What is required to bring about peace? Fairness, justice, and equality. Without these things, people will always feel outraged and struggle against those who deny them these components of a civilized society. We can work together to bring about these ideals.

All links on this page were current and functional as of December 30, 2006.

War No, Peace Yes

Resources for Staying Informed

Regular news of current events and diverse viewpoints will help you form "well-informed" opinions, rather than forcing you to parrot newsbytes you heard (without understanding them).

Organizations Saying No To War

Opposing an unjust war is easier than you think. Many fine organizations have already set up sources for information and event-planning to help you join a campaign for peace. Choose a group that suits you, and work with them to make the world a more peaceful place.

That Article About the U.S. cozy historic relationship with Saddam Hussein that you're always looking for

Peace Graphics

Because every good campaign for peace must reach out to media-savvy, apathetic people on the sidelines.

Commentary - On being a good person in a dark time (December 2006)

What is required to be a good person?

I have friends who say that they are working on their own personal development, and that by being nice, high-spending Americans, they are doing the world a favor. I have friends who pick up litter on the street, or plant flowers in front of their homes, and say that by creating a few spots of cleanliness and beauty that they - and, oh yes, others who live near them - can enjoy, that they are doing the world a favor. I have friends who say that their best possible contribution to the world can be to make beautiful, well-educated, well-to-do children with good manners. I have friends who say simply that they are "not political," which means they focus their energies on their personal lives and careers, and do not concern themselves with anything beyond their own front doors: within their homes, they believe themselves to be good people.

Awkwardly, I take issue with this.

I take issue with it, because I believe there were well-developed minds in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust; that there were very devoted mothers during the wars intended to exterminate the Native Americans; that there were flowers in the window boxes of Chileans while the death squads threw their drugged neighbors from helicopters into the sea. I certainly believe that these students, mothers, and flower-planters were each making a baby-step in the right direction, but that they didn't reach a meaningful destination. They got to the gate where they could feel better about themselves, but went no further. They didn't make a difference in the very serious problems of their day.

We are living in a time when wars are being waged; civilians are being detained and tortured without charge for years; the U.S. Government is running secret concentration camps around the world, with the cooperation of their allies, against people they abduct freely and without consequence; civil liberties (in many countries, and against many different groups) are being trampled; dissidents are being harassed... And you've planted some pansies? How nice for you.

Part of this docility comes from the way American history is taught. There is an idea that "human progress" is an inevitability; that there was no women's suffrage movement, no reproductive rights movement, no Civil Rights movement - that people 'just got free-er' on their own, as collective wisdom grew, and freedom just sort of grew like seeds no one had to plant. That is a view based entirely on self-satisfaction and ignorance.

Every major societal advance has been based on the concerted action of a group of dedicated individuals, supported by much larger groups of concerned citizens who provided small gestures of assistance in whatever way they could, which advanced their movements. Women's suffrage was large the product of a group of completely dedicated women who lobbied and spoke, and could afford to lobby and speak because women earning a nickel a day would send them their savings. The Civil Rights movement was organized by dedicated, organized campaigners whose cause was on the news because of the willingness of tens of thousands of ordinary people to take a moment out of their lives to march with them. The rights these movements earned was not freely given - each right was fought for, and each right was fought for by millions of people who supported the righteousness of their cause in a way that allowed them to both live their lives, and push "human progress" forward with their own shoulder, if only for a day, and then give the pushing over to someone else.

No, voting is not enough. Many of my friends are completely devoted to the Democrats, yet 12 Senate Democrats and 32 Congressional Democrats voted to pass the Military Commissions Act (, Wikipedia summary), which allows the U.S. to kidnap and torture at will - and the Geneva Conventions do not apply. Many of my most progressive friends donated money to the Democratic Party in general (rather than to specific candidates whose views they supported), and have no comment on this development.

When your very young relatives come to you and ask what you did in the early 2000s, an era of foreign wars, international kidnappings, the death of habeas corpus, and the outbreak of new war crimes, what will you tell them you did to set things right? Please don't tell them you picked up litter, or planted flowers in your window box. Please tell them you devoted time each month, or at least a few days each year, plus some money, to push human progress forward with your own shoulder.

Commentary - Why we still need to demand Peace NOW, even after the fall of Baghdad (April 2003)

Note at the end of 2006: This article is especially interesting to read in retrospect. It's amazing to look back and see when the civilian casualties were at such a low figure, when now they are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands; the figure for U.S. troops has steadily climbed; and the majority of the U.S. public has firmly come around to the idea that the invasion of Iraq was a very, very bad idea. They have come around to this idea for a few reasons, not all of them flattering - there were many bandwagon-jumpers who took Bush's announcement of "victory" as a feather in our collective cap, and a show of power to the rest of the world that we can do what we want. Now that it is clear that there was no U.S. victory, they see things differently, perhaps the way they should have seen them all along. I'm leaving this article up, for it's interesting position in retrospect.

Today, even though it's raining, I attended to a peace march.

"But Arlene, we've won the war! Why protest now? It's over!"

You haven't heard Rumsfeld condemning Syria and Iran for allegedly aiding forces in Iraq? He's been doing it repeatedly. He's trying to get us used to the idea that they are misbehaving. Among other ideas. I've had several discussions with others about whether we're going to attack Syria or Iran first. I suspect it will be Syria, because they're smaller. Jordan has also been proposed, but it has less use as a pipeline state than Syria.

Oh, and then there's that issue of occupation, and the puppet government we're setting up. And the contracts that are going to Bush campaign donors to rebuild Iraq -- apparently, "liberation" doesn't mean that you pick what your nation looks like, or who builds its infrastructure.

