Ronald Reagan and The Bomb

by Jim Stoffels, WCP Co-founder and Chairman

When Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981as 40th president of the United States, the most serious international problem facing the country was the perilous condition of our relationship with the Soviet Union. President Reagan’s response was to abandon détente and launch the largest peacetime military build-up in U.S. history.

President Reagan was a true product of the Cold War and its nuclear arms race driven by the MAD doctrine. In the face of Mutual Assured Destruction, Mr. Reagan embodied the worst of our fears and insecurities. For his entire first term in office, he engaged the Soviet Union only by name-calling from safely within our borders, labeling it the "evil empire."

His hardline policy toward the Soviet Union was frightening. He withdrew the United States from negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test ban, and instead set out to achieve nuclear weapon superiority in preparation for a possible "limited" nuclear war. With 24,000 warheads already in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, he set a goal of producing 17,000 new warheads in ten years to surpass the Soviets’ 36,000. (Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, observed: "weapons that would only make the rubble bounce do not count as capability.")

The grassroots response to President Reagan’s accelerating the arms race was the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, a national movement to halt the production, testing, and deployment of more nuclear weapons and delivery systems during the time it would take for the United States and Soviet Union to negotiate a nuclear arms reduction treaty. The Freeze proposal was supported by 70 to 80 percent of Americans.

Those international and national events directly impacted the Hanford Nuclear Site, where plutonium production had been shut down for a decade. In pursuit of President Reagan’s goal, Hanford’s N Reactor was put back to producing weapons grade plutonium and the PUREX chemical separation plant was reactivated.

In the Tri-Cities (Washington), a small group of citizens, concerned about the escalating arms race and Hanford’s role in it, began to meet at the First United Methodist Church in Pasco. On July 7, 1982, the founding officers of World Citizens for Peace held a press conference to announce formation of the organization as an affiliate of the Nuclear Freeze.

The U.S.-Soviet relationship was further inflamed on March 23, 1983, when President Reagan publicly floated the idea of an impenetrable shield to protect the United States from intercontinental ballistic missiles. Mr. Reagan’s advisers in such matters were caught with their pants down by his surprise remarks and spent the next few weeks "searching for technological fig leaves to cover the administration’s exposure." (Bernard J. O’Keefe, High Technology, February 1986)

The idea was immediately dubbed "Star Wars" by knowledgeable persons who pointed out the technical reasons why such a defense would not work — one being that the software requirements alone were unattainable because it was impossible to debug the system under realistic conditions of attack. Even President Reagan’s own science adviser, George Keyworth, admitted that the technology to circumvent such a Maginot Line in the sky was already available in the ground-hugging cruise missile. And the National Academy of Sciences, the most eminent scientific body in the United States, passed a resolution stating that "science offers no prospect of effective defense" against the "unprecedented threat to humanity" posed by nuclear war.

The fanciful "Star Wars" notion was put in Mr. Reagan’s head by the late Dr. Edward Teller, who claimed that American scientists were "on the verge" of developing incredible new defensive weapons against nuclear weapons. Teller, a physicist who was dubbed the "father" of the U.S. hydrogen bomb, once stated in a TV interview that nuclear weapons are the "most efficient" of all weapons because "we can kill people for ten cents a head."

For Ronald Reagan, years of work on Hollywood sets made the fantasy real. Patrick Buchanan, Mr. Reagan’s director of White House communications and a longtime political ally, attested, "For Ronald Reagan, the world of legend and myth is a real world. He visits it regularly, and he’s a happy man there."

On February 26,1983, World Citizens for Peace hosted a meeting of the Washington State Nuclear Freeze coalition in Richland. The featured speaker was our then-U.S. Congressman Sid Morrison, who, along with Rev. Paul Felver, pastor of the Pasco Methodist church, presented two opposing views on the Nuclear Freeze. One month later, Congressman Morrison, who had helped defeat a Freeze resolution in Congress the previous year, reversed his position, saying, "Hey, let’s stop this madness and then work at negotiating arms reduction." Shortly thereafter, the House of Representatives passed a resolution in favor of a Nuclear Weapon Freeze by a 65 percent majority.

However, a fickle Congress followed the non-binding resolution with a vote of approval for the MX — the deadliest ICBM in the U.S. arsenal, with ten independently targeted thermonuclear warheads, each having an explosive power equivalent to 24 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

President Reagan exhibited a great deal of ambivalence toward nuclear weapons. Already in 1982, he declared that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." In January 1984 over the objections of his advisers, he proposed the elimination of all nuclear weapons. And he endorsed the "zero option" — a proposal to remove all intermediate range nuclear missiles from Europe.

Ronald Reagan’s second term as president coincided with the emergence of a new Soviet leadership. In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power as General Secretary of the Communist Party. He soon demonstrated his interest in reforming the Soviet government by introducing glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) and in reducing international tensions by initiating a unilateral moratorium on nuclear weapon testing. President Reagan was unresponsive.

In November 1985, President Reagan went to Geneva to meet Secretary Gorbachev and discuss arms race issues, and he discovered that his counterpart in the Soviet Union really wasn’t Darth Vader. The ice was broken, but tensions remained.

They continued their dialogue in October 1986 in Reykjavik. But just before Christmas 1986, a still-hawkish Ronald Reagan issued a call to increase the defense budget by $65-billion in order to accelerate construction of 500 Midgetman ICBMs and 50 more MXs — the weapon of mass destruction he euphemistically dubbed "Peacekeeper."

Mr. Gorbachev extended the Soviet nuclear testing moratorium three times, attempting to renew U.S. interest in a test ban, while we continued our weapon testing unabated. Finally in February 1987, after 18 months with no reciprocal step by President Reagan, the Soviet Union resumed nuclear weapon testing.

As former General Secretary and President Gorbachev recently reminisced, "The dialogue that President Reagan and I started was difficult. To reach agreement, particularly on arms control and security, we had to overcome mistrust and the barriers of numerous problems and prejudices. In the final outcome, our insistence on dialogue proved fully justified." (The New York Times, June 7, 2004)

On December 8, 1987, the two leaders launched the process of real arms reduction by signing the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty at a White House ceremony. Mr. Gorbachev unexpectedly agreed to the proposal and, as Mr. Reagan’s hawkish director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Kenneth Adelman, put it: "We had to take ‘yes’ for an answer." (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2004)

And despite the criminal scandal of the Iran-Contra affair, the "Teflon president" went on to crown his two terms with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) that reduced the nuclear arsenals of both countries for the first time.

President Ronald Reagan’s persistent, cockeyed optimism was undeniable, but his approach to politics was confrontation and domination — not compromise. As former Senator Robert Dole reminisced, "[H]e would rather get 80 percent and go back for the rest later than go home with nothing." Mr. Dole called 80 percent and the rest later "compromise." (The New York Times, June 7, 2004) Bipartisan polarization of the national political scene has continued to worsen ever since.

In early 1988 following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the N Reactor at Hanford was placed on standby for safety reasons and never restarted. The United States was already "awash in plutonium," in the words of President Reagan’s last Secretary of Energy, John Herrington. Deactivation of N Reactor was completed ten years later as part of the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Site. PUREX was shut down in 1989 and deactivation was completed in 1997.

Mr. Gorbachev announced in 1988 that Soviet-bloc countries of Eastern Europe would be allowed to turn to democracy. That led to the ouster of communist governments in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania, and to the climactic fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, effectively ending the Cold War. The whole world breathed a sigh of relief, but the anticipated "peace dividend" of significantly reduced U.S. military spending never occurred.

In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community."

Sadly, our own government has been no prize-winner. We have recently seen 40 years of progress toward nuclear disarmament not only halted but overthrown, as the Republican-controlled Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999. The treaty was first proposed by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958.

Subsequently, President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and rejected our obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to achieve nuclear disarmament. The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) with Russia signed by President Bush in 2002 is more shadow than substance; it does not eliminate a single nuclear warhead.

Nuclear weapons played an important role in the campaign of hype and innuendo President Bush used to sell last year’s war of aggression against Iraq to Congress and a majority of the American public. "The issue is disarmament," President Bush said in September 2002, and he made his case for war by warning of "a mushroom cloud." But it was well known that Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was totally dismantled by the United Nations weapons inspectors after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and harsh economic sanctions kept the program from being revived.

The "Star Wars" fantasy lives on today. Twenty-one years and something like $100 billion later, it continues to eat up billions of dollars each year. Mr. Reagan’s current successor in the White House is now building the Hollywood set for "Star Wars" in Alaska — a cobbled-together kluge of parts that don’t work.

Today, there are still more than 25,000 nuclear warheads in existence, each of which makes the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs seem puny. And the issue still is disarmament — total nuclear disarmament. It remains for "we, the people of the United States" to lead the way and create the environment in which those we elect to high public office will be persuaded to follow.

The Nuclear Freeze era is past, but its slogan still holds today: "You can’t hug your kids with nuclear arms."

