This issue of Peace News has been produced against the backdrop of war on Iraq and, in particular, the attacks on Fallujah.
While the editorial team spent their evenings deciding on the right font for a heading, warplanes and mortars struck fear into the hearts of ordinary people thousands of miles away.
It's distressing to see the blatant hypocrisy, lies, inconsistencies and ironies surrounding this war and to realise that many of the public - and, it seems, much of the Western press - either cannot see through them, choose to support them, or feel powerless to take action.
With the re-election of George W and the seeming immovable presence of Tony Blair, the bizarre notion of a “values” based political system has become further entrenched. But what kind of “values” are they talking about? Values that state that while abortion is evil it is OK to drop bombs on kids in Fallujah, values which allow arms sales to Iraq while persecuting refugees escaping war zones.
The “values” concept - like “humanitarian intervention” is yet another smokescreen developed by the men in suits to try to explain away their atrocities.
It's established beyond doubt that the major powers don't give a damn about ordinary people, indeed those major powers have knowingly added to all our misery and suffering through arms sales, the encouragement of punitive macro-economic policies and all the little nasty things they do to keep themselves in power at our expense.
We know why many so-called developing countries are in a mess - because the West spent centuries ripping them off and then helped maintain local tyrants, fought proxy wars, and sold billions of pounds in weapons. So ask why access to healthcare is limited in the super-rich western countries or why there is a massive - and predominantly Black and Latina - underclass in countries like the US. The global superpowers are not just attacking “others” - they are attacking and feeding off all of us.
Some may still cling to a desperate hope that, in Iraq, maybe for once the Western powers are acting with a degree of selflessness in removing Saddam Hussein. But whilst it is true that Hussein was a violent authoritarian, so are the occupiers and the incumbent government.
Meanwhile, the number of people injured, killed, left homeless and without basic services such as water and electricity continues to increase.
In the ensuing macho pride of war, no one is allowed to admit defeat, even though it has become increasingly obvious to the militaries on the ground that their political masters have dragged them into something from which there appears to be no obvious exit.
Even to the soldiers on the frontline, the economic and political capital to be acquired through the occupation of Iraq, rather than the well-being of ordinary people, is revealed as the true motor of the conflict. The only people allowed to admit defeat are the dead. The powerful plough on with their campaigns of state-sanctioned murder.
Saving the village?
And yet, there are those who continue to maintain (just about) that the occupation and continued attacks on Iraq represent a form of “humanitarianism”. This is just the sort of lifeline that the militarists need. The modern “humanitarian interventions” and the long established “Just War” theory have been disastrous for humankind.
They leave people paralysed by qualms, whilst the militarists get on with their business. It helps perpetuate militarism -- military production, military recruitment and conscription, militarised culture. If we allow for military interventions and the “just” war, then we allow for armaments and armies, and all that accompanies, all that follows. We allow for the continuation of an essentially patriarchal and vicious institution.
Finding creative solutions
The pacifist case is simple: no killing, no arming, no militarisation under any circumstances, for any cause. Instead, we need to invest -- economically, culturally, personally, collectively, educationally -- in the nonviolent, creative resolution of all conflicts.
This doesn't mean no-one will ever get hurt. But if we had been given a tenth of the financial and organisational resources so far spent on occupying bombing Iraq, we could not have done anywhere near as badly as the “coalition” has done. Even if we'd just dropped the money from the air -- at least the Iraqi “insurgents” would have been distracted for several weeks rummaging in the sand for bank notes.
For those of you who read the first Peace Newsquarterly, this editorial may have raised a slightly amused, though also rather saddened, smile.
It is a close approximation and, in places, a near carbon-copy of the first PN quarterly editorial from May 1999. The word Kosov@ has been replaced with Iraq (plus a few other interventions for the sake of sense and timeliness).
Apologies to Chris and Stephen for hacking their original text in order to make a point.
The song remains the same.
A movement reborn?
Some have declared that the huge response to the crises in Iraq represents the rebirth of a broad and international anti-war movement. We can only hope that this is a) true and b) going to do more than march from A to B. To paraphrase a certain US general: as long as they keep paying their taxes, let them march.
As with many other post-conflict situations worldwide, the wounds of Iraq may will be healed by the quiet and persistent work of a million groups and individuals -- in a million economic, cultural, psychotherapeutic, intercommunity and inter-personal projects. These are the undramatic building blocks of durable nonviolent social change and healing. Everyone knows this -- and the sooner we can rid ourselves, our governments, and our culture of military options and hardware, and genuinely invest in nonviolent solutions, the better.