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.
Excerpt from Al Gore's speech to MoveOn members, 8/7/03, at New York University (www.moveon.org):
I mentioned the feeling many have that something basic has gone wrong. Whatever it is, I think it has a lot to do with the way we seek the truth and try in good faith to use facts as the basis for debates about our future--allowing for the unavoidable tendency we all have to get swept up in our enthusiasms.
That last point is worth highlighting. Robust debate in a democracy will almost always involve occasional rhetorical excesses and leaps of faith, and we're all used to that. I've even been guilty of it myself on occasion. But there is a big difference between that and a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty.
From The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, No 9:
Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compell nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.
From a speech by Sen. Robert Byrd, July 11, 2003
On August 22, 1920, an article written by former Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence appeared in one of the great newspapers of London, the Sunday Times. This legendary British military officer--better known as Lawrence of Arabia--began his commentary with a sharp warning about his country's occupation of ancient lands in the Middle East:
"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster."
Colonel Lawrence concluded with an equally sharp question: "How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?"
These were the observations some 83 years ago of a British soldier who had studied the history of the Middle East, fought alongside Arabs in the Great War, and understood the anger of those who lived under the administration of a distant power.
From an article by David Harrison in Niamey, Niger in The Telegraph (UK) 8/3/03
America has warned the Niger government to keep out of the row over claims that Saddam Hussein sought to buy uranium for his nuclear weapons programme from the impoverished West African state.
Herman Cohen, a former assistant secretary of state for Africa and one of America's most experienced Africa hands, called on Mamadou Tandja, Niger's president, in the capital Niamey last week to relay the message from Washington, according to senior Niger government officials.
One said: "Let's say Mr Cohen put a friendly arm around the president to say sorry about the forged documents, but then squeezed his shoulder hard enough to convey the message, 1Let's hear no more about this affair from your government.' Basically he was telling Niger to shut up."
He said that Washington's warning was likely to be heeded. "Mr Cohen did not spell it out but everybody in Niger knows what the consequences of upsetting America or Britain would be. We are the world's second-poorest country and we depend on international aid to survive."
From "Like Déja Vu All Over Again" by Huck Gutman, who was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at Calcutta University, published June 9, 2003 by The Statesman (Calcutta, India)
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." The novel is one of the classics of the American literary tradition, in part because it reveals so much about American character and American values.
Early in Twain's novel, the young boy, Huck Finn, and his friend, Tom Sawyer, decide they will try to become robbers. One day Tom readies an attack on a fabulously wealthy caravan. But when they charge, Huck recounts, "There warn't no Spaniards and A-rabs, and there warn't no camels nor no elephants. It warn't anything but a Sunday-school picnic. "
So Huck asks Tom what happened to the caravan, and Tom has a ready answer. "He said it was all done by enchantment. He said there was hundreds of soldiers there, and elephants and treasure, and so on, but we had enemies which he called magicians; and they had turned the whole thing into an infant Sunday-school, just out of spite. I said, all right; then the thing for us to do was to go for the magicians. Tom Sawyer said I was a numskull."
Though no one would posit a relation between Saddam Hussein and a Sunday school class, the parallel between President George W. Bush and Tom Sawyer is a bit close for comfort. In Mark Twain's novel Tom is an innocent, merely playing games, although later in the novel the cost of his games turns heavy for the enslaved Jim, since one of those games derails Jim's flight to freedom and leaves him physically injured in the process.
President George Bush, on the other hand, is no innocent. In a carefully stage-managed event, the President "enchanted" the nation on 1 May by landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, where, flight-suited, he raised his arms aloft and declared victory in Iraq. Photographers snapped, the television cameras rolled, and the sun shone brightly on the successful Chief Executive.
Instead of that magicianship, the President might have addressed something other: the catastrophe lurking in the rising American unemployment rate, which stood at 4.1 per cent when he took office and stands at 6 per cent today.
