Eliminating War to Eradicate Polio


Polio, once a global scourge, was on the verge of eradication in 2012. Since that time, it has reemerged as a global public health emergency according to the World Health Organization. Why has it now spread from its final strongholds in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan to at least 10 countries spanning Asia, Africa and the Middle East? It is not because of changes in the virus or ineffective vaccines. The answer is war, and as we all know, “truth is the first casualty of war.”

The Taliban claims that immunizations can cause infertility or worse, and violently obstructs the polio vaccinators while vilifying them as part of a U.S. plot. Indeed, in years past, the U.S. CIA did a great disservice when it disguised its officers as polio vaccine workers in efforts to capture Bin Laden, giving fuel to the Taliban’s false claims and violence.

Efforts to reclaim the momentum in eradicating polio will require a renewed global effort, and ultimately the elimination of war itself. In our ever shrinking world, it is only a matter of time before we see this scenario play out with a resurgence of polio in the U.S. and West as more and more young families avoid vaccinating their children against polio thinking it is a disease of generations past and in some cases a disease they have never heard of.

Both war and polio should be eliminated and we can do both. It will take unprecedented collaboration amongst humans across national and cultural lines, and will involve many organizations and associations.

There may be no organization in the world better suited to take on some aspects of the challenge than Rotary International, with its longstanding mission of peace and peace building, and a dedicated membership of 1.2 million Rotarians joined together in service work though Rotary clubs in 220 countries of the world including China and Russia

In our nuclear-armed, polio-infected world, President Kennedy’s statement that “mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind” remains true today.

We must not be naïve in this effort. Self-defense and international peacekeeping will always be needed, but violence is quickly becoming maladaptive. Peacekeeping and preventing war is much harder than fighting war but the outcomes benefit everyone.

There will always be conflict – it is the tools of resolving conflict without war that must become the cultural norms. These are tools that already exist and that have been used to resolve every conflict that has ever been fought. These include:

1. Diplomacy, 2. Cooperation and collaboration on international programs like polio eradication, 3. Appropriate foreign aid emphasizing the meeting of essential human needs of food, water, shelter, education, health care and a healthy environment and, finally 4. Adherence to international law, not unilateral action.

We must abandon unexamined assumptions, e.g., that war will always exist, that we can continue to wage war and survive, and that we are separate and not connected. When we awaken to the reality of interconnectedness we see that polio cannot be eradicated without ending war.

As a ground-up organization, Rotary International has had a university-level peace fellows program for more than 10 years pursuing understanding and international peace building. Individual Rotarians joined together to form a growing and active Rotarian Action Group for Peace in 2012. Eliminating nuclear weapons is an important step in this process. The Rotary Action Group for Peace has collaborated with the Nobel Peace Prize group Physicians for Social Responsibility and their international affiliate International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War to educate on the humanitarian consequences of even a very limited nuclear war. This has resulted in developing an international physician Rotary speaker’s bureau of 79 physicians in 21 countries speaking and engaging Rotary clubs the world over.

This type of remarkable collaboration may be just the prescription for our very survival.

For information on arranging a Rotary presentation contact: Erin Thomas @ erin@jubitz.org. or Rotary Action Group for Peace @www.rotarianactionforpeace.org.

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace FoundationBeyond WarPhysicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, and writes for PeaceVoice.


Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving