Social Responsibility

Graduate Articles

Wage Peace

Kevin LaNave
University Chronicle September 26, 2002

"You can aim a gun at a person; but a war is always aimed at a people"

Newsweek recently described the case for war with the title "Target: Iraq", then continually used a logo depicting Saddam Hussein in a rifle's crosshairs.

I agree that Hussein is a brutal dictator. Allowing him to develop, use, or distribute weapons of mass destruction is dangerous.

But Iraq is a country, of 24 million people. Even conservative casualty estimates indicate thousands of innocent civilians will be killed; and UNICEF projects the entire country will face famine. (Sanctions have forced dependency on a government distribution of 700,000 tons of food monthly. Pentagon plans say nothing about how to avoid this tragedy.)

Solutions?: End sanctions that devastate Iraqi civilians. Pursue weapons inspections, patiently and realistically.

"War cannot create authentic peace"

"Peace" is not merely "no war". It is the presence of a pattern of relationships that addresses the needs of all people to survive and thrive. It must be built -- waged -- through creative action.

Military force cannot create such peace. Focusing only on war ignores key issues involved in waging peace.

Solutions?: Help restore Iraq's infrastructure (e.g. water and sewage treatment plants; education and health-care systems). Create cultural ties between Iraqi and US people. Deal honestly with our own contribution to destructive patterns of relationships (see below).

"Our talk of war ignores our contribution to injustice."

The conflict with Iraq -- and the war on terrorism in general -- is often framed as a struggle between those who are good and those who are evil. Yet waging peace requires addressing our own brokenness. We are not 'the great Satan'. But we are also not the pinnacle of freedom and respect for life we often profess to be.

On 9/11 -- and every day since -- 25,000+ people (primarily children) have died from hunger-related causes. They are just as innocent, their deaths just as cruel, as those who died in the WTC, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania. Central causes are our selfishness and neglect (e.g. consuming 50% of the world's resources; supporting exploitative multinational corporations, and oppressive World Bank and IMF policies).

We supported the Iraqi regime, including when it used chemical weapons. We support oppression elsewhere in the Middle East, in the world, and even within the US (e.g. concerns about the Patriot Act).

The world fears our weapons of mass destruction, too. We are the only ones that have used nuclear weapons; and we have never admitted that doing so was horribly immoral. Our stockpiles are by far the largest. It is very threatening to speak of using them tactically, even pre-emptively, and even against non-nuclear nations. Our plans for space-based weapons further escalate such fears.

Solutions?: Significantly alter our consumerism. Change our policies regarding multinational corporations, the World Bank and IMF, and our support of repressive regimes. Reconsider our resistance to UN initiatives (e.g. ending Israel's oppression of Palestinians; the International Criminal Court). Acknowledge our past misuse of weapons of mass destruction, and rethink our current policies regarding their development, production, deployment and sale. Address oppression within the US.

On a personal level . . .

We cannot just oppose war. We must also work creatively and passionately for relationships of peace, which requires personal conversion as well as participation in larger initiatives. Like the attitude of those in the military, our commitment must be courageous and sacrificial.

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