Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism

Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism

by Medea Benjamin
     
 

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How can we humanize each other and act as responsible global citizens? What are appropriate and effective responses to terrorism? How should media figures report on terrorism and war? How should elected officials respond? What can ordinary citizens do?

How to Stop the Next War Now, edited by renowned CODEPINK peace activists Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans,

Overview


How can we humanize each other and act as responsible global citizens? What are appropriate and effective responses to terrorism? How should media figures report on terrorism and war? How should elected officials respond? What can ordinary citizens do?

How to Stop the Next War Now, edited by renowned CODEPINK peace activists Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, shares expert insight on the issues and powers-that-be that can lead us to war---including the media, our elected politicians, global militarization, and the pending scarcity of national resources. It aims to educate and reflect on the effectiveness of peace movement activities and offers hope, through shared ideas, action steps, and checklists to transition from a culture of violence to a culture of peace.

Full of practical, proven suggestions to promote education, awareness, activism, and political change, drawn from experts from every walk of life who have passionately devoted their lives to peace. Contributors include elected officials, media personalities and reporters, public intellectuals, and ordinary citizens, all who are eager to find the most appropriate and effective responses to terrorism (other than bombing the hell out of third-world countries). Includes short essays, interviews, poems, illustrations, Q&As, action tips, and more.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The editors, cofounders of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, have collected essays, letters, poems, and quotes highly critical of the Iraq war, President Bush, and war and terrorism in general. Their objective is to rally people everywhere, and especially women, to oppose war and terrorism and to work to bring peace. Suggestions are offered on strategies for making one's voice heard and on how to network with like-minded people. With a few exceptions, all the authors gathered in the book are women, though a good number are not published writers or political professionals. For example, in addition to an introduction by Alice Walker and contributions from women such as Janeane Garafalo and Nancy Pelosi, there are entries from mothers and siblings who have lost family members in Iraq. Most of the articles reflect the feminist, pacifist philosophy of the editors. Librarians should consider their readership in adding this book to their collections, as it could be viewed as a controversial work in some parts of the country.-Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781577317401
Publisher:
New World Library
Publication date:
02/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt

Stop the Next War Now

Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism


By Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans

Inner Ocean Publishing

Copyright © 2005 Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-930722-49-1



CHAPTER 1

IT STARST WITH ONE VOICE


REGAINING MY HUMANITY


CAMILO MEJIA

Camilo Mejia was the first American veteran of the Iraq war to publicly refuse further service in Iraq. His application for discharge as a conscientious objector was rejected by the military. He was found guilty of desertion and was sentenced to a one-year prison term in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was released February 15, 2005.


I was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 and returned home for a two-week leave in October. Going home gave me the opportunity to put my thoughts in order and to listen to what my conscience had to say. People would ask me about my war experiences, and answering them took me back to all the horrors — the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood, or an innocent man decapitated by our machine-gun fire. The time I saw a soldier broken down inside because he had killed a child, or an old man on his knees, crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had taken his son's life.

I thought of the suffering of a people whose country was in ruins and who were further humiliated by the raids and curfews of an occupying army.

And I realized that none of the reasons we were given about why we were in Iraq turned out to be true. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. We weren't helping the Iraqi people, and the Iraqi people didn't want us there. We weren't preventing terrorism or making Americans safer. I couldn't find one reason for my having been in Iraq, for having shot at people and having been shot at.

Coming home gave me the clarity to see the line between military duty and moral obligation. I realized that I was part of a war that I believed was immoral and criminal, a war of aggression, a war of imperial domination. I realized that acting on my principles was incompatible with my role in the military, and I decided that I could not return to Iraq.

By putting my weapon down, I chose to reassert myself as a human being. I have not deserted the military or been disloyal to the men and women of the military. I have not been disloyal to a country. I have only been loyal to my principles.

When I turned myself in, with all my fears and doubts, I did it not only for myself. I did it for the people of Iraq, even for those who fired upon me — they were just on the other side of a battleground where war itself was the only enemy. I did it for the Iraqi children, who are victims of mines and depleted uranium. I did it for the thousands of unknown civilians killed in war. My time in prison is a small price compared with the price paid by Iraqis and Americans who have given their lives. Mine is a small price compared with the price humanity has paid for war.

Many have called me a coward, while others have called me a hero. I believe I can be found somewhere in the middle. To those who have called me a hero, I say that I don't believe in heroes, but that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. To those who have called me a coward, I say that they are wrong but that without knowing it, they are also right. They are wrong when they think that I left the war for fear of being killed. I admit that fear was there, but there was also the fear of killing innocent people; the fear of putting myself in a position where to survive means to kill; the fear of losing my soul in the process of saving my body; the fear of abandoning my daughter, the people who love me, the man I used to be, and the man I wanted to be. I was afraid of waking up one morning to realize my humanity had abandoned me.

