Unification in message

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Steve responds to weblog postings today by me and Jonathon and Dorothea with an acknowledgement that there does need to be long range planning on the part of the peace movement, as with any movement. He writes:

What I am saying is that like it or not, it’s policies that make politics happen; it’s politics that make war happen. As important as it is to do the kind of teaching I heard today, teaching about how we’ve arrived where we are and where, exactly, that is, it’s also vitally important that we figure out not only where we want to be but how we might possibly get there. Those of us who envision non-violent solutions to conflict need, for better or for worse, to be more willing to get our hands dirty. Not dirty with blood, but dirty instead with the messy, ugly, unpredictable routes to immediate change that are available to us. In the long run, there are slow, painful, difficult changes to be made by snail-paced processes. These are the changes that will, if anything will, bring us closer to a world built on peace and community. But those slow processes can’t stop bombs from falling, and they can’t stop governments from manipulating public opinion in the name of corporate invasions. Something else has to do that, and that something, I think, is pragmatic strategy. It’s an arrogant kind of idealism that insists on living only in ‘what if’ and ’someday’ rather than the tangles of ‘right now’. I’m saying that we need to write policy documents of our own, we need to strategize like generals strategize; when a conflict like this one happens, we need to produce plans for peace as thoroughly researched and skillfully proposed as the Patriot Act, PNAC, and ‘A Clean Break’ have been. Because while those three ‘modest’ proposals sicken and horrify me, I have to credit the forethought and determination of the warhawks who drafted them. And I also have to acknowledge that there are no visible corresponding proposals for peace.

A proposal for peace. I agree with Steve that the peace movement or whatever you want to call it has not had a cohesive strategy and plan for peace. Massive rallys and protests are only a beginning.

I’ve been asked if I would ever support a war, or more likely an armed conflict and I answered that there is only one way in which I would support this: if the Union of Nations (UN) implements a strategy of enforcing universal rights for all, if need be backing this up with action including armed conflict. However, as I have also said, it is not the right of any one country or small groups of countries to determine who is or is not violating these rights. If we support universal rights, we must do so for all countries, not just those with a certain strategic location in the Middle East.

If the UN had based its resolutions against Saddam Hussein on the treatment of the people of Iraq, I would have supported action if absolutely necessary. But the resolutions are almost universally focused on “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. And as we have seen, every day this becomes less and less justified as a reason for going to war with Iraq.

Adherance to universal human rights is a strategy, and it’s one we’ve had since the end of World War II, but it isn’t one that governments support because most countries are in violation of the universal human rights, including the US. Governments will only support these rights if we the people hold our leaders accountable for them. Unfortunately, we, the citizens of these countries, have not been doing our job.

Unfortunately, universal support for human rights is considered an ‘unworkable’ strategy unlikely to ever occur. Therefore, I am asked, what is a ‘workable’ strategy. I’ll do my best:

1. Tell President Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Powell to, respectfully, shut up.

This is an easy one to implement, and only involves getting four people to stop talking long enough to realize that everything they say is making a bad situation worse. When they talk about Syria and Iran, when they talk about using Iraq oil reserves for re-construction, when they dismiss the UN’s handling of food and aid in favor of soldiers doing that which they aren’t trained to do, for propaganda purposes, they make things worse.

Has anyone noticed a correlation between Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, or Powell making a aggresive comment and North Korean discussion about nuclear war and weapons?

At the next protest, or within the next letter to congress we should all include the following statement:

A message from the people of the world Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Powell:

Our situation in Iraq is not likely to be improved by verbal attacks against Syria, Iran, France, Germany, the Arab League, the UN, the EU, or anyone else that doesn’t agree with you. If you can’t have these discussions directly with the people themselves, then please don’t have them in the public forum, increasing the world’s fears about the next directions the United States and the so-called ‘coalition’ will take.

These messages from our leaders are ill-thought and irresponsible. It is up to the people of this country, and other countries, to let them know that we don’t approve of these conversations and the implied threats and possible consequences.

2. Now, more than ever, protest.

I am not one for blocking roads or freeways or painting my face red, but I do believe in the power of protest. Now more than ever we need to send a message to Bush and Blair and Howard, and other members of the coalition that we do not consider support for the troops to be the same as support for actions on the part of the administrations. We did not support this war, but they gave it to us. We need to let them know we’ll not forget this, and what they’ve done.

It’s absolutely critical that we make people in countries, in particular the US, know that not supporting Bush, Blair, and Howard is not the same thing as being a traitor, and turning our backs on the service people who are only following orders.