– PeaceMeal July/August 2004

Michael Moore a bully?

by Chuck Johnson

Those of us suffering through these Bush years can certainly use a little cheering up. It’s a tonic to hear Michael Moore’s full-throated roar against what he calls the dying dinosaurs — "stupid white men," exemplified by radio talk show hosts who are angry because, subconsciously, they know they are outnumbered and that their end is coming. I was at the Portland, Oregon, Memorial Coliseum last fall with my son, exhilarated by Moore’s bold, feisty rhetoric, but, as the evening progressed, I began to feel a little bit queasy. What was it?

The problem was that we were becoming an ugly, self-righteous mob. He (and we, vicariously) felt entitled to mock and curse our political enemies. After all, they are destroying our country and the planet, right? And they do seem, to us at least, rather dense, selfish and worthy of scorn. While all this seems to be true, I have been humbled to learn through personal experience over the years that a feeling of entitlement is insidious and dangerous to oneself and others. It causes a person to discount the humanity of those with whom we disagree and to close our hearts to the part of the truth that they may understand. It also makes it difficult for them to hear us.

It was hard to see this most of the time that night because Moore’s analysis of U.S. and world politics seemed pretty sound to me. He had many clear insights into our nation’s problems, not to mention a vigorous, uncompromising — and frequently profane — way of saying it. But it was noticeably jarring when he said or did things that went against my beliefs. I personally thought Moore spoiled a valid criticism of Dennis Kucinich’s political platform with the gratuitous f-word, because the comment cut to the quick. It was the feeling you get when you are laughing along with a bully until he or she turns on you or someone you care about. Suddenly, it’s not so funny.

Michael Moore is a terrific film maker, an iconoclast who has managed, through his films, television programs, books and lectures, to inject discussion of critical issues into popular American culture where others have failed. In part, it is because he employs the angry male style of confrontational rhetoric that is acceptable to American audiences, especially if it is done in a humorous or ironic way.

But it is important that the justice and peace movement rise above the dramatic and antagonistic. We need to present a healing message,seeing the humanity in those that oppose us, and understanding what fears and beliefs motivate them to do things that we don’t support. This was the essence of the message put forth by leaders of successful nonviolent movements in the last century who have become the saints of our cause: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. In the case of Mandela, his personal commitment to understanding his oppressors extended to befriending his white jailers. During the decades of his incarceration, many of them became so close to him that they wept with joy when he was released, and some of them attended Mandela’s inauguration as President of South Africa as honored guests.

If we wish to win the hearts and minds of Americans, we must seek to understand them and sympathize with them, rather than curse what we perceive as their ignorance. We must continue to oppose those who lead us in the wrong direction while avoiding nasty, disrespectful words. Our firmness of resolve needs to include a decision to engage in clear, respectful discourse with our fellow human beings.

Yes, even George W. Bush and his advisors, with whom we have a disagreement or two, deserve criticism based upon facts and stated in plain, unbiased language, rather than mocking, ad hominem attacks. This will have the added benefit of being more persuasive to those Americans who don’t yet see things the way we do.

This is a hard lesson for me, let me tell you. I love a good, cruelly sarcastic comment at my opponent’s expense as well as the next guy. But it pollutes our public discourse.

Chuck Johnson, Portland OR, is a former board co-chair of Oregon PeaceWorks. His article is edited from The PeaceWorker.

– PeaceMeal July/August 2004

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Voting for Kerry

I have a secret. I don’t like the president. Sometimes when I say it out loud, I feel ashamed.

Perhaps it’s because my son is a Marine.

Some people assume that if you don’t like the president, you don’t support our troops. I take exception to that. My opinion of the president has nothing to do with war. I didn’t vote for him in 2000 and I won’t vote for him in November.

I’ve heard that people choose a president based on a gut feeling. I was glad to hear that, because that is where my opinion originated. I’d like to say I have all the facts, but I don’t think anyone does, which is why we often rely on our gut.

I’m voting for John Kerry. My friend Elece knows Kerry. She believes he is an intelligent and honest man. I’ve known Elece since I was 5 years old. We have similar backgrounds and morals. Her opinion helped me to make that choice.

How many people feel as I do, but keep it secret, not wanting to be perceived as not supporting our troops?

We are entitled to say what we believe, without shame. That is what my son is fighting for.

Ask your friends who they support for president. Don’t be afraid to speak out or write a letter to the editor.

