“When peace arrived, the swords were not beaten into plowshares, as the prophet Isaiah envisioned. The swords, one might say, were beaten into capital gains. A `peace dividend’ did appear after the Cold War ended. It was distributed to shareholders of the major defense companies.” William Greider
Over time US policy toward Iraq has brought unspeakable harm to its people through bombing, sanctions, destruction of its infrastructure, contamination with depleted uranium, and the ongoing violence of military action, insurrection, and terror. To date there is no exit strategy or clear plan for “victory.” The bloodshed continues. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. Over three thousand U.S. troops have died and over 22,000 have been injured. Over $8.8 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ money is unaccounted for. By any measure, the U.S. war against Iraq has been a failure. By any measure, that is, except corporate profits and the goal of extending the system of corporate globalization.
Under current accounting methods, war is good for the economy. The U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is boosted by the profits of U.S. arms manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin. The United States is by far the largest arms exporter in the world. U.S. corporations sell weapons, including advanced military weaponry, subsidized by the U.S. government, on the open market to countries around the world. The region that buys the most U.S. weapons is the Middle East. The revenues of U.S. arms dealers from foreign military sales in 2006 was $21 billion, nearly double that of 2005.
The newly-elected Democratic majority Congress has begun debating whether to withdraw US troops or expand troop levels in Iraq, but to date there is no exit plan or clear plan for “victory.” The building of permanent military bases in Iraq continues. And while Pentagon officials say that the US military is already overstretched, the Bush Administration continues to threaten military action against Iran.
Meanwhile, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the time on its “Doomsday Clock” closer to midnight. The clock now stands at five minutes to midnight, symbolizing the perils facing the human race. The scientists are concerned about a “Second Nuclear Age” that brings grave risks, including 1) the continuing “launch on warning” status of 2,000 of the US and Russia’s 25,000 nuclear weapons, 2) unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, 3) Iran and North Korea’s “nuclear ambitions,” 4) escalating terrorism, and 5) climate change, which is creating new pressures for civilian nuclear power that could lead to increasing nuclear proliferation.
In the midst of such dangers, why is the US, the only remaining superpower, not leading a major diplomatic effort towards disarmament, peacemaking, and sustainable development in the Middle East, in the former Soviet Union, and around the world? Would this not create a far more secure world? Why are our nuclear weapons still on high alert? Why are we not helping Russia to secure its nuclear material? Why, in an age when terrorists could smuggle nuclear weapons (or simply knives) in a suitcase, are we trying to build an elaborate nuclear shield to prevent an unlikely attack by a “rogue nation?” Why do we continue to develop ever more accurate and useable first strike nuclear weapons? Why are we using every available technology to create obscenely imaginative weapons of mass destruction, and why are we opposing treaties that limit such technologies?
The only way this makes sense is in the overall scheme of corporate globalization. The US military is the primary enforcer of the emerging global economic system. This military wing of corporate globalization reveals the true nature of the Powers at work in our world today.
On a personal level, we can pray for peace, learn about the issues underlying war, and examine our values in this area. We can teach, speak out, and continue the conversation. We can advocate for and be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world who are victims of war, violence, racism, or oppression. We can let our elected representatives know that we are opposed to war and want peace with justice. We can witness to peace by joining vigils, marches, and demonstrations. We can even engage in war tax resistance or public actions of nonviolent civil disobedience to stand in the way of further carnage and to bring the hope of peace. We can insist that everyone’s civil rights be upheld, for voices of dissent must continue to be heard.
Churches and other faith communities, even small groups or committees within faith communities, have a unique opportunity to provide a witness for peace. We can offer study groups or interfaith dialogues, hold memorials or vigils for those killed in war, publicize or dramatize the plight of torture victims, or organize a “stations of the cross in a time of war” event or other actions of social repentance. We can support young people or GIs who are struggling with issues of conscience related to war and military service.
Faith groups can join major demonstrations, bringing symbols of faith or signs (for instance, “Blessed are the Peacemakers”) that signal a spiritual motivation for action. We can organize a public witness for peace at a weapons lab, military base, or weapons manufacturer that may include nonviolent direct action. Nonviolence