I say without any pride that I did my job as a soldier. I commanded an infantry squad in combat, and we never failed to accomplish our mission. But those who call me a coward are also right. I was a coward, not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in the first place. Resisting this war was my moral duty, a moral duty that called me to take a principled action. I failed to fulfill my moral duty as a human being, and instead I chose to fulfill my duty as a soldier. All because I was afraid. I was terrified. I did not want to stand up to the government and the army; I feared punishment and humiliation. I went to war because at that moment I was a coward, and I apologize to my soldiers for not being the type of leader I should have been.

I also apologize to the Iraqi people. To them, I say I am sorry for the curfews, for the raids, for the killings. May they find it in their hearts to forgive me.

One of the reasons I did not refuse the war from the beginning was that I was afraid of losing my freedom. Today, as I sit behind bars, I realize that there are many types of freedom, and that in spite of my confinement I remain free in many important ways. What good is freedom if we are afraid to follow our conscience? What good is freedom if we are not able to live with our own actions? I am confined to a prison, but I feel, today more than ever, connected to all humanity. Behind these bars I sit a free man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience.

During my confinement, I've come across a poem written by a man who refused and resisted the government of Nazi Germany. For doing so he was executed. His name was Albrecht Haushofer, and he wrote the following poem as he awaited execution.

    Guilt

    The burden of my guilt before the law
    weighs light upon my shoulders; to plot
    and to conspire was my duty to the people;
    I would have been a criminal had I not.

    I am guilty, though not the way you think,
    I should have done my duty sooner, I was wrong,
    I should have called evil more clearly by its name
    I hesitated to condemn it for far too long.

    I now accuse myself within my heart:
    I have betrayed my conscience far too long
    I have deceived myself and fellow man.

    I knew the course of evil from the start
    My warning was not loud nor clear enough!
    Today I know what I was guilty of ...


To those who are still quiet, to those who continue to betray their consciences, to those who are not calling evil more clearly by its name, to those of us who are still not doing enough to refuse and resist, I say, "Come forward." I say, "Free your minds."

Let us, collectively, free our minds, soften our hearts, comfort the wounded, put down our weapons, and reassert ourselves as human beings by putting an end to war.


BREAKING THE CODE OF SILENCE


NANCY LESSIN

Nancy Lessin is a cofounder of Military Families Speak Out, an organization of over two thousand families who oppose the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nancy's stepson Joe served with the marines in Iraq in spring 2003.


In the U.S. military there is a code of silence that extends to the families of servicemen and servicewomen and beyond. The troops must obey the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the congressional code of military criminal law that, in part, puts limits on free speech. Soldiers can be punished, for example, if they engage in speech or conduct that is "to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, or conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces." The Supreme Court has often reinforced the limits on service members' rights to free speech. And the court of public opinion has been harsher: many in the United States — both within and outside the military — believe that speaking out against actions taken by the military is a betrayal of the troops, especially in times of war.

Civilian families of service members are just that — civilians who are legally free to criticize the government and the military. But the vast majority of military families have never spoken out, even when they have strongly disagreed with decisions that affect their loved ones. An unwritten policy as strong as any force of law keeps them silent — much as it keeps the rest of the nation silent too. In the fall of 2002, my family decided to break that code of silence.

My stepson Joe, a marine, was deployed with the Twenty-fourth Marine Expeditionary Unit in August 2002. He was headed for Kosovo. He told us he would be ending up in Iraq, and indeed he did. In September 2002, when the drumbeats for war were getting deafening, my husband, Charley Richardson, and I saw no good reason for the United States to be invading Iraq. We weren't convinced that mystery weapons of mass destruction, supposedly hidden somewhere in Iraq, were imminent threats to the United States. We saw no links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. We didn't see how invading Iraq would address the terrible tragedy of 9/11 or solve the problem of terrorism. In fact, we believed that if the United States invaded Iraq, we were likely to see more, not less, terrorism.

We saw that all those who were saying, "We've got to go to war!" weren't going anywhere. Nor were their loved ones. It was our loved ones who would be used as cannon fodder. We made our first poster in September 2002. It had Joe's picture on it, and it said, "Our son is a Marine. Don't send him to war for oil."

At an antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C., in October 2002, we met Jeffrey McKenzie, a father whose son would be deployed in January. The next month, Jeff's family and ours formed an organization called Military Families Speak Out (www.mfso.org). We wanted to break the code of silence, to use our special need to speak out — and the special voice with which we speak — to prevent an invasion of Iraq.

