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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

War without End (By Kathy Kelly)

Editor's Note:  Today is a solemn anniversary - of the day on which the United States invaded the sovereign state of Iraq.  May we honor all who have suffered and died with a moment of silence, and then may we speak and act out in concert calling for an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces and private contractors from Iraq, and for an end to U.S. war-making and military  intervention everywhere.
Published on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 by Waging Nonviolence (With THANKS to Kathy Kelly and Voices for Creative Nonviolence!). 

War without End

Ten years ago today, Iraqis braced themselves for the anticipated “Shock and Awe” attacks that the United States was planning to launch against them. The media buildup for the attack assured Iraqis that barbarous assaults were looming. I was living in Baghdad at the time, along with other Voices in the Wilderness activists determined to remain in Iraq, come what may. We didn’t want U.S.-led military and economic war to sever bonds that had grown between ourselves and Iraqis who had befriended us over the past seven years. Since 1996, we had traveled to Iraq numerous times, carrying medicines for children and families there, in open violation of the economic sanctions which directly targeted the most vulnerable people in Iraqi society — the poor, the elderly and the children.
U.S. Marines occupy Baghdad, in March 2003, in front
of the Al Fanar hotel that housed Voices activists
throughout the Shock and Awe bombing.
I still feel haunted by children and their heartbroken mothers and fathers whom we met in Iraqi hospitals.
“I think I understand,” murmured my friend Martin Thomas, a nurse from the U.K., as he sat in a pediatric ward in a Baghdad hospital in 1997, trying to comprehend the horrifying reality. “It’s a death row for infants.” Nearly all of the children were condemned to death, some after many days of writhing in pain on bloodstained mats, without pain relievers. Some died quickly, wasted by water-borne diseases. As the fluids ran out of their bodies, they appeared like withered, spoiled fruits. They could have lived, certainly should have lived — and laughed and danced, and run and played — but instead they were brutally and lethally punished by economic sanctions supposedly intended to punish a dictatorship over which civilians had no control.
The war ended for those children, but it has never ended for survivors who carry memories of them.
Likewise, the effects of the U.S. bombings continue, immeasurably and indefensibly.
Upon arrival in Baghdad, we would always head to the Al Fanar Hotel which had housed scores of previous delegations.
Often, internationals like us were the hotel’s only clients during the long years when economic sanctions choked Iraq’s economy and erased its infrastructure. But in early March of 2003, rooms were quickly filling at the Al Fanar. The owner invited his family members and some of his neighbors and their children to move in, perhaps hoping that the United States wouldn’t attack a residence known to house internationals.
Parents in Iraq name themselves after their oldest child. Abu Miladah, the father of two small girls, Miladah and Zainab, was the hotel’s night desk clerk. He arranged for his wife, Umm Miladah, to move with their two small daughters into the hotel. Umm Miladah warmly welcomed us to befriend her children. It was a blessed release to laugh and play with the children, and somehow our antics and games seemed at least to distract Umm Miladah from her rising anxiety as we waited for the United States to rain bombs and missiles down on us.
When the attacks began, Umm Miladah could often be seen uncontrollably shuddering from fear. Day and night, explosions would rattle the windows and cause the Al Fanar’s walls to shake. Ear-splitting blasts and sickening thuds would come from all directions, near and far, over the next two weeks. I would often hold Miladah, who was three years old, and Zainab, her 18-month-old baby sister, in my arms. That’s how I realized that they both had begun to grind their teeth, morning, noon and night. Several times, we witnessed eight-year-old Dima, the daughter of another hotel worker, gazing up in forlorn shame at her father from a pool of her own urine, having lost control of her bladder in the first days of “Shock and Awe.”
And after weeks, when the bombing finally ended, when we could exhale a bit, realizing we had all survived, I was eager to take Miladah and Zainab outside. I wanted them to feel the sun’s warmth, but first I headed over to their mother, wanting to know if she felt it was all right for me to step out with her children.
She was seated in the hotel lobby, watching the scene outside. U.S. Marines were uncurling large bales of barbed wire to set up a check point immediately outside our hotel. Beige military jeeps, armored personnel carriers, tanks and Humvees lined the streets in every direction. Tears were streaming down Umm Miladah’s face. “Never before did I think that this would happen to my country,” she said. “And I feel very sad. And this sadness, I think it will never go away.”
She was a tragic prophet.
The war had just ended for those killed during the “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion, and it was to abruptly end for many thousands killed in the ensuing years of military occupation and civil war. But it won’t end for the survivors.
Effects go on immeasurably and indefensibly.
Effects of war continue for the 2.2 million people who’ve been displaced by bombing and chaos, whose livelihoods are irreparably destroyed, and who’ve become refugees in other countries, separated from loved ones and unlikely to ever reclaim the homes and communities from which they had to flee hastily. Within Iraq, an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced people live, according to Refugees International, “in constant fear, with limited access to shelter, food, and basic services.”
The war hasn’t ended for people who are survivors of torture or for those who were following orders by becoming torturers.
Nor has it ended for the multiple generations of U.S. taxpayers who will continue paying for a war which economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz have so far priced at $4 trillion.
For Bradley Manning, whose brave empathy exposed criminal actions on the part of U.S. warlords complicit in torture, death squads and executions, the war most certainly isn’t over. He lives as an isolated war hero and whistleblower, facing decades or perhaps life in prison.
The war may never end for veterans who harbor physical and emotional wounds that will last until they die. On March 19, on the 10th anniversary of the Shock and Awe invasion, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, joined by the Center for Constitutional Rights and other activist groups, will gather in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., to launch an initiative claiming their right to heal. Rightfully, they’re calling for health care, accountability and reparations, and just as rightfully, they’re calling for our support.
A civilized country would heed their call. A civilized country would demand heartfelt reparations to the people of Iraq and cease to interfere in their internal affairs, would secure freedom and official praise for whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, and would rapidly begin to liberate itself from subservience to warlords and war profiteers. Gandhi was once asked, “What do you think of western civilization?” And famously, he answered, “I think it would be a good idea.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Race to End Violence Before We End Life

By Robert J. Burrowes

Can we take meaningful action to prevent our own extinction without ending human violence first?

