Oklahoma Peace Strategy Newspaper, May 2007
A blizzard of activities for social justice and peace in recent months, both locally and nationally, reflect growing passion among citizens to end and reverse the US occupation of Iraq – but more – to return to the truly American values of democracy, peace, and justice for all. It has been a dizzying and exhilarating time. Let’s hope this energy builds and expands!
Once upon a time, it was possible for a person to attend almost every peace and justice event in central Oklahoma. Now, events, lectures, workshops and films are scheduled north, south, east, and west, often on the same evening. Did you go to hear Jane Goodall at OCU, or journalist Anthony Shadid reporting at the Unitarian Church speaking about shoddy media coverage of the Iraq War? Or perhaps you just rested up so you could go the next evening to hear Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman, USAF (ret) speak for peace at Mayflower Church. There is a lot going on!
Sat, March 17 Peace Rally:
On Saturday, March 17, marking four years of war in Iraq, some 400 Oklahomans gathered for a peace rally on the State Capital Plaza, for music, reading the names of fallen Oklahomans, and listening to notable opinion leaders speak for peace. Music by the Electric Primadonnas welcomed folks to the plaza, where tables of information were set up by the Peace House, CodePink, Veterans for Peace, and the Department of Peace Campaign. Speaking were State Senator Connie Johnson, Rep. Anastasia Pittman, USAF Col (ret) Katherine Schierman, Iraq Veteran Brandon Jackson, Gold Star family Warren, Kay, and Jamie Blake Henthorn, and Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers of Mayflower Congregational Church. Dr. Meyers invited people to come forward to read names of the more than 50 Oklahomans who have died in Iraq, and a gong was sounded after each name was read. Dr. Meyers’ comments are posted at: www.peacehouseok.org.
Sun, Mar 18, Spiritual Walk for Peace:
The next afternoon, some 250 citizens gathered at the Episcopal Center for encouraging words for peace and a silent peace walk encircling the Murrah Building National Memorial. Music by Mary Reynolds, Louise Goldberg and friends set the tone on a glorious Sunday afternoon. Dean George Back of St. Paul’s Cathedral welcomed the crowd and gave a prayer for peace. Senator Connie Johnson spoke again, and Rev. Lance Schmitz made an impassioned plea to support peace. Rex Friend staged the silent walk. Peace walkers stretched two blocks, as on-lookers visiting the Murrah Memorial stopped to watch the procession. At the Jesus Wept statue, the crowd paused for song and words from Cynthia Johnson and Rex Friend, then Rev. Meyers and others read again the names of Oklahomans killed in Iraq. Back at the Episcopal Center, State Representative Al McAffrey spoke strongly for an end to the Iraq conflict. Sister Benedicta Boland with the Red Plains Monastery of Benedictine Sisters then closed the event with teachings from St. Benedict and a peace prayer.
April 18, Lt.Col Robt. M. Bowman USAF (ret):
Dr. Bob Bowman spoke April 18th to a crowd of some 175 at Mayflower Congregational Church, as part of a 100-city speaking tour around the US. Bowman was a fighter pilot in Vietnam, and, with a PhD in Aeronautics, directed US military research into space-based weapons under the Ford and Carter administrations. Since his retirement, Bowman has directed his own non-profit organization dedicated to justice, peace, and the appropriate use (only) of the US military. Bowman is an outspoken opponent of Bush administration policies including the Iraq war, unwarranted surveillance of US citizens, torture and rendition of US prisoners, ignoring global warming and environmental challenges, endangering Social Security, and failure to implement a national health insurance policy. Dr. Bowman’s website about his speaking tour includes his analysis and prescriptions for US politics. www.ThePatriots.us
The spirit of people rising is always good news. Your efforts inspire me, just as others’ efforts inspire you. If everyone will follow the counsel of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, the victory of justice and peace in the world becomes possible. He said, “Everyone can do something.”
