Build Peace Through Peace
Remarks prepared by Derrill Bodley, September 11th Families for Peaceful
Tomorrows for the WRL Annual Dinner, June 13, 2003, New York City
On behalf of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, I wish to thank you for this award. We have a deep appreciation for the work that the War Registers League has done over more than 80 years, giving voice and witness to the desire for peaceful alternatives to war and resisting the government's attempts to force the people's participation in warmaking.
Unfortunately, once again today we see the emerging evidence of what has been true whenever war and warmaking become the predominant public activity of our society: not just the death and destruction in foreign lands, but also the perversion of human values and relationships among our own citizens, and the assault on the basic, inalienable rights of people everywhere.
It is becoming clearer to more and more people in America that the "war effort" has affected their own lives or the life of someone whom they have always thought of as being close to them. More and more social programs and services, which add value directly to the lives of citizens, are being cut to pay for more and more military programs and services, which by definition do not add value to anything, but rather destroy lives and lands. The freedoms that war is supposed to bring, according to those who wage it, are being taken away systematically and methodically from those who supposedly should be the beneficiaries of warmaking. It is not just the people of Iraq or Afghanistan who are now adrift in chaos and subject to the autocratic whims of those who hold the power after the wars. It is also the people of America, who have lost control of their lives, their liberty, and their pursuit of happiness.
Three of us here tonight went to Afghanistan in January of 2002 to witness the effects of warmaking there, and particularly the losses incurred by innocent families as a result of the U.S. bombing campaign, which began in October of 2001. While we were there, we made a point of demanding access for Afghani citizens to make requests to the U.S. government for compensation for the death and destruction wrought upon their families and homes by U.S. bunker busters and cluster bombs. Over a year later, Afghanistan is still in chaos, subject to the whims of the United States' foreign policy and the corporate interests that are imbedded in it.
Here at home, more and more innocent citizens are discovering the effects of the U.S. government's activities, which, conducted in secret and justified in the name of the "war effort," expose us all to injustice and personal loss of basic freedoms. At the same time that we in America are supposed to be free to celebrate our freedom and our diversity, we find that we, as Americans, are targeted unjustly, because of our names, or our ethnicity, our reading habits, our purchases, our travel habits, or professed moral, religious or political views. Naturalized citizens who have been living in this country legally, as law-abiding citizens for decades, having children and raising families, are now having to move to places such a Canada, literally to refugee camps, to avoid dragnets which, like the drag nets used by modern fishing factories, sweep up innocents in their path, separating families, taking their property, and disrupting their American lives, their American liberty, and their pursuit of happiness as Americans. In other words, even at home, it is not "they" who are suffering the injustices of war; it is "us."
Finally, the virtual world of media, which sits above and between us all like an umbrella, has cast a shadow over all of us, darkening any truth that does not fit the consensus the corporate media wishes to create and control. The deregulation of the media decreed by the FCC on June 2nd may be a virtual death knell for the dissemination of any truth that is supported by available evidence, but which is not in the interests of consolidated media corporations. These corporate interests use their media outlets as spotlights for the distorted images they create out of twisted facts and even documented lies, and call it "news." The American public shows little resistance to being fed this perversion of the process of informing people, particularly in times of war. Its real name is "propaganda."
Anyone who has examined the new trends in entertainment media content can see the benefits that corporate producers of that content are already reaping from exploiting the distorted images of war and the world they present as "news." The once wide dividing line between news and entertainment has almost completely disappeared.
I bring these issues up because I appreciate the fact that I am speaking to "war resisters." To me, resisting war includes not only resisting the overt acts of war and the military complex which commits those acts, but also resisting the accompanying and enabling systems that support the government's ability and tendency to enter into war and have the decision to do that supported by the people. Therefore, resisting war currently includes resisting the government's attempts to restrict our personal freedoms and resisting corporate media's attempts to influence American popular opinion with self-interested distortions and censorship.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows advocates for the development of alternatives to violence and conflict as problem-solving methods, and condemns the use of warmaking as the method of choice for resolving conflicts between nations, instead of what should be a wide and highly developed range of peacemaking solutions. If we, as a nation, began today to develop systems of making and keeping peace through peaceful means, on an international level as well as among ourselves, who knows how soon the world would be transformed by our leadership in such a new direction? Would we have the patience to see such an effort through?
The outline for such a plan already exists, sponsored by Congressman Dennis Kucinich and members of the Progressive Caucus, and introduced into the House of Representatives last year. Such a forward-thinking concept has received little support in the government so far, but its brilliant approach to addressing the propensity for violence among nations, groups, and individuals gives a balance to the already established and thoroughly unsuccessful system of war-oriented institutions already ensconced in the U.S. government. Without a sustained effort to create peace through peace, each of us and our nation is doomed to return to violence as our mode of living and to remain at war forever.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows endorses and sponsors numerous programs that ultimately must fill in where the emptiness of half-hearted or nonexistent government efforts to address the root causes of war and terrorism have failed. Where the American government has threatened some nations and bribed others to coerce support for policies and actions it wishes to inflict on the world, Peaceful Tomorrows has sponsored or aligned itself with efforts to reach out to the people, the families, and the individuals who make up the nations who have experienced war, terror, and the devastating losses of life which are too familiar to the members of our own group. When we find support among the people who can experience or observe what we are doing, both here and abroad, we are overjoyed and renewed with energy. When we find obstruction, resentment, or misunderstanding among people who more or less know what we are about, we are even more determined to continue to do what we think is right, to let others know about it, and to encourage others to join in the effort to build peace through peace.
As an organization, we are a rather new part of an interwoven association of groups with similar goals, each made up of individuals who wish to see the whole movement toward peace rise up and fly, like a magic carpet, carrying us all to the promise of a world that has abandoned war. As we continually and consistently strive to work together, so will we strengthen the vehicle of our belief in what is right to weather the storms and achieve the journey.
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WAR RESISTERS LEAGUE
339 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012