Nancy Arvan
Kennewick, Washington
Tri-City (Washington) Herald, June 30, 2004

Nancy Arvan’s son, Marine Cpl. Noah Arvan, is an MP stationed at Camp Blue Diamond near Ramadi, Iraq.

In God We Trust?

Some Americans point to the motto on our coinage and currency — "In God We Trust" — as an indication of our godliness.

"In God We Trust"? Trust for what? When it comes to something really important — like our national security, we’ll rely on ourselves, thank you.

Judged by the criterion "Put your money where your mouth is," I see the motto "In God We Trust" as a meaningless platitude, because we Americans spend as much on armed forces and weapons as on all other discretionary spending combined. Our 2003 military budget increase alone of $45 billion was comparable to the entire military budgets of Russia or China ($51 billion each).

"In God We Trust"? Hardly. In Stealth bombers we trust. In cruise missiles we trust. In Abrams tanks, in helicopter gunships, in laser-guided bombs we trust. And in our weapons of mass destruction — our arsenal of 7,000 thermonuclear weapons, the most abominable invention ever conceived by the mind of man — in them we trust.

"In God We Trust"? Nowhere in the defense policies of our country is there any acknowledgment of the existence of a God who is almighty.

The irony of our superpower self-reliance is that, just a few years ago, 19 young men proved that our billion-dollar-a-day military machine was powerless to protect us against two-dollar plastic box cutters.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of 9-11-2001 is that we didn’t really learn anything from that traumatic experience. Our only response was more of the same: more armed forces (and now in public places), more weapons, more money to try to buy national security — along with a determined avoidance of any search for the root causes of terrorism and of the anger and hatred expressed toward our country.

By labeling the hijackers "evildoers," we dismissed the need for any examination of our own consciences regarding the policies we carry out toward other countries. We are, after all, "one nation under God." We say so every time we pledge allegiance to the flag. And if we can just keep those two words "under God" in there, they alone can be our reality.

The late Henri Nouwen in his book Reaching Out (1975, Doubleday) wrote:

"There is no hope in denial or avoidance [of reality] for ourselves or anyone else. ... What keeps us from opening ourselves both to the reality of the world around us and to God’s healing? ... Could it be that we don’t want to give up our illusion that we are masters over our world, and therefore, create our own [fantasy]land where we can make ourselves believe that all events of life are safely under control? Could it be that our blindness and deafness are signs of our resistance to acknowledging that we are not the Lord of the Universe? Often we don’t realize how much we resent our powerlessness."

God, help us to accept our own powerlessness and to depend on you for our security.

– Jim Stoffels, Chairman and Editor
PeaceMeal, May/June 2004

The world without Saddam Hussein

by Gene Weisskopf, Vice Chairman, World Citizens for Peace

Are we safer now that we've deposed Iraq's Saddam Hussein and his regime? That's the question frequently asked by defenders of the war during heated debates, when the countless pros and cons have been volleyed back and forth into a foggy shroud of words. After a year of life in a post-Saddam world and two years of hearing the rhetoric that led to the war and occupation, I can readily, confidently, and wholeheartedly say "No!" The world is not safer since our invasion of Iraq and, in fact, it is quite a bit more dangerous than it was.

It's not that Saddam himself made the world a safer place. Most people thought of him as a two-bit, ruthless despot who could not be trusted and who held control of Iraq with a strong and vicious arm. His absence from power undoubtedly makes the world safer. What decreases our safety, however, are the manner in which he was removed, the priceless resources that were squandered in doing so, and the entity that has taken his place.

At the beginning, there was the flawed "preemptive war" policy of the Bush administration that set the stage for a war based on widely hyped allegations rather than a life-threatening emergency. The war was prosecuted to rid the world of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, we were told. When we marched victoriously into Baghdad, however, we found they didn't have any, making this so-called preemptive war not even that, because there never was an imminent threat to preempt.

The Bush administration tried to gain the support of our valuable allies. But when that failed, we forged ahead into a war of our own making, disparaging those long-time allies and practically casting them onto the side of the "evildoers." Without the participation or even cooperation of the United Nations, the Bush administration took off for the crusade on our own, flaunting established international laws while relying on our long-respected reputation to ward off any serious reprisals.

It's obvious that this administration never learned the lessons of the Vietnam War, either because the president and most of his associates never had to fight in Vietnam, or perhaps because the president never bothered to read about it. But once again we have sent our troops ten thousand miles away to fight a war of choice, purportedly to avoid having to fight the enemy in our own towns and cities — a familiar refrain during the Vietnam War. As with Vietnam, this war is being fought by only a segment of our society, while most of us go on with our usual lives. Unlike Vietnam, this war was launched with our nation already fiercely divided.