There is still the fact that the war was illegal and wrong. (There was a great sign at the march today: "A successful bully is still a bully.") Though John Madden has humorously noted in sports contexts that "Winning is the best deodorant," that clearly does NOT apply when more than one thousand civilians have been killed, and the only potentially legal purpose of the war was disarmament of a nation illegally holding weapons of mass destruction. Which have not been found or used anywhere in Iraq.

[The noted absence of WMDs is unlikely to be mentioned in the news again. You'll only hear about rebuilding, not about the falsities that got us here.]

The world is still opposed to the war and the current plans for its outcome. The region is still opposed to our military presence there. Russia is making announcements that a new colonialism will not be tolerated. Reports from Baghdad are filled with dread of what the occupation will impose, and of the looting that is going on under the watchful eyes of the occupying military. Small nations are shuddering under the reemergence of 'might makes right' when for years, we have been encouraging them to minimize their defense expenditures.

And Iraqi civilians are still dying.

In light of the continuing problems this war is causing, it is NOT too late to register dissent, and to demand a better world. For examples of what we SHOULD be getting, I highly recommend the article "What we do now: a peace agenda" by David Cortright from the 04/21/03 edition of The Nation, along with the three commentaries about the article.

The peace movement's demands have not, after all, been satisfied. My version of these demands include:

Peaceful protests, even those that cause [gasp!] minor traffic disruptions, are still a valid method of registering dissent. Pundits who criticize demonstrators for lengthening their morning commutes are mute to the fact that the demonstrators have been refused air time on any broadcast media, and that most major media outlets have REFUSED TO TAKE MONEY FOR PAID, PRO-PEACE ADVERTISING. (Think of that the next time you see a 'Go Navy' ad.) Media reform is turning out to be a related issue that should be on our agenda's radar as well: freedom isn't very complete if the views of a free people cannot be reported.

Keep up your efforts for a better, more peaceful, and more just world: the administration is buoyed by their success, and will likely expand their efforts.

Commentary - a false choice

Recent US policy reminds me of a conversation I overheard on the bus a few years back. A mentally troubled older guy announced that someone on the bus had looked at him funny, therefore he had to kill him. As his friend tried to persuade him to let it slide, the troubled guy announced that 'if I don't kill him, I'll be a coward.'

He saw two choices: kill or be a coward.

The troubled guy's friend had to rather painfully point out that there were MANY choices. And the best one was to go about his business, which was not the same as being a coward: rather, it was a choice to act dignity appropriate to the situation.

And so we come to this: Bush disagrees with protests against his war plans (duh), and says ...such a war remains a final resort, but "the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I'm concerned." He sees two choices: bomb a nation where half the population is under the age of 15, or do nothing.

This is a false dichotomy. He has a large menu of options: diplomacy, having nations like Russia coerce Iraq into a better posture for the sake of oil revenue, allowing inspections to actually determine what the real problems are, providing political support to dissidents and allowing them to work on their own terms, bringing Hussain to the International Criminal Court (oh, wait, our government doesn't believe in an international justice system, skip that one), swaying public sympathy there by lifting sanctions and offering other economic rewards to the people if they throw off their current leadership, even technical sabotage...

But two options is all Bush is choosing to present or consider. That's not what I would call high-quality leadership.

Do you want fries with that?

Commentary - confusing the doer and the deed

There's a great confusion among public, pro-war speakers, and I'd like to clarify things for them right now, since they're clearly not following along with their textbooks. They make the same mistake again and again. They say, inexplicably, that opposition to war is the same as opposition to the USA and is also hatred of the USA's troops.

Perhaps they've never been to church, or at least not a fun church. But there's a saying in church, "Love the sinner, hate the sin." It means that, if a person makes a mistake, they do not become the mistake - their action is separate from themselves. A friend who engaged in illicit activities took my criticisms of those activities personally, insisting that he wasn't a bad person. He may not be a bad person, but he was doing bad things. He is not the same as those things, though he is responsible for them. But they do not take him over.

So it is with the government of the US and its troops. It is possible to love one's country while dissenting from its policies. These seems extremely self-evident, but it's too complicated for some folks to grasp, so I'm spelling it out here.

Likewise, if you notice the parents of servicemen and servicewomen in the military at anti-war protests, they are not loathing their own kids - they are loathing the untenable situation their kids are being put in. They are loathing the injustice of the assignment that their kids are being given. The soldiers and their orders are, in fact, separate things.

Economic Justice

In the United States and much of the rest of the world, consumerism drives much of the economy. What the consumer wants, or can be persuaded to buy, is a tremendous influence on marketers and manufacturers. When consumers decided that animal testing of cosmetics was inappropriate, for example, their demands were heard, and manufacturers changed their methods and advertising to accommodate consumer's desires.

Consumers generally want high quality, inexpensive products without any strange taint associated with them, like prison labor, child labor, or scandal. In the clothing industry especially, manufacturers have responded with very expensive image campaigns to associate only good things with their brands. However, once tainted with the image of exploited laborers abroad, it's difficult for a brand to regain their (often unearned) squeaky-clean image.

As a consumer who wants goods free of such ethical taint, consider the information offered by the following sites, culled from a message by the Employment Law Center in San Francisco:

Shop with a Conscience

Support Anti-Sweatshop Campaigns

There are several anti-sweatshop campaigns around the world. Below are a few examples.

Human Rights

Living in the so-called information age, we now have opportunities to learn about how other people all around the world are living. Unfortunately, this means we now hear of the dreadful injustices that are imposed daily upon people very much like ourselves, who have the misfortune of living under the rule of tyrants, being in a persecuted group, or being exploited or driven away from their homes for corporate profit.

There are many groups I believe are effectively working for justice around the world. You should choose organizations whose mission and methods speak to you, and figure out ways to support their work. I recommend several organizations below, whose work impacts human rights in different ways and with different emphases.

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last updated december 30, 2006

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