OPS, May, 2007
The most important thing to do about Iraq is exit this ill-begotten war as soon as possible. On the day of the invasion, I was talking with the father of a Marine who also owned the hospice where I was working. He was in a gung-ho,’get the s.o.b.’ mode and said so loudly. I spoke to him in quiet words, “Oh, no, this is a very bad idea for many reasons—every motive is wrong and we are storming into an area of the world where they do revenge in generations.” It is with no pleasure I affirm that opinion today and mourn the consequences of our national belligerence.
There is another thing we need to do simultaneously as we exit the war. Just quitting what the U.S. is doing is not nearly enough. In my mind’s eye, there is an ancient prophet standing on a rocky prominence intoning “repent or be doomed.” “Repent” is an old-fashioned word. It usually is used in religious language. Although faith can inform repentance, it is not, in and of itself, necessarily religious, as any 12-Stepper working a 4th and 5th step can affirm. It seems to me “repent” is the most apt word for what needs to happen.
By dictionary definition, “repent” means: 1. to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. 2. to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent. 3. to remember or regard with self-reproach or contrition: to repent one’s injustice to another.
Much of the thinking and behaviors that led us to this point significantly predate this war. Just pulling out of Iraq will not complete what this nation needs to do. We need to examine how we really came to this place, express our deep sorrow and regret, make amends, and determine how to avoid similar thinking and behavior in the future. It is the same kind of repentance that Japan and Germany went through following WWII. Now it needs to be our leadership and us.
Members of this administration need to apologize to the American people and, indeed, to the world:
For lying to and misleading them into this war. No ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction.’ No Al Qaeda presence there prior to the war (there now is, thanks to the U.S.). Saddam Hussein was a repressive, abusive, violent dictator. But we have not chosen to declare war on all abusive dictators. Some dictators are our ‘best buds.’ Part of our government’s history includes a willingness to march into foreign lands on some noble pretext simply to promote or protect U.S. business interests there.
For another war of aggression: U.S. aggression in Central America was promoted as “fighting communism.” But the Marines went into Nicaragua five times before the turn of the 20th century, well before the word ‘communism’ even existed—sent to protect the interests of American plantations established on land which belonged to local farmers who could no longer support their families. The U.S. helped establish the Somoza government there–a U.S business-friendly dictatorship there and abusive as any on the planet. We even helped make it a generational dynasty. Nicaragua’s story is only one in a painful list of U.S. involvement in aggressive war-making. This current first strike war is actually not new behavior—it’s just the most recent, most blatant manifestation of very old behavior and we need to change it permanently if we are to live in peace.
For launching a war that was pre-planned before the September 11th attacks. The plan was simply taken off the shelf and implemented, using our national tragedy, almost literally, as a smoke screen for their real motives. Quietly, they spoke about gasoline at $1 a gallon, a huge boon for the American and other western economies. In the U.S.’ ongoing involvement in Middle East intrigue, this would have given the U.S. independence from the caprices of OPEC production limits and allow the U.S. to take on other countries in the region one at a time. Even now, permanent bases are being built in Iraq for this purpose.
For using our young people and resources in a war that was a grudge match—Saddam had tried to have Bush The Elder assassinated. It was payback time. In the best Texas accent a Bush can muster, with a hitch to the belt: “I’m goin’ after that SOB now that I have a good excuse.” Or, “I’m really mad about this 9-11 attack and I’m lookin’ like a fool sitting in a Florida classroom for 20 minutes following the attack, so I’ll go after Saddam and act real tough.” There is nothing worse than the combination of arrogance and ignorance, and this administration has demonstrated an abundance of both. Early in the war, President Bush said this would be a “crusade” for freedom and democracy. In our country a crusade is associated with Billy Graham. In the Arab world, it refers to a time in history when their land was repeatedly invaded by foreigners intent on exterminating them. Either Bush or his speech writers were totally ignorant of what the Crusades mean to the Arab world or this language was deliberate. What could he have said that would have been more inflammatory?