Another sign of moral slippage is our lack of concern for the Iraqis who have died or been wounded. They're simply "collateral damage" that we don't bother to track. Then there's the stomach-turning abuse of prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. No, make that our Abu Ghraib prison. What was once a symbol of Saddam's vile abuse of not just individuals but of Iraq as a country, has now changed hands and become our own infamous symbol of brutality and oppression.

All of these factors point only to the tip of the iceberg of my outrage over this moral and legal sinkhole. Sadly, the question at hand is all too easy to answer. Even putting morality aside for the moment (I love being able to say that), I am quite willing to base my stand on a purely pragmatic perspective — that the war on Iraq was exceedingly bad policy. And that allows me to make what will sound like an outlandish statement to some, but one I believe is all too true: Given the circumstances surrounding the war, the world was a safer place when Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, and the reverberations of our misadventure will be echoing back to us for many years to come.

– PeaceMeal, May/June 2004

"The State Department's top counterterrorism expert, J. Cofer Black, recently acknowledged that the war in Iraq has created exactly what it was launched to prevent — greater cooperation between Al Qaida and other jihadist groups in Iraq and the Middle East."

– The New York Times, April 28, 2004

From a mother's heart

by Nancy Arvan

Nancy Arvan=s son, Marine Cpl. Noah Arvan a 2002 high school graduate, is a military policeman stationed at Camp Blue Diamond, near Ramadi, Iraq.

People ask me how I=m doing and I give them the automatic Afine,@ knowing that most of the time that=s the acceptable response. How can I tell them how I really feel?

I=m worried. They would tell me not to worry. They tell me not to expose myself to the news. When I cry, they tell me my tears won=t change anything. ...

Noah=s voice tells me what I want to hear. Recently, he told me that I can=t worry about him because it will make me sick. Then he will have to worry about me and his head won=t be in the Abig game.@

On the Marine moms= Web site, they call Iraq Athe sandbox.@ It=s interesting that Noah would refer to the war as the big game — and it=s being played in the sandbox. A sandbox used to be a place where children played. Now it=s where they die in war. ...

I often work late so I won=t be at home if the news I fear most arrives. I learned from an ex-sergeant that they come in threes: a Marine, a chaplain and a state patrolman. I try not to, but I find myself constantly looking for them and praying they will not appear. ... The best thing anyone can say to me is that they will pray for my son. No other words are necessary.

This brief excerpt is from an article published on Mothers Day 2004 in the Tri-City (Washington) Herald.

Iraq war an outrage

by Gene Weisskopf, Vice Chairman, World Citizens for Peace

Address made at the Global Day of Action rally on the first anniversary of the U.S. war in Iraq, March 20, 2004.

I am here to express my dismay and outrage with the United States’ war against, and occupation of, Iraq. Simply stated, the motives offered by President Bush and his administration for invading Iraq were never enough to gain my support for war. The whole concept of this so-called preemptive war seemed tenuous, at best, and utterly flawed when put into the context of the real world. So when we invaded Iraq on March 19 of last year, I knew it was very much the wrong thing to do. The choice to go to war, an invasion of another country, is perhaps the most consequential decision a country and its people can ever make. To say the least, I was outraged.

Now, one year later, my outrage has not subsided. We are left with the cold, blood-stained realization that the primary reason for this war — that Iraq had vast stores of weapons of mass destruction and would not hesitate to use them — was false. A secondary reason — that Iraq was somehow behind the horrors of 9/11 — was also deemed false by the very president who inferred such a relationship in countless speeches leading up to the war. So we’re left with the fact that our first preemptive war was not preemptive at all, because there never was an imminent or urgent threat from Iraq to preempt.

We have a responsibility to participate in our democracy — a better-informed public makes for a better democracy. We can certainly express our opinions by voting, but we can also write letters, call a radio talk show, mention an issue to a friend, or post an appropriate bumpersticker. Some issues, though, can arouse any and all of those forms of expression, yet deserve even more. The war on Iraq is such an issue.

Fortunately for me, a lot of other people shared feelings similar to my own about the war. In September 2002, we gathered in the plaza here to express our disapproval of the headlong rush to war, which was still six months off. That gathering was followed by a daily protest on the sidewalk along George Washington Way. There were varying motivations for why each of us came to the sidewalk with our signs, but all of us were shocked by the actions of our government and determined to express ourselves.

