because there can
be no peace
The Salt March
18 december 2001, 01:12 | ARTIKLAR
The war continues
In the beginning of the 20th century two superpowers emerge ñ the United States and the Soviet Union. It’s a war between two ideologies ñ the capitalist and the communistic. They begin a fierce battle to divide the world between them. Countless millions suffered under communist oppression in Easteurope, Cambodia, Afghanistan and in other countries. A huge military complex is built in the US to fight “the evil empire” as Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union. 300 billion US$ is spent yearly on the American military in the 1980s. Today it is recognised that American politicians exaggerated the capacity of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union didn’t even have a remote chance of matching the firepower of the US and there was very little chance that they would attack America or Europe.
Every country that wanted to be economically independent and didn’t totally embrace the capitalistic spirit of America was in danger of military intervention from Pentagon. The American policy at that time was guided by “the domino-effect principle”. If only one country could show a successful socialistic society it could “trick” other countries to also become socialistic. In this way the USA could loose its influence and power in the whole third world. Because independent countries can refuse to let in American companies and therefore be out of reach for the power from the White House.
The US had military interventions or supported massmurders in order to fight socialism in Nicaragua, Chile, Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia and many other countries. Let me just take one example: Vietnam. During the Vietnam war the United States dropped 4.500.000 ton bombs on Vietnam and neighbouring counties. It is two times more than all the bombs that were used during the second world war. Only in Cambodia and Laos, which were not even a part of the war, 600.000 respectively 350.000 civilians were killed by American bombs. During questioning of suspected Vietcong soldiers Americans through some of them from helicopters, gave other electric chocks and sometimes hammered a 15 centimetres wooden stick through the ear until the victim died. Henry Kissinger who was the architect behind the war has never been tried for his crimes against the human race ñ instead he has received the Nobel peace prize! It just shows how absurd and blind the world is.
The new humanitarian wars
During the last ten years we have heard about another kind of warfare: humanitarian military intervention. The United Nation’s security council took the decision to invade Iraq after its attack on Kuwait, NATO bombed Serbia and now NATO forces are bombing Afghanistan to fight terrorism. It is said that these wars are fought to avoid a greater evil. They will save lives and protect people from dictators or terrorists. The question is if this really is a new kind of war or if the old motives of greed and hunger for power lies behind the nice rhetoric.
In the Kuwait war which was said to be a precision war with few casualties there were more than 200.000 people killed by NATO forces. More than 90.000 ton bombs were dropped by the US on Iraq. Pentagon has admitted that non-military targets like water- and electricity facilities were hit consciously to make the population desperate enough to get rid of Saddam Hussein – a clear violation of the Geneva convention. The following economic sanctions towards Iraq, that still continues to this day, have killed more than one million people because of lack of food and health care. Can we call this a humanitarian war?
Today the population of Afghanistan suffers because a terrorist network has chosen their country as their homebase. American bombs kill civilians who never heard about Osama bin Laden. We don’t know how many hundreds or thousands that have killed in this war. What we do know is that a third of the population of Afghanistan, 7 out of 22 million Afghans, are on the brink of starvation. Because of the bombings almost all of the international relief organisations have been forced out of the country leaving the people without food and with a constant threat of being bombed. The humanitarian part of the American mission is to throw 57.000 packages of food from airplanes. This amount of food is obviously totally inadequate for a population were a third is soon starving, even if all the food would be found.
There are many reasons to doubt that these kind of new wars are really being fought for humanitarian reasons. One reason is that today we fight powers that we supported yesterday. Saddam Hussein was before a good friend to the US which gave him weapons and resources in his fight against Iran. Also the Talibans in Afghanistan got generous support from the US during their war against the Soviet Union. The Talibans at that time were at that time no different from today, suppressing the women and punishing hard all those that broke the very strict religious laws. Yesterday they were called freedom fighters and today they are terrorists. Another reason to disbelief the good intentions of NATO is the inconsequense of their behaviour. If their most important goal was to protect freedom and human rights then they would act also in other countries were the oppression often is even worse. Israel has been illegally occupying Palestine for many decades turning Palestine into a prison with very little resources and executing many of those who makes resistance. Turkey and Saudarabia are one of the biggest human rights abusers in the world. NATO doesn’t do anything to change this. Instead they support these regimes, because they are allies.
