American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
From the editor's desk
It's been a strange summer; our always reliably blue morning glories came up pink this year and our tomatoes are just now, a good four weeks late, beginning to ripen. What's trivial in a garden nonetheless serves as metaphor for what we see wherever we look--from targeted assassination in Palestine to heat exhaustion in Paris, from budget meltdown in statehouses across the nation to streams of refugees fleeing Monrovia, the times are out of joint. Hearts and minds in Iraq that were supposed to welcome their liberators instead are mounting a guerilla war; a bogus "security" for the US comes at the price of constitutional guarantees and the rule of law. The trouble spots are legion; the listing of grave disorders could be spun out indefinitely.
As the new season begins--September for us is ever the month of beginnings--we do some of that spinning out in these pages. We have reports from Palestine by two who have recently spent time there. We have a prescription for better management in Iraq. Professor Zunes wrote his "Four Theses" before last week's bombing of the building housing UN offices in Baghdad; but many observers see the bombing, not as an attack on the UN, but rather as directed against the US, which continues to demand control of all reconstruction efforts. And we offer an overview of an Africa increasingly coveted for its riches by robber barons homegrown and imported.
David Morse's analysis of the mercifully short-lived scheme for a futures market on terrorism provides a link between corporate globalism and this Administration's domestic policy. US fiscal affairs and energy/deregulation policy are headed toward fairly predictable disaster. At home as abroad, things are not as they are said to be.
And that is really our subject matter in this September Peacework. What to do when things are not as they are said to be? In a perverse way, we can take heart that people are beginning to see the painful discrepancy between myth and reality, noticing and commenting on the emperor's wardrobe. For instance, who really has used weapons of mass destruction over the last half century? (For that matter, what about smallpox blankets--biological weapon of choice for a more primitive age?) Do we have any business "celebrating" what Columbus perpetrated in the New World? Is it really any different from what Athens visited on Melos in the Peloponnesian Wars? Walden Bello contrasts 21st century United States with Rome, pretty much the gold standard as empires go. Washington does not fare well in the comparison. No matter how often we speak our truth, it's becoming plain to more and more people that entrenched power is not speaking truth to us.
Right now power seems to be ahead--though, as Ben Wisner points reports from northeast Ohio, we have fallen sadly behind in maintaining what is called the power grid. Corporate greed, coupled with our human tendency to evade and deny may very well succeed in ending life on earth, just as George Monbiot fears. You won't enjoy his essay which serves as a conclusion to this September Peacework; it's excruciatingly painful. We were reminded recently of Arnold Toynbee's observation that "great empires do not die by murder, but suicide."
When our colleague Sara Burke wrote to Ken Sehested asking him to write for this issue, she said: "We will be organizing our September issue around the theme of truth. It is hard these days to get beyond just cataloguing the lies and contradictions (sometimes with a rising note of hysteria in our voices). This is important work, but can we go deeper? What happens when we bear witness to the truth? What happens when we don't? What is the challenge of truth for you in this time, and how do you meet it?"
We have offered a few examples. Christel Jorgensen and Adam Miles each traveled to Palestine not because they thought they could "change" anything, but because they each hoped to come home and tell what they had seen, to bear witness. Stephen Funk and Matan Kaminer--soldiers and conscientious objectors under different flags on different continents--neither of them imagines he will end the war in question; each nevertheless knows he cannot participate. The volunteers rebuilding Arabia and Salim Shawamreh's house for the fourth time have no illusion that it will not be demolished again. They simply know that you do start rebuilding at the broken places.
In this month's issue, two
letter writers set a challenge to the peace movement. Echoing
Sehested, they say, in darkest times, take courage, take faith,
take lessons from the tradition of active nonviolence. There's
work to be done.