The scientific evidence that human extinction will now occur before 2050 continues to rapidly accumulate. (See, for example, 'Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic Methane Heat Wave and Surface Firestorm':
http://climatesoscanada.org/blog/2012/04/30/global-extinction-within-one-human-lifetime-as-a-result-of-a-spreading-atmospheric-arctic-methane-heat-wave-and-surface-firestorm/) Of course, we can deny this scientific evidence because it frightens us, we can delude ourselves that someone or something else (perhaps governments) will fix it, or we can delude ourselves that a few painless
measures, primarily taken by others, will sort it all out. Another option is to powerfully take responsibility for the problem and play a vital role in addressing it ourselves. This is the choice for each of us.

On 11 November 2011 a movement to end violence in all of its forms was launched around the world: 'The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World'. So far this movement has gained individual and organizational participants in 47 countries and the movement expands every day. But this is not a movement for the faint-hearted. This movement requires individuals and organisations that are willing to contemplate and take action on a range of deep and unpleasant truths about the state of our world because the time for pretence and prevarication is over.

So what is unique about 'The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World'? The Nonviolence Charter is an attempt to put the focus on human violence as the pre-eminent problem faced by our species, to truthfully identify all of the major manifestations of this violence, and to identify
ways to tackle all of these manifestations of violence in a systematic and strategic manner. It is an attempt to put the focus on the fundamental cause – the violence we adults inflict on children – and to stress the importance of dealing with that cause. (See 'Why Violence?' http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence) It is an attempt to focus on what you and I – that is, ordinary people – can do to end human violence and the Nonviolence Charter invites us to pledge to make that effort. And it is an attempt to provide a focal point around which we can mobilise with a sense of shared commitment with people from all over the world.

Robert Burrowes speaking about the People's Charter
In essence then, one aim of the Nonviolence Charter is to give every individual and organisation on planet Earth the chance to deeply consider where they stand on the fundamental issue of human violence. Will you publicly declare your commitment to work to end human violence? Or are you going to leave it to others?

And what, precisely, do you want to do? And with whom? The Charter includes suggestions for action in a wide variety of areas; for example, by inviting people to participate in 'The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth' - http://tinyurl.com/flametree - which is a simple yet comprehensive strategy for individuals and organisations to deal with the full range of environmental problems. The Charter also provides an opportunity to identify and contact others, both locally and internationally, with whom we can work in locally relevant ways, whatever our preferred focus for action. In that sense, each participating individual and organisation becomes part of a worldwide community working to end human violence for all time.

So far, the movement has attracted some exceptional people long known for their work to create a world without violence. These people include renowned international peace activist and 'living legend' Ela Gandhi (granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi), Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire, pre-eminent public intellectual Professor Noam Chomsky, president of the Malaysian-based International Movement for a Just World Professor Chandra Muzaffar, Director of Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan at the Pius XII Catholic Center in the Philippines Dr Tess Ramiro, the Deputy Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa Dr Braam Hanekom, prominent nonviolent activists (including Anita McKone, Anahata Giri, Tom Shea, Leonard Eiger, Tarak Kauff, Jill Gough, Jim Albertini, Lesley Docksey and Bruce Gagnon), the jurist Judge Mukete Tahle Itoe of Cameroon, author Anna Perera of the UK and the eminent human rights and communal harmony activist Professor Ram Puniyani in India. Apart from these and other prominent signatories, however, it is mostly 'ordinary people' who are making the pledge to work for a world without violence.

Many organisations are making the pledge too. These include Pax Christi Australia, Nonviolence International in Canada, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Cymru (Wales), the Human Rights Center in Georgia, the GandhiServe Foundation in Germany, Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, Women for Human Rights in Nepal, the Pan-African Reconciliation Centre in Nigeria, the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand, the Holy Land Trust in Palestine, Buddha Dharma in Slovenia, the Forum for Community Change and Development in South Sudan, Facilitate Global and Share the World’s Resources in the
UK as well as Bay Area Women in Black, the Blauvelt Dominican Sisters Social Justice Committee, It's Our Economy and Veterans for Peace in the USA. There are many others.

The Nonviolence Charter acknowledges our many differences, including the different issues on which we choose to work. But it also offers us a chance to see the unity of our overarching aim within this diversity. Hence, whatever our differences, we are given the chance to see that ending human violence is our compelling and unifying dream.

If you think it is time to end violence before we end life, you can join this movement. You can read and, if you wish, sign the pledge of 'The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World' online at http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com/



Biodata: Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of 'The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A
Gandhian Approach', State University of New York Press, 1996. His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his personal website is a http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com

Robert J. Burrowes
P.O. Box 325
Victoria 3130
Email: flametree@riseup.net
Websites: http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com (Charter)
          http://tinyurl.com/flametree (Flame Tree Project)
          http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence ('Why Violence?')
          http://anitamckone.wordpress.com (Songs of Nonviolence)