Those sidewalk assemblies proved to be even more powerful than the signs we carried would suggest. In the mass hysteria leading up to the war, the voices seeking alternatives to war — not inaction, just peaceful alternatives — were drowned out by the bluster, propaganda, hyperbole, and hyper-patriotism that took over the airwaves and cableways. It was a harrowing time, as the rest of the world stared into the snarling muzzles of our country’s new pet hounds, Phobos and Deimos, the demons of war that would soon be unleashed. In spite of all that, we could hold our signs proclaiming that we thought differently. Our presence reminded those driving by that not everyone supported the headlong rush to war, and perhaps gave courage to some to speak their own minds.

– PeaceMeal, March/April 2004

Stepping barefoot toward peace

by Victoria Lewis, Peace Ambassador, World Citizens for Peace

Address made at the Global Day of Action rally on the first anniversary of the U.S. war in Iraq, March 20, 2004.

It's been a year since the bombing of Iraq began, and on this day I would like to reflect what this has meant to me, our country, and the world. I began walking the peace vigil with Jim Stoffels about a year and a half ago. I have been "Barefoot for Peace" since that day. I have learned many things about myself during this time. I have had to re-evaluate my beliefs and my willingness to act upon them. I had to decide how involved I would be, when and where I would take my stand. I decided to stand for peace, with my two bare feet on the ground.

I have learned to really feel the ground under my feet and realize what a blessing that is, to feel the soft grass, the bite of snow, and the warmth of the sun-warmed sand. What a blessing it is to go home to a warm house in winter and a cool house in summer. What a true blessing it is to have enough food on the table, clean water to drink, medicine when I'm sick, and a steady income to depend on.

During that cold winter as the government waited for the optimum time to attack, I had much time for self-reflection. I began to walk, not just to try to stop this war, but to also prevent future conflicts. I walked for the refugees from Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and for refugees from a hundred other wars, large and small. I walk for the people in southeast Asia who are victims to the land mines so liberally spread throughout their fields. And I walk for the worst victims of these wars — the soldiers themselves who lose a little bit of their souls each time they kill, until some of them can no longer live with themselves and commit suicide or learn to trample down their humanity and in some cases learn to love to kill. They are all victims of war, and they all need our empathy.

I have come to learn that peace is a precious gift that should not be toyed with lightly by our government or any other government. I appreciate that in this country, I am allowed to stand up here and have my say, and that too is a precious gift, not to be toyed with by government. I do not approve of terrorism, but I understand its roots. But we must remember that sometimes what we call a terrorist, may also be thought of as a freedom fighter and a hero. I have watched many people in our country be manipulated by talk of more terrorism and imminent threats. I talked to a well-educated man who was terrified that a nuclear bomb would be towed into Seattle and detonated. We have been fed a lie from the start about the reason that we attacked Iraq, and we as a nation, must learn to be less trusting of government. I have watched our country lose its credibility throughout the world as the lies have been exposed. We have all seen that the war on terror has made no one safer. We have only to look at the tragic events in The Philippines, Bali, and now Spain, to see that terrorism is like a many headed Hydra: chop off one head and three more will replace it.

Yes, 9/11 was a terrible tragedy. But I look at it as a wake-up call. What have we done to make 19 young men willingly give up their lives to attack America. Has our complacent acceptance of dictators who do our bidding become too much for some people to stand. And why Iraq? Is it as I saw on a placard: What is our oil doing under their sand? I hate to believe that our nation would go to war for this, but it seems as if we have done just that.

It is time to declare Peace on terrorism, not war. To really find out how and where we might help in the world. There are no barriers to the human spirit, so we can all stand up and declare peace. Peace begins with but one step. Let us all take that first step and remember that peace can be every step.

– PeaceMeal, March/April 2004

Crime and Punishment

Now that allegations about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction have been largely debunked, various politicians and pundits are saying the President’s pre-emptive war against Iraq is justified by the enormity of Saddam’s crimes against his own people. The horrors perpetrated by him and his secret police, they say, justify any illegality or immorality by the United States.

It matters not that our war of aggression against Iraq violated international law and the supreme law of our country. It matters not that we ourselves have killed 8,000-10,000 innocent Iraqi civilians in the process.

The traditional Judeo-Christian ethic — in which a good end does not justify immoral means — is not popular these days. The Administration offers us instead an imaginary world in which the United States can do no evil.

But we supported an equally brutal dictator in neighboring Iran for 26 years. When the shah was toppled in 1979, it was said there was no one left in Iran who had not lost someone to the shah’s secret police, the SAVAK.

