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One Pacifist's Answer to 9/11

The following is from Hope magazine's John Wilson's (JW) interview of Colman McCarthy (CM), July/August 2003. His comments on Peacemaking I found challenging and insightful. I hope you do too.

Peace to you today, Jim

In 1985, McCarthy and his wife, May, established the Center for Teaching Peace, a Washington- based nonprofit that helps schools begin or expand academic programs in conflict resolution and peace studies. Today, he teaches classes at three universities and three high schools.

JW: You oppose military solutions, but speaking as a pacifist, what is your solution to September 11?

CM: • After September 11, we had four options: military, political, legal, and moral. Predictably, the military prevailed:
Got a problem? Go bomb somebody. The political solution: Follow our own advice when we tell Israelis and Palestinians, or the factions in Northern Ireland, or the factions in Sierra Leone, or the factions anywhere -- to sit down, talk, compromise, negotiate, reconcile, and stop killing each other. Sound advice, so why don’t we follow it ourselves? It’s dismissed as naive: “You can’t talk with evildoers like Osama, Al Qaeda, or Saddam Hussein.”

That was the thinking in the early 1970s, when the evildoers and major threats were the Chinese Communists who had the weapons and hordes to take over the world. But then Richard Nixon went to China, talked, compromised, negotiated, reconciled, and dealt. The Chinese sent him home with a bag of ping pong balls and two pandas, and now China is a trading partner. The political solution worked. Ronald Reagan, who in 1986 called the Soviet Union “the evil empire” and “the focus of evil in the modern world,” went to Moscow. He talked, compromised, negotiated, reconciled, and dealt. They sent him home with a bottle of vodka and now Russia is a close ally Once again, a political solution worked.

Compared to the Chinese and Soviet dictators, bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are mosquitoes. The last dictator to fall was Milosovec. It was well-organized~ students, not U.S. pilots bombing Bel- grade, who brought him down. No one was killed in the two years of protest and resistance. Milosovec is now getting legal due process, on trial in The Hague for war crimes. The people who attacked the World Trade Center in 1993 were arrested, convicted, and sent to prison. They had due process. It could have worked with Saddam Hussein or bin Laden.

The moral solution: three days after September 11, Bush and his war council went to the National Cathedral in Washington for a prayer service. A Catholic cardinal came, a rabbi, an imam, Billy Graham, and assorted reverends offered prayerful succor. They recited the Lord’s Prayer, including the most ignored words in history: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” On September 11 some people did trespass in New York and Washington. Were they forgiven? It was the opposite: “Let’s go kill them.” If you re going to say the Lord’s Prayer, mean it, but don’t use it in fake piety for your grubby political goals. The moral solution would have moved us to forgive the planners of September 11, and then ask them to forgive us of all our violence-much worse when our decades of bombing people is recalled-and then say, ‘Let’s start over; the old way of violence is not working.”

U.S foreign policy is based on the “izes”: theorize, demonize, victimize, and rationalize. Bush theorized about Iraq’s threat, he demonized Saddam Hussein, he victimized Iraqis at the other end of the bombing runs, and then rationalized it as the way to peace.

Two types of violence exist: hot and cold. Hot is felt, visceral, visual, obscenely cruel, immediate, and well- reported by the media: the World Trade Center, the Columbine High School massacre, the sniper attacks in Washington. Cold violence is unfelt, distant, out of sight, and generally ignored by the media: the 40,000 people who die of hunger-related or preventable diseases every day. Executions on death row. But how can we be selective about violence? The victims are dead either way Yet selectivity prevails. On September 11, September 12, September 13-- and all days since, 40,000 people died of hunger and preventable diseases. Why so little attention to that violence?

More to come in the following weeks, Jim


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