For using the language of the Christian religion to buttress decidedly un-Christian policies, most notably preemptive war and torture. There is not a single thing in the teachings or life of Jesus that would support such behavior—indeed he would unequivocally renounce it.
For starting a costly war that feeds the war machine-‘the industrial-military complex,’ as Eisenhower called it. It has been so long since this country had a peace-based economy, we don’t know how to sustain one. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, this country blew amazingly good opportunities to lead the world into an unprecedented era of peace. If our nation had chosen that opportunity to behave as the benevolent, helpful big brother of a large family, things could have been very different, not only for us but for our children and grandchildren. After the 9-11 attacks, the U.S. had the sympathy of most of the rest of the world and could have chosen limited actions to bring those responsible to justice rather than a leap into wars on two fronts. But a break from this country’s addiction to weaponry and war-making would cost losses in the war-business sector. The stock market doesn’t like peace—bad for business.
Continuous war somewhere meets the needs of predatory corporations for ever-increasing commerce, regardless of whether it meets the needs of human beings or not. And these corporations are so cleaver they have managed to label any such observation “unpatriotic.” This war never was about Al Qaeda, terrorism, or protecting “our” freedom. It’s about protecting the “freedom” of huge international corporations, whose interests are often not the best interest of the American people.
The administration also needs to apologize to the Iraqi people for keeping them in a constant state of siege since 1991, through two wars separated by years of privation, misery, and death. As our media did at the time of Vietnam, they keep precise count of the number of U.S. soldiers who have been killed. This is as it should be—each one is precious and lost to the fabric of life forever. But each of the Iraqis killed is also precious. And the American people only hear of them in vague estimates. This ancient country is the cradle of civilization. We have poisoned its land and its people with depleted uranium ordinance–an evil gift which will keep on giving for generations Not only have we abused its people in a hundred ways, we have destroyed priceless artifacts and archaeological sites—lost to the human family forever.
One of the subtlest and most devastating consequences of such costly and prolonged warfare is what happens here at home. Those who hate publicly funded assistance of any kind can justify cutting budgets of crucial programs because “we can’t afford them.” It’s not the programs we can’t afford; it’s eternal war.
The media needs to repent also for caving into the administration’s demand that they buy into all the fake justifications for the war and abdicate their responsibility to provide the American people with as much truth as possible. Those journalists and publications that did have courage were branded as unpatriotic and marginalized.
But just blaming the administration and the media is not enough. The American people need to take responsibility for their behavior (or lack thereof) too. The vast majority of Americans allowed themselves to be stampeded into both of these wars and, once there, allowed our leaders to paint those who disagreed with them as unpatriotic, guilty of not “supporting the troops.” A mixture of fear, ignorance, apathy, xenophobia*, and misplaced patriotism contributed to and continue to contribute to a mute electorate. But the most devastating public response is to simply ‘change the channel.’
*fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign
OPS, May 2007
There are huge concerns about the depletion of the earth’s oceans and particularly the over-fishing of many species. For instance: Orange Roughy has been a very popular seafood choice. But it turns out they have a reproductive cycle of 20-plus years (some reports indicate 35 years). They mate and reproduce later in their lives than most humans and they have already been fished to “economic extinction.”
Other species, which are abundant, like tuna, are caught with methods that kill thousands fish of other species in the process. While some tuna is caught using dolphin-friendly systems, so that dolphins are freed, many other species are caught in nets along with other fish species. These are considered “bycatch” (or to use a war metaphor, ‘collateral damage’) and are discarded back into the ocean to die if they are not already dead. According to research by the United Nations Food and Agriculture , worldwide fishing operations throw away 25% of their catch. Tons of fish are tossed out, dead or dying, because they’re not the kind the fishermen wanted to catch. The discarded animals may have no market value, or there may be no room on the boat to bring them to shore. Or the bycatch may be a marketable species, but too small to sell. Sometimes, fish are discarded because the fishermen lack the proper permits to land them. Dolphins, sea turtles, seals and whales all get caught by accident in fishing gear and drown. Seabirds, including endangered albatrosses, drown when they snatch baited hooks and are pulled under water. Sharks, swordfish and red snapper are harmed by accidental kills. Bycatch often takes young fish that could rebuild depleted populations if allowed to grow up and breed.
