United for Peace

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 Movement
These 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
Moveon.org
Truemajority.org
Peace Pledge:
www.peacepledge.org/resist/

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