By Michael True
In a recent announcement of its office at 901 Pleasant St., Worcester, the Center for Nonviolent Solutions committed itself to providing education and resources for people in the Worcester Area to help increase our understanding of nonviolence and to reject violence in resolving conflict.
On October 17, at the Center’s successful launch at the Worcester Public Library, Congressman James McGovern said he expected to be attending “a meeting.” Instead, he added, he came upon” a movement”—a broad coalition of peace and justice organizations, neighborhood groups, churches, colleges and universities, in the Worcester area.
Over the past three months, the Center has committed itself to programs for achieving its vision, by providing educational resources for concerned citizens, such as information and assistance on nonviolent solutions to conflict. New initiatives devoted to achieving that goal include collaboration with the MOSAIC/YMCA program for youths, to provide free GED instruction for young people, and an introductory course on peacemaking and nonviolence at a local high school, beginning this month.
Responding to the recent escalation of the war on Afghanistan, the Center, through online resources and a speakers bureau, encourages public awareness of the losses caused by violence and the ways we are manipulated to support it. This includes scholarship and research on recent wars and nonviolent movements and related topics.
Joseph Steiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics, has estimated that the Iraq war alone will cost the American people $1 trillion. In arguing for declarations of war, presidents and members of congress seldom emphasize the hard facts, the costs in lives and resources. Fortunately, Congressman James McGovern and several of his congressional colleagues have insisted that the Obama administration provide details of this kind.
In Oslo. after receiving a peace prize, President Obama justified the war in Afghanistan and his plans to increase the number of American troops to 98,000. Although often an eloquent speaker, the President, like many emperors or commander-in-chief since Augustine, said that in waging this war, he was acting as “a realist.”
One might expect a “realist,” however, to justify this war by addressing issues that bear directly on the people of the U.S. and Afghanistan. Having endured the human and economic costs of wars on Vietnam (a “futile war,” according to the New York Times), and on Iraq, Americans are right to insist on answers to the following questions:
How much will this war cost? How many young Americans will die or be permanently disabled in Afghanistan? How many schools, hospitals won’t be built, and how many roads and bridges in the U.S. won’t be repaired? How many children won’t be fed and how many homeless will sleep on the streets, as we squander millions of dollars on yet more weapons of mass destruction?
Increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan to 98,000, the President dramatized the need for more informed discourse on issues of war and peace, Particularly offensive was his dismissal of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King as “idealists,” when they were, in fact, eminently “realistic.” Sophisticated strategists for nonviolent action, one triumphed over an impressive conqueror and the other over a racist culture. What could be more practical, more “realistic” than that?
Similarly, were Presidents Johnson and Bush “realistic” in justifying invasions of Vietnam and Iraq? In fact, weren’t opponents of both wars, insisting that the Vietnam war was a civil struggle and that Iraq harbored no nuclear weapons or members of Al Quaida, the true realists?
Opposing those wars on the basis of solid evidence, one might say, was a slam dunk. The more difficult task is re-directing the priorities of current U.S. foreign policy, and using our vast resources to re-build our own nation.
Essential questions about war-making and peacemaking are obviously complex and difficult, but citizens of a democratic country are justified in insisting that government officials respond to them concretely, precisely, and directly. Too often, our presidents, legislators, and commentators are so reluctant to say NO! to war.
People have sometimes complained that the peace movement offers few positive alternatives to the dominant U.S. policy, with its 700 military bases around the world. Successful nonviolent movements in Poland, South Africa, Latvia, the Philippines prove that the 189 methods of nonviolent resistance, identified by Gene Sharp, however, responded successfully to violence and oppression. are “realistic” means of responding to violence and injustice. Historical studies also indicate what works, what doesn’t work and why these methods succeed in particular contexts. Over the past ten to twenty years, members of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, Peace Brigades International, and a host of other valiant peacemakers risk their lives daily to resist injustice, to resolve conflict, and to bring about social change without killing or harming people.
Sources for understanding and exploring alternatives to violence include four hundred peace research centers and programs in peace, conflict, and nonviolence studies. Relying on such information, available through the Center for Nonviolence Solutions, can increase our understanding issues of war and peace, including the paralyzing effects of violence on family and community life. Speakers on its website include experienced professionals on topics such as mediation and anger management, also, through local agencies help to build a peace culture in our own community.
The Cost of War for Worcester
Taxpayers in our Congressional District 3 (represented by Jim McGovern) will pay $2 billion for Total Defense Spending in FY2010.
For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
6,841 Affordable Housing Units
28,182 Elementary School Teachers for One Year
3,070,845 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year
38,638 Public Safety Officers for One year