The SAVAK was known for its brutality. Its methods of torture included hanging weights from the scrotum and forcing broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum.

It is hard to imagine that human beings could inflict such cruelty on others. It is even harder to believe that the perpetrators were organized and trained by us.

Saddam Hussein is now being held prisoner by the United States, and President Bush wants to see him get the death penalty for his crimes. But when the Shah was toppled and Iran wanted to try him for similar crimes, the United States admitted the Shah for medical treatment. He died of natural causes (cancer) in 1980 in Egypt.

– Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2004


"quagmire (kwag´ mir) n. a precarious situation from which extrication is very difficult."

Sadddam Hussein may have drained Iraq's swamps, but George W. Bush has created his own swamp in that distant desert — a swamp watered by the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike.

On May 1, Commander-in-chief Bush, in his notorious "Top Gun" act on the deck of the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, declared major combat in Iraq to be over. At that point, 137 American troops had died in his illegal, preemptive "shock and awe" assault on a country that had not attacked us.

The "coalition of two" — President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair — may have won the battle, but they were far from winning their war. Into the power vacuum created by toppling Saddam Hussein stepped a U.S. administrator and the U.S. and U.K. armed forces — all of whom stood by and watched as Iraq descended into anarchy, chaos, and crime. One young marine lit a cigarette as he watched the rampant looting, even of hospitals. It was not their job, they said, to maintain law and order — contrary to the Geneva Conventions that explicitly state it is the responsibility of a conquering and occupying force to do so.

The open arms, with which Iraqis were supposed to welcome our troops as liberators, turned into firearms, with which they daily eliminated a growing number of the resented occupiers. In June, U.S. intelligence officials said that Islamic militants and foreign fighters, including suicide bombers, were streaming in to bolster Iraqi resistance to the U.S.-led occupation and to threaten Iraqi collaborators. Commenting on the rising number of ambushes on his troops, Capt. Burris Wollsieffer of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment remarked, "It's totally unconventional. It's guerrilla warfare."

By the end of August, the number of U.S. military who died after the war was officially "over" surpassed the major combat total. The current (as of September 26, 2003) death total for the entire misadventure stands at 312 U.S. and 45 U.K. military and 7,000-9,000 Iraqi civilians.

(For U.S. and U.K military deaths, see:
For Iraqi civilian deaths, see:

The price in lives may be most dear, but the price in dollars is also daunting. Even Republicans in Congress were shocked when Mr. Bush asked for $87 billion for next year — an amount that will push an already huge federal budget deficit above an unprecedented half-trillion dollars! It may be a price that leads to this Administration's undoing.

The White House's politically correct figure for the war cost was $50 billion to $60 billion. President Bush fired his chief economic adviser, Lawrence B. Lindsey, for giving a figure last fall more than twice that.

Prior to the war, Gordon Adams, the White House's senior defense budget official from 1993 to 1997, and Steve Kosiak, director of budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, authored a study using historical cost data that put the the mid-range cost of a war and its aftermath at $405 billion (The New York Times, February 15, 2003).

There's still no exit strategy. So, who knows how much the occupation and reconstruction will ultimately cost. President Bush has yet to present a realistic plan for how the occupation of Iraq will end.

 Many Iraqis still lack the electricity and personal security they had before the war. Sen. Richard Lugar, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in May that more troops, billions more dollars, and a longer commitment were needed if the United States were not to throw away the "peace" in Iraq. The physical and political reconstruction of Iraq, he said, could take at least five years.

Administration officials' wishful thinking included the use of Iraqi oil revenues to help pay for reconstruction. But they failed to account for the deterioration of the oil infrastructure during 12 years of crippling U.S.-led economic sanctions. Billions of dollars are needed just to get the oil flowing at prewar levels, and repairs made are quickly undone through sabotage by opponents of our occupation.

Can anyone deny that we need help? Yet, when our President went to the United Nations on Sept. 23 — ostensibly to ask for help from the agency he termed "irrelevant" and the countries of Old Europe he insulted, he didn't go on bended knee. Instead, he went with the same chip on his shoulder that characterized his defiance of international law after he failed to get Security Council approval for Gulf War II.

Is it any wonder he received icy responses and came away empty handed?

Underneath it all, there are mutinous rumblings among troops and their families. Troops who were expecting to return home at the end of July, some of whom have been in the Gulf region since last September, had their tour of duty extended. That decision has sparked a growing movement of protests among the families of those deployed. Websites created by families of deployed military are springing up, gathering petition signatures demanding that President Bush bring the troops home. But with no reinforcements coming from our allies in Europe and elsewhere, there is talk of calling up more reserves.