The rich and the poor ñ faces of globalisation
Try to imagine the horrible terror attack against the World Trade Center in New York. Try to imagine that it would happen every day of the year. Try then to imagine that it happens five times a day, every day at the year. At the terror attack the 11th of September about 6000 people died. Every day more than 30.000 people die because of lack of food, clean water or adequate health care. It not a dramatic event like the one in New York City. Its instead a slow agonising death. But the feeling of loss from the father who has lost his child is the same whether it happens in New York or in Ghana.
30.000 people die every day an unneccery death in a world which has never been richer. Its not a problem of too few resources. Its feasible to give every human being on earth enough food, clothes, health care and education. The problem is the unequal distribution of resources. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, owns as much as the total Gross National Product of the 30 poorest countries together. In Europe we eat ice-cream for 11.000 million US $ a year. This would be enough to give every person on earth access to clean water or education to everyone. The gap between the rich and the poor has been increasing more and more the last couple of hundred years. It started with the colonisation were we in Europe stole enough resources to start the industrialisation that produced our rich and powerful companies. Today it is our rich countries who set the rules for the global trade through the IMF, WTO and the Worldbank. These powerful international institutions are on a neoliberal agenda which force the poorest countries to open up its markets for huge Transnational Corporations, to slash its public spendings and to privatise everything from electricity to hospitals.
In a world with so much inequality you have to defend your resources with different means. We can see this defence very clearly in countries like South Africa or the US. The rich people guard their property with elobarate security systems and their personal guards. There are even whole communities that have big walls all around them and private armies of security staff to guard the precious property. We see the same phenomena between countries. Europe has gotten its Schengen agreement that makes it very difficult for refugees to get a permit to stay at our continent. “Fortress Europe” protects its wealth from getting in the hands of the black man. The US is building their missile defence system, also called Star Wars, that apparently will have the ability to shoot down missiles aimed at the US and its allies. This will be the new military wall that will make sure that the rich also stay rich. Bill Clinton said: “We are 4% of the population of the earth and we want to keep the 22 % of the wealth of the world that we have.”
“Imagine there is no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace. Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger. A brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”
I believe that it is a Christian responsibility to imagine another world, a better world. Jesus says to us: “You have the kingdom within you.” We have the potential within us to create something better, something beautiful. We don’t have to start from scratch. There has been people before us that have imagined and started to plan a new world. In 1998 the United Nations declared the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010)”. More than 200 nations has signed and has started national committees that will implement the program. The World Council of Churches has designated this decade to be the “Decade to overcome violence”.
If we work together on this it could be the starting point for a world were we work together and not against each other and were we solve conflicts, not with aggression, but with dialogue and understanding, at the local level to the global.
Another good promise was made in 1996 when 186 countries agreed to reduce the hungry and undernourished to half by 2015 ñ from about 800 million people today to 400 million by 2015. You could easily argue that it is cynical to accept as many as 400 million hungry people, but at least it is a target for a good improvement.
There is now a growing “coalition against terrorism”. Some countries have joined the coalition when the US/EU has agreed to stop complaining about human rights abuses, like in Tjejenia and Tibet, others have joined when the US has promised to stop sanctions or to give them more international aid. An international fight against terrorism is not a bad thing in itself, only if it violates international law and kill people who hasn’t been convicted of any crime. But there are more pressing matters than terrorism to tackle in the world today. More and more people have begun to realise this and to act. They have joined in new networks: local, national and global networks. People who imagine a world were there is justice, equality, freedom, a sustainable environment and peace. Landless farmers in Brasil, protesters against IMF in India, students against sweatshops in the US, Christians in England fighting for debt relief for the poorest countries, zapatistas in the jungles of Chiapas ñ Mexico, attack-members in France and many others. We might not all imagine the same world or have the same methods of reaching our goal, but we all agree that there should be more than two ways, not only between capitalism and terrorism, between George Bush and bin Laden. I hope that through strong global coalitions of grassroots movements we can begin to discuss and plan for our common future. We have heard that the kingdom is within us. Now we “only” have to let it out and make it happen in our world.
“Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA interventions”, William Blum, 1995
“History of the American People”, Howard Zinn
The author is a member of The Swedish Christian Peace Movement