More importantly, the protests tell others that they are not alone in their viewpoint. They are a way of bringing together people and providing a voice. In comments at Jonathon Delacour’s Dave Rogers wrote:

Call off the street protests, they simply distract from the debate and actually play to the strengths of those you oppose. Raise money. Organize. Find smart people who can articulate a vision for Iraq, preferably smart people _from_ Iraq and other middle east contries. Find someone like Tony Blair, hell, conscript Tony Blair – that might even be better, to lead the debate for actually delivering on this promise of a free and democratic Iraq.”

This is truly wrong and moves to silence protest as effectively as telling the protestors we’re traitors for not supporting the war. This is saying that protest does no good, when protest lets others know that they are not alone in their views. Dave says we need to organize – exactly how do we do this without the publicity that comes with protest? Protest is a way of people getting the word out about an organized effort. Without protest how would the information be published or the monies for future effort be collected? Through osmosis?

Regardless of your approval of protests or not, if you are concerned about the direction this war is taking, about government actions (regardless of what government), about bias in the media, anything – you have a duty and an obligation to make your concerns known, one way or another. Not doing anything, is not an option.

3. Ensure honesty in the media

Last week Al-Jazeera tried to start a English language version of their site, which continues to get hacked and pulled. Regardless of agreement or not with Al-Jazeera, we must support the right of all media to air their news and views. This act, to suppress the news of an entire media network is probably the most dangerous action that’s happened so far in this war, because it’s a deliberate sabatage of freedom of speech.

We have a moral obligation to let media sources know that we expect and demand neutral news reporting. We must let news organizations know that obvious bias in the news is not only not acceptable, it will cost them customers. Send emails or letters to local television and radio stations and newspapers. Follow this up with emails and letters and calls to the major networks. Tell them you’ll no longer be a customer if they continue this bias.

In protests make note of this bias, and be aware of network bias in protest coverage. In other words, during a protest hide the loonies and force the networks to focus on the more plentiful but more mundane protestors. Be aware that the statement you think you’re making about blocking a freeway will be twisted when its reported. Don’t give anyone ammunition to make the peace movement, or whatever we want to call it, into a movement of nuts who represent only a tiny fraction of the country.

If you see bias, then call it for what it is. Tell your co-workers, your spouse, your friends, your weblog readers that this story is biased, and say why. Don’t give rhetoric – give alternative sources of the same news. Be an effective agent for truth in journalism.

Regardless of whether you’re supportive of Bush or not, the war or not, we should all demand that news organizations show the news and leave the interpretation to the consumers.

This might come as a huge surprise to people who know my strong anti-war sentiments, but I agree with recent firings of journalists who have participated in events that compromise their credibility. When you become a professional journalist, you lose some rights, including being able to express your viewpoints publicly, and therefore compromise the credibility of yourself and your news organization.

Doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on – journalists have a duty to be unbiased. It saddens me to see Peter Arnett fired, but the networks were justified. He was out of line. I just wish the same would happen to the Fox Network folks who taunted the anti-war demonstrators for ‘fun’.

4. Hold people accountable.

The major story this week is the news about Rumsfeld’s handling of the war effort, and disregarding of the military. What was particularly appalling about this for me is I saw him on television a couple of days ago telling everyone that all plans put forth for this war had been vetted by the military leaders.

If we say we’re holding Saddam Hussein accountable for his past actions in this war, then we have to be held accountable for our actions. If we tell the world that we live by a different set of rules then the rest, then we’re the worst form of hypocrite, and all we’ll do is generate more and more hatred.

5. Understand what’s important and act accordingly.

It might be fun to make fun of the President, or Americans, or to rant, or to slam warbloggers, and I’ve been guilty of this. But this doesn’t serve anything.

There is a huge shadow of silent voices that are listening to everything we say. If we want to engage these voices we can act like clowns, or we can act like statesmen.

There was a demonstration yesterday in St. Louis against the war in Iraq. I watched a guy on a street corner waiving signs for the effort. He had waist long tangled grey hair and cavorted about like he was on drugs. As much as I repected him for what he was doing, what is the message he gave to the ‘average jane or joe’ driving past?

If we’re most concerned about helping the people or Iraq, or ourselves, then it’s imperative that we act more as the stateman then the clown. This means not losing our tempers, not ranting, not cavorting about like its a party, and not pushing away those we hope to engage.

