United for Peace

| January 2003

All We Are Saying is Give Peace a chance.
John LennonThe sound of the war drum is deafening and getting louder. With the exception of Colin Powell, the Bush administration's foreign policy team appears to be steadfast in their belief that Iraq needs a regime change and that the U.S. war machine is the method to accomplish it. As a result, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers will be propelled into a full-scale assault on Iraq. While Saddam is clearly an evil despot and war criminal, is regime change worth the deaths of many innocents plus the greater risk for domestic terrorism, international unrest, and further recession?This question is the underlying basis for the growing anti-war movement. The foremost concern of most who object to the war is the death and suffering of innocent Iraqi civilians as well as American soldiers. In the Bush Administration's unsuccessful attempt to 'smoke Osama bin Laden out of his hole' in Afghanistan, 5,000 to 10,000 civilians died and many more were wounded. Experts predict that a full-scale war in Iraq may kill 50,000 or more Iraqi women and children plus thousands of American soldiers.The cost of war may also include less security from terrorism. Many believe that a unilateral war against a Muslim nation will ultimately breed more hatred toward Americans and swell the ranks of terrorists willing to give their lives to harm us. Adopting this first strike policy (using war to take out potential threats) will further alienate the international community from the U.S. This is because most nations morally oppose the notion of a first strike in which tens of thousands of innocent people can die.President Jimmy Carter recently used his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize as a forum to criticize a unilateral approach to war, saying,'It is clear that global challenges must be met by an emphasis on peace, in harmony with others, with strong alliances and international consensus. Imperfect as it may be, there is no doubt that this can best be done through the United Nations? For powerful countries to adopt a principle of preventive war may well set an example that can have catastrophic consequences.'It is possible that war in Iraq could provoke a regional war in the Mideast. In a worst case scenario fundamentalists could take over Pakistan and control their nuclear arsenal. Another great risk is presented by Saddam Hussein, himself. If in fact he does possess weapons of mass destruction, in the case of war, it is likely that he will attempt to use them on the U.S. or Israel in retribution for losing his empire.Economists are also concerned about the economic cost and risk of a full-scale war. Such an endeavor could cost 100-200 billion dollars and further bust the budget. Higher oil prices would make it more difficult for the sputtering U.S. economy to climb out of recession and start creating jobs, rather than cutting them.The Launch of a Thriving Peace MovementThese threats are the basis for the thriving peace movement. Over the past few months millions of people have protested in the U.S. and abroad against the Bush administration's war plans for Iraq. In November, over 100,000 people protested for peace in Washington D.C., a remarkable number of people considering the fact that bombs had yet to fall. This number was surpassed a few weeks later in Florence Italy, when 500,000 Italians took to the streets to express their concern about war. Other massive demonstrations have taken place in Rome, Berlin, and Paris.One of the movement's strengths is its diversity. On the day of the big Washington DC rally, dozens of other protests occurred simultaneously across the globe. San Francisco had 80,000 protesters and Seattle, Chicago, and other major markets all had thousands of participants. Yet it wasn't just big cities. In Petoskey, Michigan, 150 people marched for peace -- in a town of 6,000 people. Such an event was reflective of countless other candlelight vigils, church services, and campus demonstrations that are building momentum against the war.'I am amazed at the breadth of this movement,' says Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange, which has worked to develop a coalition opposing the war. 'You will find groups that have worked on peace, social justice, the environment, women's issues, and civil rights, plus strong representation from the religious community and student groups.' To help facilitate information exchange among the groups and activists, Global Exchange developed the web site www.unitedforpeace.org. Many consider it the best clearinghouse of anti-war information on the web.Those hoping to join the movement will have the opportunity in the coming months. The biggest rally yet was held in Washington D.C. on January 18th, drawing upwards of 500,000 people, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. New York City will host a mass rally February 15th. Both events will be accompanied by teach-ins and other educational opportunities throughout the weekend.Waging Peace on the WebThe number of people who are already involved in anti-war activities is dramatic compared to the early days of the Vietnam War. In the sixties, much of the anti-war organizing centered on students opposed to the draft and military service. Major demonstrations didn't begin until years after American troops were actively engaged in battle and getting killed. In this case, the movement is unique because of the intensity of the opposition attempting to prevent a war.Technology is a critical tool to connect those advocating for peace. In the few months since it became apparent that the Bush administration was willing to go to war for oil, an amazing amount of organizing has been done. 'The internet has played a valuable role in this movement,' says Gordon Clark who is coordinating the Iraq Pledge of Resistance.'We have already signed up over 5,000 people who have vowed to publicly oppose the war and participate in non-violent civil disobedience against it. E-mail and our web site have played a major role in organizing the activities.' On December 10, thousands of people participated in the group's day of resistance effort, including 140 who were arrested.In Chicago, 20 people were arrested for civil disobedience at the downtown Federal Building. One of those arrested was 84 year old, Ray Kaepplinger. According to the Associated Press, he was a World War II veteran who had 'been through the plume of hell in New Guinea' and wanted to prevent such carnage now.United for Peace is a new anti-war coalition that includes diverse partners such as Greenpeace, the National Council of Churches, United Students Against Sweatshops, Veterans for Peace, and the Black Radical Congress. The primary organizing tool of this group is their website. Unitedforpeace.org is the most comprehensive resource on the issue. It offers daily news updates, a comprehensive calendar of national and local events, and links to most organizations working for peace.In addition to lending support and promoting many of the major peace actions across the country, United for Peace has played a key role in organizing the women's peace vigil in Washington DC. The 16- week demonstration and fast is taking place in Lafayette Park in front of the White House and has attracted significant media attention. It was spawned by a group of visionary activists called the Unreasonable Women for the Earth, who have vowed to take matters into their own hands to protect the planet.Other major efforts on the web to lobby for peace include Moveon.org and Truemajority.org. MoveOn recently organized an effort on the Internet to 'Let the Inspections Work.' Within days it gathered 175,000 signatures and $400,000 to buy national ads asking President Bush to support the UN inspection process and not unilaterally go to war.True Majority, which was founded by Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, has organized 50,000 on-line activists. The group has sent tens of thousands of faxes and e-mails in favor of peace to Congress and the President. It has also organized pro-peace demonstrations in cities across the country.How to Get Involved:Global Exchange: unitedforpeace.org
American Friends Service Committee: www.afsc.org
Peace Pledge: www.peacepledge.org/resist/

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