Saving the Army of Peace
[This is the text of a speech at the Gandhi Peace Festival. It is dedicated to the memory of George Weber, A Canadian member of the Christian Peacemaker Team. Mr. Weber died in Iraq protecting innocent children from the curse of invasion and bombs.]
It is very strange and very wonderful to be breathing the free and peaceful air of Canada in October 2003. Last year at this time I was breathing stench and fear at a water treatment plant in Baghdad, Iraq as the U.S. war machine lurched towards full and massive invasion.
Since today is Saturday, I’ll make only a tiny speech. I’ll begin by telling you a fairy tale. Then I’ll end with a tiny speech.
I should warn you, my fairy tale is odd. This fairy tale has a beginning and a middle. But it still has no end.
Our actions, day in and day out, will decide if the fairy tale will have a happy ending or a tragic ending. If enough of us act every day like Gandhi would act, then surely the story will have a happy ending.
If we don’t, well then, the story will end tragically…
So here’s my Gandhi Peace Festival Fair Tale
Let’s start at the beginning…
Once upon a time, a huge and mighty country south of the St. Lawrence River and North of the Rio Grande decided to invade a poor country far away.
Why would a giant wage war on a small country thousands of miles away? The giant claims to be in terror of the small and remote country. The giant claims to see weapons of mass destruction where the rest of the world sees only dying children and a country dying of the giant’s economic sanctions.
Some say the Giant is only making up excuses to steal the huge pool of oil in the little country.
But the Giant said it is not greedy, only scared, very scared, so scared it does not care one bit about the oil.
So the Giant begins loading up bombs and 200, 000 solders. It starts flying them half way around the world to make to a huge war.
But before the giant’s soldiers and their bombs and their uranium coated bullets can arrive, something astonishing happens.
No one had ever seen anything like it in all the 1000s of years of war after war after war.
Hundreds of people, all friends of the giant, from every corner of the world, from Canada, from South Africa, from Japan, from Ireland, from Britain, from Turkey, from Gandhi’s own India, and even from the giant’s own United States of America poured into the little country.
The brave little army of peace gets to Iraq first. It is no ordinary army. It does not come to destroy, but to protect and to comfort and to bear witness.
In case you are wondering, now we have arrived at the middle of the fairy tale.
The giant became furious when it learned about the Peace Army. The giant was afraid that hundreds of people from so many countries, including the giant’s own country, would mess up the war. The generals had worked very hard to make a big war. They did not want any interference. The generals and the politicians they served did not want all those witnesses.
So the giant started calling the peace army names, very bad names.
Then the giant warned the peace army if it did not get out of the way, it would bomb, and bomb and bomb anyway. The Giant had a talking Bush. Some said it was a really a babbling Bush. The Bush threatened very bad things if peace army if it did not get out of the way in 48 hours. The Giant’s talking Bush said he was out of patience. He told the Peace Army that it was out of time.
The giant thought it was very unfair to interfere with war. The giant was confused. It did not plan on meeting a peace army. The giant’s talking Bush could not understand the idea of an unarmed peace army.
The giant paused, reworked its war plan, and then invaded the poor country of Iraq. It was a short war, but has become a long occupation — n occupation that continues to this day, an occupation that has no end in sight.
Now we approach the end of the fairy tale.
The giant won the war, but it’s still not happy. It is even more angry and more scared than ever. Its soldiers who will never get any of the oil continue to die; the Iraqi people continue to die. Every day the world discovers that the giant’s babbling Bush babbles lies. This war, like all wars, is built upon lies.
The giant is now turning its legal guns on the Peace Army. It is especially angry at Americans in the peace army and is threatening them with huge fines and even prison if they don’t pay up. The peace army says it will pay — but not to the babbling Bush. The Peace Army will pay only to relieve the suffering of the people of Iraq.
What will happen to the peace army? Will it end up in jail?
That’s really up to us.
If we tell the babbling Bush, if we tell his generals, and his politicians and his beloved CIA and his Justice Department and his Treasury Department, hands off the Peace Army, then the Peace Army will grow. It will become so large that next time anyone threatens a war; the Peace Army will be able to prevent it. It will get harder and harder to make war. As the Peace Army grows from 100s to 1000s, to millions, even the babbling Bush will understand. Maybe even the Bush will stop babbling and start acting like Gandhi.