However, if we’re more concerned about cavorting about with painted faces and playacting and blocking freeways and pissing people off, as well as individual expression then we can continue to cavort and play and the world sees the clown. Of course, we’ll most likely not effect any change, but we’ll still be “free to be you and me”. Groovy.

Decide what’s important, and act accordingly.

6. Re-empower the UN

This is the kicker and the one most people will disagree with. The UN, NATO, the Arab League, and the EU have all been fractured by the invasion of Iraq. A lasting peace and a solution to Iraq will not come from splinters dominated by one country.

The US blamed the UN for not acting against Saddam Hussein, forgetting that the UN’s charter is focused on peaceful means to resolve conflict. Well, we’re too late for the UN in this situation, but we’re not too late for the UN.

The US controlling the government in Iraq is not an effective strategy. The US threatening Iran and Syria is not an effective strategy.

The Arab League came up with a solution at one point – joint governship with the UN of Iraq until the people of Iraq could maintain their own peace. Why was this rejected out of hand? This is an effective solution. Since the harm that Saddam Hussein has committed has been primarily against other Arabs, this seems like a just solution, too.

But everyone rejected the Arab League solution without even a hearing. Why? The only thing I can think of is that the western world really doesn’t trust the Arab world, which tends to justify the Arab accusation of just this, doesn’t it?

The US and it’s coalition is not a replacement for the UN. We cannot say what can or cannot happen in the Middle East. We have no rights to take over as leader of the free world. Blair had promised UN invervention in the re-building of Iraq. Britain has pushed back on the contracting of American firms coming in controlling re-building efforts. Even within the coalition, fractures are appearing.

The quesiton no longer is really about whether this war is going to happen – its happening. The question is, what will happen when its over. We in the ‘peace movement’ have been accused of having no strategy. Well, here’s mine, for better or worse.

It’s a hell of a lot better than doing nothing.




Dear Shelley,

We are in support of our troops in the Middle East with a program to send
hours of Y98 on CD to soldiers. We are also airing station ID’s with
snippets of the President’s speeches from the past couple of weeks. Neither
of those features are intended to express a pro-war spin by the station.

I’m certain comments fly that are in support of our action, and against it,
depending on who’s behind the mike. I’m not censoring the personalities. I
let them know that our purpose is to play music and make people’s day a
little brighter, so I wouldn’t expect much politcal rhetoric on a station
like ours.

I’ll check into what happened last week, and see if it was out of character
for us. If so, I’ll address that with the person on duty.

War is ugly. We all do not agree that this war is just. I just returned
from Europe, where the spin on the war is very different. They hear and
speak different words, and see different pictures than we see. I learned
from the people there that wherever you may go, whatever you may believe,
this is America’s war. As I was frequently reminded, as an American I
represent it, support it or not.

Shelley, I respect your freedom and desire to speak your mind. If what you
hear on Y98 is driving you away, I’m sorry to lose a valuable listener. I
hope you’ll come back for the music and companionship we provide.

Thanks for the message.

Smokey Rivers
Infinity Broadcasting, St. Louis
(phone number omitted – Shelley)


Elegant despair

Jonathon writes:

Dave adds: �I just hope we�re up to this challenge. With the right leadership, I�m sure we could be. I�m not at all confident we have the right leadership.”

We don�t have the right leadership. To put it bluntly, we�re fucked.

Unless the anti-war/peace movement can come up with something more sophisticated and useful than red-daubed faces, drumming, banal chants, puerile street theater, trite placards, histrionics, self-indulgent moralizing, and wishful thinking.

Before this war started in Iraq, there was a growing number of anti-war protests happening in the world. Aside from a very few occurrances, these were peaceful and they were impressive. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, marched peacefully.

However, we went to war anyway and it’s easy to sit back and say, we failed, but that’s defeatist because we didn’t fail. At a minimum, we forced Bush and Blair to realize that this is not a universally popular war, this is not a unversally accepted method of dealing with one person in one country. We forced them to be aware that we are watching them. Who knows how bloody this fight would be without this?

So I am disappointed to see Jonathon mock those who have marched for peace, who continue to march for peace. Who continue to let Bush and Blair know that we are still watching, even though in this country we now face riot police, pepper spray, and being called terrorists.

