Challenges Ahead For The Anti-War Movement

Bharat Dogra

It is not a mere coincidence that some of the worst events generally also bring with them a ray of hope. When the forces of injustice become very aggressive, generally we find several groups of people, no matter how small and powerless, raising their voice to resist this injustice and protect the likely victims. It is these small groups of people who have always kept alive the faith and hope in humanity even in the worst of times and places.

At the world level the last example of a significant  large number of people from many countries raising their voice against the most serious injustice and violence was at the time of the Iraq invasion in the beginning of this century. These forces of justice and hope  asserted themselves as the Bush-Blair alliance started moving relentlessly towards an invasion of Iraq. London saw the biggest ever protest demonstration in  its history, with a likely participation of around 1.4 million people. Huge protests were also seen in the cities of two important countries whose governments were supporting this invasion - Italy and Spain. Despite the police creating many problems, US cities like New York also saw some very impressive protests. On a single day February 15 perhaps over 15 million protested all over the world. On the whole perhaps 10 times this number would've taken part in one protest demonstration or the other before and during the days of the Iraq invasion.

True, the protests did not stop the invasion. Equally true, this cruel, ruthless invasion would've been perhaps even more cruel and ruthless if the protests had not taken place. In these difficult and critical times, any effort for peace no matter how small and inconsequential, is invaluable. In the middle of many disappointments, let's never forget the value of our small efforts and those of our colleagues.

At the same time, there is no doubt at all about the need to make the peace movement stronger, more broad based and effective. It is important to retain its continuity - in keeping with ever present threats - instead of sudden peaks and slumps. This can happen if the peace movement is alert not only to the calls for war, but also to the root causes of war and aggression.

Wendell Berry - farmer, poet, philosopher and conservationist from Kentucky, USA  wrote before this invasion  in a paper titled 'The Failure of War', "For about half of the last century we worried about world conquest by international communism. Now with less worry (so far) we are witnessing world conquest by international capitalism. Though its political means are milder (so far) (note - this was written before the Iraq invasion) than those of communism, this newly internationalised capitalism may prove even more destructive of human cultures and communities, of freedom, and of nature. Its tendency is just as much towards total dominance and control. Confronting this conquest, ratified and licensed by the new international trade agreements, no place and no   community in the world may consider itself safe from some form of plunder.” (Yes! magazine and Resurgence Nov.-Dec. 2002)

Wendell Berry goes on to emphasise - "Our right to live, to be free, and to be at peace is not guaranteed by any act of violence. It can be guaranteed only by our willingness that all other persons should live, be free, and be at peace - and by our willingness to use or give our own lives to make that possible."

To summarise, Berry made three important points which the peace movement will do well to ponder.

(1)     The increasingly aggressive trends in world economy are tied up inseparably with massive plunder of     others' resources, hence with conquest and war.
(2)     More and more people in the world are recognising this reality, hence protesting.
(3)     This protest, in order to be able to create a better world, should take the form of nonviolent, peaceful resistance - a task so important that, ideally, we should devote our life to this.

At a practical level, there is a clear need in conqueror societies to spread greater consciousness that the aggressiveness of their economic and political conquests, their quest for domination is self-destructive. Once aggression, conquest, domination, plunder, deceit are accepted for amassing wealth from other regions and their people, then it is only a matter of time before such attitudes become acceptable and commonplace in the conduct of domestic and personal affairs. The great economic inequalities, social disruption and moral decay of most conqueror societies, from the ancient Romans to the present day USA, can be traced to a large extent to this factor - the self-destructive nature of conquest and domination.

If at many practical levels it can be shown that the acute social distress and economic crises within conqueror societies are closely linked to the  their aggressive outside policies, then it will be easier to mobilise many more people against the policies of conquest and domination. When more and more people -for example small farmers and workers in societies dominted by big corporations - begin to see clearly how the policies of domination that ravage the people of other countries also ravage them, then the peace movement's prospects of peacefully transforming these conqueror societies will improve significantly. The women's movement and environmental protection movement - two very important voices for justice - have close linkages with the peace movement which need to be explained more clearly.

Among the societies where the tendencies for terrorist violence and counter violence have spread, the peace movement must of course spread the message that such violence cannot achieve any worthwhile goals. However, this message will be effective only if avenues  of peaceful protest can be created.

The international anti-terrorism effort should be supported by the peace movement but at the same time also monitored carefully to ensure that it is not used as a pretext to serve the aims of conquest and domination.

 Within conqueror societies many people and  professions are made to serve the goals of conquest and domination without realising the extent to which they have been made participants in plunder, violence and environmental destruction. These connections should be made clearer to more and more professional groups and their assistance sought in spreading awareness of professional ethics. Before the invasion of Iraq the media was used very destructively in the USA to establish a linkage between 9/11 terrorist attacks and Iraq.

As Noam Chomsky has explained, before September 2002 only 3% of US people accepted this linkage. But a US Govt. supported media campaign created a situation in which within a few months as many as 50% of people accepted this linkage. The acceptance of this linkage contributed in a big way to the public  accepting this invasion. Hence wittingly or unwittingly media persons played a very crucial role in the Iraqi     invasion and many leading media persons have to accept a share of the blame for all the cruelty that was unleashed on the people of Iraq.

 Awareness of such professional responsibility should increase and a lot of effort has to be made to ensure that there is adequate resistance within the professions and by professional ethics organisations to prevent such criminal misuse in future.

Feb 11, 2019

Bharat Dogra

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