#11: A Way Out
(This letter was received on Jan. 19, 2005.)
Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,
This morning, January 19, there were six explosions before 9AM. This is the fifth day that Baghdad has been without public water. Several days ago our landlady asked us to conserve water because the tanks on the roof are our only supply. These events are bad for the people of Iraq and all foreigners in Iraq, but another story probably has more damaging long-term significance for Iraq and the world. Check out Gwynne Dyer, Future Tense.
On January 17, Seymour Hersh posted an article titled "The Coming Wars" for the New Yorker Magazine. Hersh details the consolidation of intelligence analyses and the ensuing covert operations within the office of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Hersh lists Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia, and Tunisia on the list of targets for those strategic efforts. Hersh makes clear that Iran is already being targeted by covert operations from this office, and that there is no congressional approval or oversight of this new policy.
I realize that half of the US population does not approve of present policy in Iraq and may not give their support to the developments in the above paragraph. I heard today that a BBC worldwide poll indicated that a vast majority of the global population feels the world is a much more dangerous place since the US invasion of Iraq. So. And.?
I have just re-read A Man to Match His Mountains, about Badshah Khan, and A Force More Powerful, about the nonviolent movements that have shaped history in the past century. They depict the creative genius of unarmed people facing Nazi Germany, powerful dictators, overwhelming terror, massive empires, and brutal injustice; and successfully bringing the changes they intended. The stories show that the results depend on careful analysis, strategic planning, undergirding faith, and bold action. Changes came as a few people began to work for the changes they wanted and others joined them.
In our circumstances there is hope only if people begin to act for change. It begins, perhaps, as we realize that we all are complicit with the violence and also the victims. A December 16 New York Times article (thanks, Gene) about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) indicates that one third of our recent war veterans may be impacted by PTSD, as in Vietnam. The churches and our home communities must become the healing places for this tragedy. The Iraqi population carries the wounds even more visibly. We start that healing by getting our military out of Iraq and other zones where we are nurturing terror.
It will require us to be willing to take risks, major risks. We must stop our complicity at every point we see it. Otherwise leaders will say, "The election is a confirmation of our policy in Iraq." Half our tax monies continue to go for war-related policies. We must stop paying, whatever the consequence, or we affirm the results to Iraqi victims and US soldiers. We can support the growing resistance within the military, a group that feels very alone. Our tools are endless - letters, sermons, leaving jobs that somehow support the ongoing violence, pictures drawn by school students of their friends in other countries, Women in Black standing across the battle lines as the mothers of the dead and injured, poems that unleash our deepest emotions, strikes that stop the production of war or impede the normal operation of war and covert operations, marches that break through the fear of terror, rebuilding our local communities - in the US and Iraq - as places that nurture and support all human beings.
It will necessitate taking back the decisions that affect our lives. The medical decisions must be close to those who are the patients and care must be available to all. Job creation must be local and the decisions about a business cannot be placed in some faraway corporate office that will not care about the consequences for the local people and the local environment. Income can no longer be the focus of our time and energy. We must focus on the future we are building. Our churches, schools, and families must nurture communities that care for everyone. Our lifestyles must not require a military to defend them, so we must make dramatic changes. Where will you start? What support group will hold you accountable?
Our actions must always be nonviolent. For those of us who are Christian, we must model Jesus' forgiveness and love of enemy. Similar religious tradition or an understanding of our common humanity undergirds others. God's Spirit grants grace to our diversity in this unified endeavor. The perpetrators of this global nightmare must also be granted space to change. Everyone is needed to imagine a different future and all our energies will be needed to do the work that lies ahead.
This morning Hussain said he is working for a future that he trusts his daughter and son will see. I suspect we already participate in that future by the Way in which we work toward the future. In my peacemaking work, that has been the reality that has sustained me.
In that Way and toward that goal,