Dave Rogers writes:

All that being said, folks should be prepared for this to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. And that means we’re going to have to gut it out and win this thing. None of this “peace with honor” crap. The Battle of Baghdad is going to be as bloody as anything from WW II. I know it’s kind of hard to grasp that sometimes the right thing to do in the face of death and destruction is to cause more death and destruction, but that’s the unpalatable truth. If we fail at this, we’ve dishonored ourselves and the sacrifice of all who have already given their lives in this debacle; and failure will only guarantee far more death and destruction in the years to come. We have to win this thing, and leave something in our wake that means something. The dead in this war are an enormous down payment on something, let’s make sure it’s something worth what they’ve paid.

Dave is, in some ways, representative of what’s happening in the US now – well, we’re in war now, we might as well finish it and not say anything because to do so shows the military we don’t respect them. Let’s just get this thing over with and move on. No offense Dave, but that’s about the most passive-aggressive pro-war statement I’ve seen among the weblogs.

What Dave and Jonathon don’t realize, or seem to realize, is that Rumsfield and Colin Powell are already setting the stage for the next war in Syria and Iran. That our blind ’support the troops at all costs’ attitude is, bluntly, giving them a green light to continue a policy of aggression that can only result in further hostilities.

Dorothea wrote in response to Jonathon’s post:

Ah. Well, that pretty much leaves me out, ignorant and impotent fool that I am. And since Jonathon presents no useful alternatives, I’d do what? Despair, I guess. If someone were to make a case for a given action as being more useful than what I’ve done, I’d do it. I’ve read cases for public demonstration, and I’ve demonstrated publicly. I’ve read cases for contacting elected officials, and I’ve done that.

So. Despair. I can do that, sure. I’ve been very close to it for some time now.

Was that the intent, Jonathon?

Elegant despair is as supportive of Bush, of Blair, of Howard, as more vocal pro-war statements. It says we can do nothing – why try?

It is so easy to stop protest – you just tell the protestors that their effort is sending a message to the soldiers you don’t support them. You tell the protestors that their effort is silly, trite, self-indulgent moralizing. And when all voices in dissent are quiet, what then? What is the message that you send to Bush, and Blair, and Howard? That whatever they wish to do, you support it, not by choice, but by despair?

I and others know that this ‘war’ will not stop until the US is in nominal control of Iraq. But if we don’t speak out, Bush and Rumsfield will continue with a policy of US domination in that country as well as a continued rejection of UN and Arab League and EU suggestions. They will continue their dismissal of world concerns that are now being heard as far away as North Korea. If we do not speak out now, suppression of freedom of speech and even freedom of religion will continue to grow in my country. If we do not speak out now, all the world will hear from the United States is the arrogance and the beligerance of the Bush Administration.

So, we continue to speak out, amidst our pictures of daffodils and stories of youth and gentle teasing of each other. We link to alternative news sources, and we watch for and make note of oppression. We demand unbiased news reporting. We point out lies and inconsistencies and we march in the streets and tell the world that support for the troops and the administration are not the same. What else can we do? Give up?


I am a Peaceblog

Mark posted a list of ‘peaceblogs’ at his weblog. This most likely follows from Doc Searls and his “where are all the peaceblogs” earlier in the month.

What Mark doesn’t realize, and Doc didn’t realize, is that all of us who are not for the war are for peace. Everyone of us is a peaceblog. It’s just that rather than share, hourly, in joy of the war as the warbloggers do, we feel the pain of the people of Iraq, and the soldiers fighting this mockery of a ‘war’, and we know, deep down inside the horror we have unleashed on the world.

But we can only say “My God, what have we done” so many times in a day.

So Mark, Doc, I ask you to add me to your roster of ‘peaceblogs’ because what you both forget is talk about everyday things, kitchen things, has always been about peace.

Close to 700 weblogs have added themselves to the Peaceblogs site. I did, but didn’t post the graphic. That was a mistake, now rectified.


Being intellectually divorced

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I spent the day today talking about the war in Iraq and possible solutions, about protests and voices. But behind all of this has been the disappointment of hearing people chastise the peace movement — dismissive statements about self-indulgent moralizing.

Once, not long ago, before the invasion of Iraq, I wrote that it was important to respect those people who choose not to protest:


I think one thing we’ve learned since the last major global anti-war demonstration is that these demonstrations aren’t for everyone; neither is some or even all aspects of the anti-war movement. We must remember to respect each other’s beliefs and choices, if what we say in these demonstrations means anything at all.

We’re heading into tense, difficult times. Regardless of what each of us believes, we have to keep in mind our respect for each other. Our service people in the Middle East deserve our respect. So do the people of Iraq. It just breaks my heart to see two groups who deserve respect having to kill each other because a few men, deserving of no respect, have demanded it in their arrogance.