The animals we catch and throw away have important roles to play in marine food webs. By killing these animals, we’re taking food away from tunas, salmon, swordfish, dolphins, sea lions and other ocean wildlife. Still other species are ‘farmed’ using methods that pollute the surrounding ocean. Meantime, we are being encouraged to increase our consumption of fish for our health. Below is a Seafood Watch brochure from Monterrey Bay Aquarium. This one is specific to the Central U.S. It is a guide to which fish species are being harvested or raised in an environmentally friendly way and those which are endangered or are harvested in a way that is environmentally destructive. Each of the entries on the guide has a corresponding website. You can even order free guides to share. Learn more.
Recently, the Peace House was sent a copy of a letter written by a Metro area high school student expressing frustration at presence of military recruiters in his high school. A portion of that letter is printed here along with reflections by Risa Wilkinson, a member of the local Oklahoma Committee for Conscientious Objectors (OCCO). The OCCO is currently accessible at the Joy Mennonite Church, (405) 945-1925.
The writer identifies him or herself only as “Freedom Writer” and includes the following remarks in his or her letter to the principal:
As objection to this war has reached record highs, the president wants to send even more troops to Iraq only to come home in body bags. Where do they find such recruits? . . .They send recruiters to high schools to recruit students with few academic opportunities. They advertise free college tuition and signing bonuses that are subject to change without the recruit’s notice . . . They come with their fancy cars and their flashy uniforms promising career opportunities that cannot be upheld.
By letting these military recruiters infiltrate our school cafeterias and classrooms, you are jeopardizing the lives of your students. . . As soon as they graduate, these high school recruits will be sent almost directly to Iraq and yet you do nothing to educate these students on the dangers of entering the service.
. . . You should not let recruiters peddle their b__s___ on the great opportunities the military currently has to offer them . . . (You may read the full text of this letter at www.peacehouseok.org.)
Risa Wilkinson, OCCO member and counselor for the GI Rights Hotline offers the following to Freedom Writer and others who are concerned about on-campus military recruitment.
Q: What are the options for students, parents, or schools who do not want recruiters in area high schools?
In 2002 Pres. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act and as a requirement to get federal funding, schools must hand over student contact lists to military Recruiters. This information includes home phone numbers, addresses. Schools are also required to offer equal campus access to military recruiters as they do to college recruiters. In order for recruiters to be expelled, the school would have to reject federal funding.
Q: What options currently exist to counter the influence of these military recruiters?
Giving military recruiters equal access as college and career recruiters does not mean giving them more access. And alternative options may also be granted equal access. An equal amount of information from opposing sides should be granted. For example, a representative of OCCO could be invited to any school to present non-military options for post-high school graduation, including how to get funding for school without military obligation, including how to find grants. Since many young people join the military in order to travel, OCCO can also provide information on how to affordably travel.
Q. Have OKC Metro schools taken advantage of this option?
I don’t know how many, but I know of at least one area high school that has invited CCO to talk about non military options and the effects of war.
Q. What other venues are suitable for presenting this type of information?
OCCO would be happy to send representatives to churches, peace clubs, community events, or anywhere we might be invited.
Q. What other resources are available?
www.okobjector.org has more information on the No Child Left Behind Act and things you can do about in your area. Veterans for Peace also has some materials.
It is important for parents to know that there is an “opt out” form that they can sign prohibiting schools from giving out their child’s information. Parents who are concerned should certainly do this. However, be aware that recruiters are also gathering information on the internet through blogs, chat rooms, and other popular websites such as Myspace.
The Oklahoma Committee for Conscientious Objectors has plenty of materials and brochures available. Call (405) 945-1925.