President Bush has neither acknowledged nor addressed the grievous loss of manufacturing jobs. His main economic initiative has been a tax reduction package, which according to recent figures gives 29 per cent of the tax benefits to the richest one per cent of Americans--more than the entire bottom 80 per cent will get. That works out to 74 million households getting a tax cut of $100 or less, while those families with $1 million in investment and salary income will get a cut of $93,500. The rich getting richer, the poor getting nothing
Ever the enchanter, the US President responded to such figures by claiming they were merely partisan wordplay. "Oh, you'll hear the talk about how this plan only helps the rich people. That's just typical Washington DC political rhetoric, is what that is. That's just empty rhetoric."
Huck Finn was not, as Tom Sawyer claimed, a "numskull." He had it exactly right: when enchanted, the thing to do is go for the magicians.
Howard Zinn, "The Specter of Vietnam," from <www.tompaine.com>
The war in Iraq is different in so many ways from the war waged by the United States in Vietnam that we wonder why, like the telltale heart beating behind the murderer's wall in Edgar Allan Poe's story, the drumbeat of Vietnam can still be heard.
The Vietnam war lasted eight years, the Iraq war three weeks. In Vietnam there were 58,000 US combat casualties, in Iraq a few hundred. Our enemy in Vietnam was a popular national figure --Ho Chin Minh. Our enemy in Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was hated by most of his people. One war was fought in jungles and mountains with a largely draftee army, the other in a sandy desert with volunteer soldiers. The United States was defeated in Vietnam. It was victorious in Iraq.
The elder President Bush in 1991, after the first war against Iraq, announced proudly: "The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian peninsula."
But is the "Vietnam syndrome" really gone from the national consciousness? Is there not a fundamental similarity--that in both instances we see the most powerful country in the world sending its armies, ships, and planes halfway around the world to invade and bomb a small country for reasons which become harder and harder to justify?
The justifications were created, in both situations, by lying to the American public. Congress gave Lyndon Johnson the power to make war in Vietnam after his administration announced that US ships, on "routine patrol" had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. Every element of this claim was later shown to be false.
Similarly, the reason initially given for going to war in Iraq--that Saddam Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction," turns out to have been a fabrication. None have been found, either by a small army of UN inspectors, or a large American army searching the entire country.
What was not talked about publicly at the time of the Vietnam War was something said secretly in intra-governmental memoranda--that the interest of the United States in Southeast Asia was not the establishment of democracy, but the protection of access to the oil, tin, and rubber of that region. In the Iraqi case, the obvious crucial role of oil in US policy has been whisked out of sight, lest it reveal less-than-noble motives in the drive to war.
In the Vietnam case, the truth gradually came through to the American public, and the government was forced to bring the war to a halt. Today, the question remains whether the American people will at some point see behind the deceptions, and join in a great citizens' movement to stop what seems to be a relentless drive to war and empire, at the expense of human rights here and abroad.
On the answer to this question hangs the future of the nation.
From "Iraq: Invasion that will Live in Infamy" by Noam Chomsky, August 2003.
The [Bush Adminiastration's] grand strategy authorizes the US to carry out preventive war: preventive, not pre-emptive. Whatever the justifications for pre-emptive war might be, they do not hold for preventive war, particularly as that concept is interpreted by its current enthusiasts: the use of military force to eliminate an invented or imagined threat, so that even the term "preventive" is too charitable. Preventive war is, very simply, the supreme crime that was condemned at Nuremberg.
That was understood by those with some concern for their country. As the US invaded Iraq, the historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote that Bush's grand strategy was "alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at the time of Pearl Harbor, on a date which, as an earlier American president [Franklin D. Roosevelt] said it would, lives in infamy." It was no surprise, added Schlesinger, that "the global wave of sympathy that engulfed the US after 9/11 has given way to a global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism" and the belief that Bush was "a greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein."
For the political leadership, mostly
recycled from the more reactionary sectors of the Reagan-Bush
administrations, the global wave of hatred is not a particular
problem. They want to be feared, not loved. It is natural for
the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, to quote the words
of Chicago gangster Al Capone: "You will get more with
a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone." They
understand just as well as their critics that their actions increase
the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terror.
But that too is not a major problem. Far higher in the scale of
their priorities are the goals of establishing global hegemony
and implementing their domestic agenda, which is to dismantle
the progressive achievements that have been won by popular struggle
over the past century, and to institutionalize their radical changes
so that recovering the achievements will be no easy task.