Through word of mouth, and via the Internet, MFSO began to grow. We met with members of Congress. We wrote letters to George W. Bush and to editors of our local papers. We participated in vigils and antiwar marches.

We spoke at teach-ins at community centers, universities, union halls, and churches. A group of fifteen parents of soldiers and marines, my husband and I included, brought a lawsuit against President Bush and secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, seeking to prevent an invasion of Iraq without a congressional declaration of war.

Despite our efforts and those of the global antiwar community, on the night of March 19, 2003, the "shock and awe" bombing of Iraq began. Within two weeks, MFSO had doubled its membership, and four hundred military families were fighting to end a war that we'd hoped would never happen. We spoke about low morale among the troops, about the lack of adequate equipment, about suicide attempts and psychological trauma. We called attention to the toll of this war, a toll the Bush administration was trying hard to hide. Families who had suffered the ultimate tragedy — the deaths of their loved ones — began joining our group; their powerful voices moved all who would listen.

In July 2003, from his well-guarded room in the White House, President Bush responded to a reporter's question about the armed Iraqi resistance by saying, "Bring 'em on!" Outraged by this statement, MFSO, together with Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and several other groups, began a campaign of our own. While George Bush was saying, "Bring 'em on," we said, "Bring them home! now!" The Bring Them Home Now campaign (www.bringthemhomenow.org), launched at press conferences in Washington, D.C., and Fayetteville, North Carolina, reached out to troops in Iraq, to families and veterans, to politicians, and to peace activists across the United States and around the world. Our message created an important dialogue. While many Americans, including many who were against the war, cautioned that withdrawing U.S. troops would promote chaos in Iraq, we've maintained that chaos is now the order of the day in Iraq, chaos that the U.S. military occupation is perpetuating and worsening.

As their loved ones return from Iraq, more and more families must welcome back haggard, hollow-eyed strangers. Kevin and Joyce Lucey's son Jeffrey served in the marine reserves in the battle of Nasariyah in the spring of 2003. He came home broken, but the full extent of the psychological damage didn't really manifest itself until six months after he returned. Jeffrey spoke of being a killer, a murderer. He wore the dog tags of two unarmed Iraqi soldiers whose lives he took under orders from his command. He wore the tags to remember and honor them. He began drinking heavily and was briefly committed to a Veterans Administration hospital, but was released four days later. On June 22, 2004, this young marine went into the cellar of his parents' home in western Massachusetts and hanged himself.

Our hearts cry out for Jeffrey and for all who were killed on the battlefield or in its cross fire — both our troops and the people of Iraq — and for the many more who will die in their souls because of what they saw or did in this war. By the end of 2004, two years after its founding, MFSO included almost two thousand military families. We are of African, Latino, Asian, Arab, American Indian, European descent. We are the parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, fiancés, and partners of service members. We are families who opposed this war from the beginning and families who supported the invasion of Iraq, only to find out that it was a war based on lies. We are Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and people who never before voted.

Together we challenge the powers that be — the military, the Bush administration, and Congress — to face the same truths that we military families hear from loved ones on a daily basis, about the lack of protective equipment and the shortage of armored Humvees. We expose painful and personal stories of loved ones who have been diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder yet are declared "fit for duty" and redeployed to the front; of loved ones kept in Iraq despite severe physical or psychological problems. We expose the lack of care that many of our troops receive when they do come home. And we emphasize that all these failures are taking place within the biggest failure of all — the fact that our troops were taken into a war based on lies; an illegal, immoral wa; a war that should never have happened.

Never before have so many military families broken the code of silence and spoken out to support the troops and end a war. Together with Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the new Iraq Veterans Against the War, we say:

    Not one more day!
    Not one more dime!
    Not one more life!
    Not one more lie!

    End the occupation!
    Bring the troops home now!
    And take care of them when they get here!


"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring." — Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950


    A Nation Rocked to Sleep

    Carly Sheehan, for her Brother Casey

    Carly Sheehan wrote this poem after her
    brother Casey died in Iraq on April 4, 2004.


    Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
    The torrential rains of a mother's weeping will never be done
    They call him a hero, you should be glad that he's one, but
    Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?

    Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
    He must be brave because his boy died for another man's lies
    The only grief he allows himself are long, deep sighs
    Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?

    Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?
    They say that he died so that the flag will continue to wave
    But I believe he died because they had oil to save
    Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?

    Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
    The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won't be so deep
    But if we the people let them continue, another mother will weep
    Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Stop the Next War Now by Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans. Copyright © 2005 Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans. Excerpted by permission of Inner Ocean Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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