When the Mediterranean Sea was on the way to becoming a polluted toilet bowl from unregulated dumping, all shoreline nations risked losing its beautiful waters supporting vacation tourism as well as industrial fishing. But, who would give up free dumping first? A compact agreement was proposed to halt and reverse the damage, ultimately signed by all Mediterranean nations. Regulation saved the sea.
Global oceans need similar protection. Efforts beginning in the 1950s to draft such agreements have been revised dozens of times to address objections of this or that powerful nation. The current U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into force in 1994, and has been signed by 152 nations. But not the United States.
A handful of conservative senators, led by Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, has blocked American ratification of the treaty, claiming that it would impinge upon US sovereignty. Inhofe argues that signing any treaty curtailing U.S. activities in any way is antithetical to U.S. national interests. Tom Coburn has also been an opponent both as a US Representative and now as a Senator.
UNCLOS has been officially endorsed by Presidents Bush and Clinton, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, and by all living State Department Legal Advisors. UNCLOS is also supported by more than 60 U.S. environmental, business, military, legal, and public interest organizations.
While earth’s human population continues growing toward seven billion, all the rest of nature is in retreat. Species extinction rates are unprecedented. Changes in the planet’s atmosphere are not in question, though the consequences are debated. Baby birds soiling their nest grow up to fly elsewhere. There is no elsewhere for humanity. Earth is a sacred trust to human stewardship. Our spherical planet can no longer afford flat-earth thinking.
Oklahoma Peace Strategy Newspaper Aug/Sept 2006
All Americans simply must see Al Gore’s movie on global warming: An Inconvenient Truth. With charts, graphs, testimonies and news clips, Gore closes the controversy on whether global warming is a consequence of human activities: It is. The final 15 minutes are devoted to actions and solutions — all available technologies — which must be implemented to reverse global warming and bring sustainability to human life on our earth. Gore’s challenge is moral not political. What will we do with our planet? This film can bring to millions the enlightenment about this reality well-known to environmentalists and America’s well-read minority.
In Oklahoma City, An Inconvenient Truth will be shown free, at 7 pm, on Tuesday, October 10th, at Church of the Open Arms, 3131 N. Pennsylvania.
This film can galvanize Americans to see the urgent necessity of national collective action for change. Doing our part to save Nature and earth’s capacity to sustain human life can inspire in Americans a missing spirituality of mission which can flow into all areas of national endeavor. In becoming good world neighbors, US citizens can discover a higher purpose for life than consumerism and personal comfort. We can discover the energizing potential of mission in service to a higher purpose than our own appetites.
Everyone needs a sense of mission and vision, without which, as scripture says, a people perish. Flooded with commercial messages stressing selfish consumerism, our society wanders in a desert where all of our leadership, apparently, challenges us to satisfy our hungers through acquisition of more stuff. In lives motivated by passion and vision, values fall into place, and wandering turns into living with focus and direction. With the clear insights Gore presents, we can shake off our national selfishness and raise a call to national leadership impossible to ignore. Leadership will follow the people. That’s us.
Bringing human activity into sustainability with our planet will require implementation of green technologies in architecture, transportation, agriculture, housing for starters. All human activity and production must be redesigned with sustainability as a central driving theme. Doing this will be simpler and cheaper that going to the moon. All that is required is the political will.
It is always baffling to activists and advocates that so many people seem adrift without vision or mission, when there are so many things calling to us for action. Perhaps saving our planet for future generations can finally unify all humanity, particularly here in the U.S.
It’s up to each of us to make this a priority, in our families, schools, houses of worship, work places, political parties and daily life. We’ll be better people for it, living lives with meaning and zeal, and – incidentally – we may succeed in saving the planet and Nature. It’s the only one we have.
OPS Newspaper, April 2006
The US military adventure in Iraq is a tragedy beyond words to describe. But it is really the third war in 16 years against Iraq. The 1991 Gulf War and sanctions through the intervening years smashed Iraq’s military power and killed more than a million Iraqis. And these are just the latest in a long history of conflicts and wars in which economic interests, power, and geo-political dominance have been the driving forces; in which rallying cries about freedom, justice and democracy have been little more than fig leaves to cover real motives. (On page 3, see the excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, retired, decrying war entirely.)
