Saturday, July 27, 2013

Deciding for ourselves who we are with

We in the US elect our congress members who then make policy and when that policy affects someone's profits, we have the potential for corruption. If that policy is to make war, we can add bloodshed to potential corruption. If that policy is to make unnecessary war, we can add immorality to bloodshed to corruption.

Welcome to the 21st century. It wasn't always this way hereabouts.

Indeed, this was a worry on back in the Civil War, and the Confederate Congress "experimented" with an "excess profits" tax. The US passed such a law during World War I. The last time it was used was in the Korean War--war profiteering has been quite legal since, even if it is immoral bloody corruption.

Any profit on war is immoral and bloody, and certainly corrupt if the war is unnecessary, but that is the special thing about the 21st century; we find that no war is necessary. Every single one of them could be avoided, every war between nations, every civil war, and every invasion and occupation. We not only have a large and growing number of case studies that reveal alternatives, we have the research and the methods available to all parties in all conflicts so that none ever has to be violent. And yet war, occupation, and violent insurgencies continue.

Let's fix this.

First, let us point not at what the war profiteers wish to point to--how we are all one identity group fighting together against those Redcoats/Rebs/Redskins/Huns/Japs/Gooks/Ragheads. Actually, I have a lot more in common with the old construction worker, the old teacher, or the old peace and justice activist in Afghanistan, Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, Korea, Japan or Germany than I have with someone in the elite one percent of power and money in the US. A taxi cab driver in New York has much more in common with a taxi cab driver in Baghdad than he does with Mitch McConnell. That taxi cab driver in Baghdad has less in common with Nouri al-Maliki than he does with the New York cabbie. And certainly an American soldier has more in common with an Iraq soldier than he does with his own Commander-in-Chief--than the last three Presidents, in fact, none of whom served in the military. Finally, an Afghan woman whose husband was killed in war has more in common with an American woman whose husband was killed in war than either of them do with Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin, pretty much the biggest war profiteer in the world. Oh--that's right, I mean "defense contractor."

What Conflict Resolution scholars Louis Kriesberg and Bruce Dayton remind us is that this identity group business is crucial. Framed and played right, it can have war widows believing that they are all in it together with the owners of the weapons plants, as though the woman from Junction City, Kansas whose husband was blown up by an IED in Kandahar is in the same patriotic sacrificing duty-driven group as the woman from Junction City, Kansas whose compensation from war profiteering is almost $6 million in the past year. We need to ask, who benefits and who sacrifices? Hamid Karzai benefits, Afghan women sacrifice. The corporate heads of warmaking corporations like Raytheon or General Dynamics have much more in common with the Afghan warlords who make up the US-installed government than they do with a struggling child care worker in the US.

Read the 2009 autobiography of Malalai Joya, A woman among warlords (Simon & Schuster).
Joya is clear as a bell that no warlords, no American military, and no NATO force can bring peace and justice to her land--just the opposite. She is the type of Afghan that those of us who believe ourselves to be peace activists should hear. Is she a pacifist? No, but her rejection of all the militaries on all sides and her condemnation of the forced democracy as well as the twisted Islam of those in power is the sort of victim-based groundtruthing that can help us join her identity group and oppose the war hawks on all sides. Joya was the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament until she denounced the war crimes of the very warlords to her left and right in the Afghan House of Parliament, at which point her life was again threatened. She was thrown out of parliament and has survived many assassination attempts.

It took great courage for Joya to renounce her country's warlords. It takes no particular courage for an American to renounce our country's warlords--the policymakers and profiteers alike. Still, I'd like to join Joya's identity group in that regard. She feels so much closer to me than Marillyn Hewson does.

When we can think about the children and women on all sides first, when we can reject and renounce all our warlords, and when we take the power of civil society seriously, we can end all wars. We have everything we need. Let's declare war over and mean it.


Joya, Malalai (2009). A woman among warlords. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Kriesberg, Louis, & Dayton, Bruce W. (2012). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution. (4th ed.) Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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