It’s difficult, then, to see people deny me, and others who have been part of the movement, that same respect.

Kottke came out with a posting on the war, the first and only time he’s made a statement about it. He wrote:

It’s all much more complicated than this. All the arguments out there for and against are necessarily shallow. We’re getting very small pieces of the whole story from TV reports, newspaper articles, weblog postings, and magazine pieces. No one has the time to read or write a complete analysis of the situation (which would be a social, political, religious, scientific and economic history of the world from 5000 B.C. up until 2 minutes ago…basically all human knowledge).

Summing up, Bush bad, war bad, this war not so bad even though bad Bush reasons also bad.

Rather than provide a solution, or an alternative, he basically calls all sides the joker and dusts his hands off from any further discussion. Back to blogging as usual, he’s made his stand and his statement. He’s done his part. And oh, the praise that came in when this posting was published.

Yet, what did Kottke say — that the pro-war and the anti-war sides are all idiots, but he’s neither so he’s intellectually superior to both?

Demands have been made of the peace movement: what are our solutions? What is our strategy? Good questions, and ones we should look at answering. I’ve tried to start this discussion, though I realize that the Kottkes of the world will consider it to be trite and ineffectual and it most likely would be laughed out of any number of erudite gatherings in New York and San Francisco.

What those who would disdain what I say miss, though, is that for all of its simplicity and idealism, it comes from the heart and I am at least doing something. It comes because I genuinely want to make a difference. Because I’m doing the best I can.

Kottke says:

Just as unconvincing as Bush’s flimsy arguments for war have been the arguments from the other side for peace. Talk about preaching to the choir. Your “blood for oil” and “give peace a chance” signs are as ridiculous and unconvincing as Bush’s “well, they’re evil” argument. War is bad. Duh. Any ideas as to alternatives? Praying, marching, and hoping for peace isn’t going to get it done alone. Bush and the peaceniks are both equally at fault for not working hard enough at having a meaningful dialogue on Iraq, each side settling for lobbing rhetoric over the wall. Bush looks like a chimp. Great…now tell me what the fuck that has to do with anything. Blech.


By demeaning both sides of the equation, Kottke is indulging in an intellectual divorce from the issue. But can a person do this? This conflict isn’t happening on someone else’s world.

You see, the war is happening. People are dying. Chaos is increasing, and there will be deeper and heavier prices to pay on this issue before this is over. To condemn both sides with a pithy chi-chi clever dismissal doesn’t absolve Kottke, or anyone else, of responsibility. Doesn’t make them superior to we who made our simple statements either for or against this war.

Dave Rogers would have us shut down the protests and fund organizations and people such as Blair and develop thinktanks and have conferences as a solution to Iraq. He wrote:


What would it take? There are already probably some organizations who have some thoughts on these things, maybe sponsor some kind of international conference of these various groups. Outline an agenda for what the immediate needs are likely to be for post-war Iraq. What will be the security arrangements? How will the oil be sold and what will be done with the revenues? What is the state of the health and education infrastructures within the nation? What are the real problems with ethnic animosities among the various groups? What kind of reconciliation efforts will there people? Does South Africa have a model that may help? What about the environmental issues? It seems to me we have an opportunity to really help the people of Iraq and the entire region if we can get our act together before Bush declares victory.

My only possible answer to Dave is that we had the organization. It’s called the UN. What he asks for is what the UN is supposed to do. But it does no good if the UN is disregarded by the US and other members of the coalition. Creating a new UN like infrastructure won’t be any more successful.

I can respect what Dave’s saying, but it seems to me — just my own opinion — that what might be happening is that he, and others, are being overwhelmed by the emotion on both sides and they just want it to stop. They want to war to reach its conclusion and the fighting to stop, and for those who protest the war to stop and to give everyone peace, which in this case is silence. Or perhaps not silence, but the absence of emotion.

Normalcy. A return to normalcy.

The peace movement, or whatever we call it, does need to focus, and I think this conversation now is a good one and I’m appreciative that it’s started. But I also think there’s a deep disappointment underlying some of the pushback against the movement. Ultimately, we failed people — we didn’t stop the war and we didn’t come up with a alternative that would stop this war in time. Now, the coalition of Bush and Blair and Howard have invaded Iraq and we’re in for some nasty, nasty times. We failed the world by not stopping this. So now, we’re being asked, what are we going to do about it?