The first Gulf War in 1991 was ostensibly to drive Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait. Another view is that Saddam Hussein was snookered into attacking Kuwait, providing the pretext for the US-British alliance to gather a coalition to go to war. War with Iraq would cut its large military machine down to size. During Iraq’s war with Iran, the US had sold Saddam Hussein, then considered America’s ally, every kind of military equipment including chemical and biological weapons. When Iraq and Iran called their war off, it left Saddam Hussein and Iraq disquietingly powerful in the Middle East balance of power. Many believe that neutralizing Iraq was a “real reason” for the 1991 Gulf War … aside from the obvious desire among US planners to gain greater geo-political power and control in the Middle East.
For years Iraq had accused Kuwait of drilling sideways into Iraqi oil fields, stealing Iraqi oil. Indeed, Middle East commentators have expressed the belief that Kuwait was encouraged to do so, to prod Iraq into a border conflict. Before Iraq’s action into Kuwait, Saddam Hussein met with US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie. Notes from that meeting indicate that Glaspie assured Saddam Hussein that the US had no stake in border disputes between Iraq and Kuwait. Eight days later, Iraq attacked Kuwait.
Historically, Iraq had maintained that Kuwait was part of its territory – one of its states — since the modern borders in the Middle East were set following World War I largely by Britain and the United States. One historian said that Iraq had more justification to take Kuwait than the United States had to take Texas. In any case, Iraq did seize Kuwait, and the Gulf War ensued.
Following the build-up of 500,000 troops in Saudi Arabia, hostilities began with the heavy bombing of Iraqi military targets for 40 days and 40 nights. Daily satellite passes over Iraq permitted precision bombing of every target in Iraq larger than a helmet. Fuel-air bombs – also called “the poor man’s nuclear weapon” – sucked the air out of underground installations of Iraqi forces suffocating untold thousands. When the ground attack finally began, tens of thousands of Iraqi troops immediately surrendered, most in dehydrated and starving condition. The war was finally called off during the US bombing of the road to Basra, as vehicles of every description carried terrified Iraqis fleeing for their lives. Little remained of Iraq’s military inventory.
Twelve years of economic sanctions against Iraq following the war, which was monitored by continuous over-flights by US fighter jets and bombers, keeping Iraq militarily neutered and bereft. Iraq’s sanitation and water treatment facilities were never returned to their former capacity, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths to water-borne diseases. Full power generation never returned either, creating challenges to every segment of society.
From the early days of the GW Bush administration, the President, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condi Rice are all on videotape stating that Iraq presented no danger to its neighbors or anyone else, and had no weapons of mass destruction. That line changed following the 9/11 terrorist attack on America.
The CIA was immediately assigned the task of “finding” connections to Saddam Hussein and Iraq. CIA terrorist specialist Richard Clarke reports that the administration showed little interest in Al Quaeda or Afghanistan, but wanted only information supporting their desire to blame Iraq. A campaign was launched to convince Congress, the American people, and the world that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction, and did present a danger to his neighbors. All that proved not to be true.
The current Iraq War was an arrogant and misguided adventure to extend US influence and control into the world’s primary oil-producing region. Justified with misinformation and waged in defiance of cautions from State Department professionals, the war has been a litany of blunders, miscalculations, and rosy predictions based on false hopes. It has killed another 100,000 Iraqis, some 2,500 Americans, and will cost American taxpayers a trillion dollars, with no happy outcome in sight. It has cost the US any reputation we might once have had as a protector of human rights or world peace.
The presence of US troops in Iraq is the primary thorn fueling the insurgency. The US must simply get out, and turn over the civil strife among Iraq’s religious and political factions, unleashed when their government was smashed, to some international body while Iraq is rebuilt. Because leaders of both major US political parties seem committed to continuing the war, an end to the war can only be brought about by a visible popular movement of war resistance and peace actions by the American people.