professional journalist, you lose some rights, including being able to express your viewpoints publicly, and therefore compromise the credibility of yourself and your news organization.
Doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on — journalists have a duty to be unbiased. It saddens me to see Peter Arnett fired, but the networks were justified. He was out of line. I just wish the same would happen to the Fox Network folks who taunted the anti-war demonstrators for ‘fun’.
4. Hold people accountable.
The major story this week is the news about Rumsfeld’s handling of the war effort, and disregarding of the military. What was particularly appalling about this for me is I saw him on television a couple of days ago telling everyone that all plans put forth for this war had been vetted by the military leaders.
If we say we’re holding Saddam Hussein accountable for his past actions in this war, then we have to be held accountable for our actions. If we tell the world that we live by a different set of rules then the rest, then we’re the worst form of hypocrite, and all we’ll do is generate more and more hatred.
5. Understand what’s important and act accordingly.
It might be fun to make fun of the President, or Americans, or to rant, or to slam warbloggers, and I’ve been guilty of this. But this doesn’t serve anything.
There is a huge shadow of silent voices that are listening to everything we say. If we want to engage these voices we can act like clowns, or we can act like statesmen.
There was a demonstration yesterday in St. Louis against the war in Iraq. I watched a guy on a street corner waiving signs for the effort. He had waist long tangled grey hair and cavorted about like he was on drugs. As much as I repected him for what he was doing, what is the message he gave to the ‘average jane or joe’ driving past?
If we’re most concerned about helping the people or Iraq, or ourselves, then it’s imperative that we act more as the stateman then the clown. This means not losing our tempers, not ranting, not cavorting about like its a party, and not pushing away those we hope to engage.
However, if we’re more concerned about cavorting about with painted faces and playacting and blocking freeways and pissing people off, as well as individual expression then we can continue to cavort and play and the world sees the clown. Of course, we’ll most likely not effect any change, but we’ll still be “free to be you and me”. Groovy.
Decide what’s important, and act accordingly.
6. Re-empower the UN
This is the kicker and the one most people will disagree with. The UN, NATO, the Arab League, and the EU have all been fractured by the invasion of Iraq. A lasting peace and a solution to Iraq will not come from splinters dominated by one country.
The US blamed the UN for not acting against Saddam Hussein, forgetting that the UN’s charter is focused on peaceful means to resolve conflict. Well, we’re too late for the UN in this situation, but we’re not too late for the UN.
The US controlling the government in Iraq is not an effective strategy. The US threatening Iran and Syria is not an effective strategy.
The Arab League came up with a solution at one point — joint governship with the UN of Iraq until the people of Iraq could maintain their own peace. Why was this rejected out of hand? This is an effective solution. Since the harm that Saddam Hussein has committed has been primarily against other Arabs, this seems like a just solution, too.
But everyone rejected the Arab League solution without even a hearing. Why? The only thing I can think of is that the western world really doesn’t trust the Arab world, which tends to justify the Arab accusation of just this, doesn’t it?
The US and it’s coalition is not a replacement for the UN. We cannot say what can or cannot happen in the Middle East. We have no rights to take over as leader of the free world. Blair had promised UN invervention in the re-building of Iraq. Britain has pushed back on the contracting of American firms coming in controlling re-building efforts. Even within the coalition, fractures are appearing.
The quesiton no longer is really about whether this war is going to happen — its happening. The question is, what will happen when its over. We in the ‘peace movement’ have been accused of having no strategy. Well, here’s mine, for better or worse.
It’s a hell of a lot better than doing nothing.