Heaven & Earth
From Darkness, Awakening
Americans are ready for a Department of Peace
By Robert C. Koehler
Ever try to shift a paradigm? I salute the brave souls scattered around the
continent – some of them are in Congress – who are doing just that, who
are daring, right now, to challenge the conventional wisdom of war and
peace at the highest levels at which the game of geopolitics is played. They're calling for the establishment of a Cabinet-level Department of
long-time correspondent Bill Bhaneja, a senior research fellow at the
University of Ottawa and retired Canadian diplomat, recently e-mailed
me the proposal he co-authored with Saul Arbess for such an addition to
Canada's government – inspired by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich's H.R. 3760
– I confess to experiencing a queasy skepticism that such a project was just too
I thought about bird flu – and George Bush's wild musings two months
ago about combating it with National Guard troops, that is, by
implementing martial law to enforce quarantines. This from the man who
has "degraded" (in the words of one high-level health official) the
nation's public health system and underfunded and politicized every
branch of government created to deal with national emergencies.
it hit me with a jolt: The level of public awareness is deteriorating.
We're now whelping leaders who haven't got a clue how to deal with
complex social issues except to start shooting at them. And there's no
adequate challenge to this in the media or from the opposition party,
and apparently no public context big enough even to allow for debate.
instance, there was Hillary Clinton the other day telling potential
supporters of her run for the presidency, who I'd wager are against the
war by a large margin, that the United States must "finish what it
started" in Iraq, as though there's a consensus what, exactly, we
started and what "finishing" it would mean, and how many more dead
Iraqis and U.S. servicemen we might expect before we attain our
was sheer politician-speak, in other words, betraying no courageous
intelligence, no insight that our brutal occupation might be fueling
the insurgency and creating the terrorists we're obliged to keeping
fighting. But the media have already pegged Hillary a frontrunner,
which means they're condemning America's anti-war majority, once again,
to a campaign season without a presidential candidate who represents
their ardent hopes.
is intolerable. This is why I support and heartily endorse what is, in
fact, a global movement to raise awareness by challenging the
blood-myths of the nation-state and the inevitability of war, and the
geopolitical canard extraordinaire that high-tech, high-kill,
earth-poisoning modern wars have any chance of achieving controllable
ends and do not spew incalculable suffering and future wars in their
The Sensible Choice
we seek," write Bhaneja and Arbess, "is a world in which peaceful
relations between states are a systematically pursued norm and that the
numerous non-aggression pacts between states become treaties of mutual
support and collaboration. We envision a world in which a positive
peace prevails as projected most recently in the U.N. International
Decade for a Culture of Peace (2001-2010) Programme of Action."
establishment of a peace academy, the training of peace workers, the
promotion of nonviolent conflict resolution at every level of human
interaction – there's no reason why such projects should be nothing
more than the flickering dreams of protestors at candlelight vigils.
There's no reason why they should not be the business of government. I
have no doubt whatsoever that the public is ready to move beyond the
barbarism history has bequeathed us, and would do so in the blink of an eye if
enough respected voices said, "Now is the time."
And respected voices are saying this, if only we could hear them.
is quite clear – and would become clear as you go along with this
campaign – is that you are trying, and I consider myself with you on
this in every way . . . (to create) not only a massive but a basic
change in our culture, in our entire approach to our relationships with
other human beings. . . . It's not a matter of simply getting another
department of government. You're speaking of an entire philosophical
is Walter Cronkite, in conversation with Kucinich last September at a
Department of Peace conference in Washington, D.C. Kucinich, the hero
of this movement, first introduced Department of Peace legislation in
2001. The bill now has some 60 sponsors in the House and, in September 2005,
was introduced in the Senate (S. 1756) by Mark Dayton of Minnesota.
architects of the war on terror have minds stuck in old paradigms of
domination and conquest. Their enemy is always the same: Evil
Incarnate. Today's jihadist was yesterday's Communist, playing the same
game of dominos.
war is doomed to create nothing but losers. More and more people –
including many who are in or close to the military, such as Jack Murtha
– are grasping this. As they wake up, the Department of Peace will be
waiting for them.
"Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing the power to make great decisions for good and evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."
– Albert Einstein
Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. He is reachable at email@example.com.
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