"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Dear Friends,

Killing is wrong. Waging war is failure (on many levels). And, the weapons we create to fight wars are evil.

The Israelis have not yet used cluster bombs (which they used extensively in Lebanon in 2006) in Gaza. Instead, they are using another atrocious weapon, white phosphorous, that, when used in densely populated areas, can cause the most horrific burns and ignite anything that is remotely capable of burning. For a more through explanation of white phosphorous, click here.

What is so tragic is that while most nations have agreed to ban cluster bombs - the U.S. did not even send a representative to the December, 2008 meeting in Oslo, Norway where 94 countries signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions - white phosphorous is not covered by any weapons convention (chemical or otherwise). Of course, when the U.S. finally admitted (after repeated denials) in 2005 that it had used white phosphorous in Iraq, the Department of Defense (defending what???) stated that it was used to produce "obscuring smoke".

Speaking of smoke screens, the Israelis (having learned well from the Americans) have claimed they are not using white phosphorous in Gaza, although photos clearly show evidence of it in use. The Israelis claim that "any munitions that Israel is using are in accordance with international law." Whether using white phosphorous or just plain bombs and missiles, indescriminate killing of civilians doesn't cut it in terms of international humanitarian law. It is morally and legally wrong!

While nations spend a great deal of time, as well as human and financial resources to determine what weapons (and how those weapons) can be used in warfare, would it not be far more productive to spend that time and resources in determining why we even condone war at all?

The eve of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is a good time to consider not how we will fight wars in order to reduce civilian suffering and death, but how we will eradicate war altogether from our world so that one day "war" will be merely a word in the dictionary of archaic terms. We can honor Dr. King's vision of The World House, this great big house we have inherited, where "black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu" must learn to live together in peace or face extinction, by working to end ALL war.

All of us who are dedicated to a peaceful world can play a role by continually driving home the message to our nations' leaders that War Is Not the Answer (to quote my Quaker Friends). We must show that if war is not the answer, that we know what the answer is. The Quakers have articulated an answer quite well, and a good place to learn about (and get engaged in the) prevention of violent conflict is at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

So make a promise tomorrow on the holiday honoring Dr. King that you will work to bring an end to war (or continue to work for it), and then make a plan for yourself and get started. There is no time to waste!



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