What if we don’t speak up and say publicly that it’s wrong to punish a Peace Army?
What if we don’t demand that even politicians must defend the Peace Army?
If we don’t give the Peace Army a chance to explain why it went to Iraq and what it saw, then, the Peace Army will shrink The next war will be easy to make, and peace will become harder to keep.
Happy ending or tragic ending, it’s up to us.
Now I will make a speech, but only a tiny Saturday speech.
People sometimes ask where are the heroes.
In fact heroes are all around us waiting for us to discover them and to help them so that there will be more heroes.
Let’s start right here in Hamilton, Ontario, the home of the people exposed who exposed publicly funded war worship and war promotion, and war recruiting called the Hamilton Air Show. The Hamilton Air Show is toast.
We can turn the highway Hamilton threatens to build into toast too so that the Red Hill Valley can flourish if we help the friends of the Red Hill Valley. The government threatens these folks with huge fines. I’ll bet there will be no fines if Monday morning enough of us phone the mayor.
At McMaster University, we have faculty like Gary Purdy, Graeme MacQueen, and Joanna Santa Barbara, who have taken gigantic risks by traveling into conflicts. We have Ryan Marks who went to Israel/Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement – not once but twice. We have Rick McCutcheon who spent a year in Iraq to give children safe water.
Canada gave us Gen. Romeo Dallaire. What if, day in and day out, we had demanded loud enough that Washington give General Dallaire the armored personnel carriers he needed and that Washington had promised? Working with General Dallaire, we could have spared Rwanda the horror of genocide.
The bad tempered giant with its babbling Bush is now threatening U.S. members of the Peace Army with huge fines and even imprisonment. Consider one intended victim, Kathy Kelly. Shall we make her to visible to punish? Shall we make the entire Army of Peace too vision to punish?
Kathy Kelly must be a very dangerous and evil person. The U.S. government has already thrown her into a maximum security prison for almost a year. What exactly was her terrible crime? In 1988 she was sentenced to a year in prison for planting corn at a nuclear missile silo. This dangerous and evil corn planter was compelled to serve a 9 month stretch in the U.S. maximum security prison in Lexington, KY. But then Kelly is a chronic peace criminal. She has worked for peace in the U.S., Haiti, Bosnia, Latin America and Iraq. She pioneered war prevention with a peace encampment on the Iraq-Saudi border in 1991. How terrible if there had not been a first invasion of Iraq, and genocide by sanctions, then another invasion and now a bloody occupation with no end in sight.
To expose and end the steady-state genocide by sanctions, Kelly co-founder Voices in the Wilderness. Her organization awakening many Americans to the economic atomic bomb called sanctions. She aroused the wrath of the U.S. government but in the process she ignited the compassion of the world by publicly and repeatedly defying the total U.S. ban on even toys and medicine for the children of Iraq not first approved by the U.S. government.
Much of the rise of the Peace Army is the work of Kelly and her colleagues. They devised the "Iraq Peace Team" in 2002 to witness and if possible avert the U.S. invasion of Iraq earlier this year. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize, by the American Friends Service Committee.
What do we do, day in and day out, to prevent wars, invasions, mass killings of civilians by lethal economic sanctions?
We can protect all of the Kathy Kellys. We can tell every government even the colossus to the South with its babbling Bush, that we will not tolerate more wars; that we demand peace. Concretely, we will not tolerate the punishment of peacemakers.
We will act and continue to act to honor and protect all peacekeepers whom war-addicted governments despise. In this way the size of the Peace Armies that will rush to the site of future invasions, bombings and economic sanctions will grow. In this way we will expose and defang forever the monster called "war". We have ended the horror of official slavery and official apartheid. By protecting the peacemakers from their governments, we can make war first impractical then impossible. We can, working consistently and working together protect the peacemakers. We can grow the armies of peace until they grow so huge that they can turn Gandhi’s dream into humanity’s reality.
THOMAS J. NAGY, Ph.D. Visiting Associate Professor of Peace Studies McMaster University, Hamilton ON & Associate Professor of Expert Systems George Washington University, Washington, D.C.