President Bush did make one surprising admission on Sept. 17, when he said flatly, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September 11." That statement contradicts the intense prewar campaign of hype and innuendo he waged, which convinced a large majority of gullible Americans that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9-11-2001 terrorist attacks. According to one survey, two-thirds of those polled believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11, in spite of the fact that our Central Intelligence Agency found no such connection, as was documented by CIA Director George Tenet in a letter to Congress released last October.

So, where do we go from here?

Having squandered the good will of the world in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the world's lone superpower has isolated itself from most of our traditional allies and is now largely alone. Furthermore, President Bush seems to have a death grip on keeping total control of operations in Iraq. His refusal to share control is a major obstacle to other countries sharing the burden.

If he were to change course — something he seems to view as a weakness — some changes in his Cabinet seem to be in order. First and foremost would be finding a Defense Secretary who is capable of working cooperatively with the international community. Beyond that, perhaps President Bush can allow the talented Secretary of State to regain his moral compass and resume his previous efforts at being a statesman and peacemaker.

Whether "all the king's horses and all the king's men" can put Iraq back together again remains to be seen. One thing is perfectly clear: it's a lot easier to tear down a nation than it is to build one up.

– Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2003

To save face, the U.S. needs the U.N.

by Fred Kaplan

It is becoming increasingly clear that, at some point, the United Nations will have to take over the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. The only question is whether Kofi Annan ends up rushing in on his own terms to fill the gaps of a desperately overwhelmed American occupation force — or whether President Bush comes to his senses, realizes that the task is much harder than his advisers had predicted, and admits that he can't manage it by himself. If he reaches this conclusion in six months or a year, it will look like a mortifying retreat; if he does so much sooner, like now, he might still be able to look courageous and wise.

The chance of such a swift switch is remote. Secretary of State Colin Powell, meeting July 17 with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, acknowledged that some nations "have expressed the desire for more of a mandate from the United Nations" and added, "I am in conversation with some ministers about this." But Powell is famously out of sync with the rest of this administration on the question of unilateralism versus multilateralism. Notice, even he owned up to being merely "in conversation" with "some ministers," as opposed to arranging action with pertinent U.N. agencies.

The problem is not merely that India has refused Bush's request for 17,000 peacekeeping troops unless the operation is put under U.N. auspices, or that France and Germany made similar refusals. Nor is it that the "coalition" has failed to muster more than a handful of nations to send more than a few hundred troops on a mission that is straining the powers of 148,000 top-notch American soldiers. These much-noted embarrassments are but logical corollaries of the underlying problem, which is that Bush and his top advisers deluded themselves into presuming — against all historical precedent — that they could rebuild Iraq on their own in the first place.

One of the year's saddest official documents is the U.S. Agency for International Development's "Vision for Post-Conflict Iraq," a 13-page internal policy memo, dated Feb. 19, 2003, and leaked a few weeks later to the Wall Street Journal. Read in retrospect, the memo exposes the administration's full naiveté. In addition to the fine-tuned calculations of what percentage of electricity, water, health care, and other amenities will be restored within a few days, 60 days, and six months after the war ends, the memo contains this poignant decree: "The national government will be limited to assume national functions, such as defense and security, monetary and fiscal matters, justice, foreign affairs, and strategic interests such as oil and gas," while local assemblies will handle all other matters "in an open, transparent and accountable manner."

Should we laugh or cry at this noble plan? The remarkable thing about the passage is that not a single noun or adjective turns out to have any bearing on the current reality. "National government," "defense," "security," "fiscal matters," "justice," "foreign affairs" — these concepts simply don't exist.

Another presumption going into the war was that, by this time, U.S. troop levels in Iraq would have been cut to 50,000. The fighting would be over, and President Chalabi's militia fighters, transformed into the new Iraqi army, would have mopped up the remaining pockets of resistance. This notion underlay the Pentagon's initial forecast that the monthly cost of occupation would now be $2 billion instead of, as it turns out, twice that amount.

Leaving is not a real option; it would be a hideous thing — politically, strategically, and morally — to wreck a nation, install an interim "governing council," then split.

But staying, at least under the current arrangement, isn't much of an option either. We can't afford its price — in money or lives. The longer the United States remains the dominant face of armed authority, the more the Iraqis will associate us with the continuing chaos, and thus the greater the chance that, once they do form their own government, anti-Americanism will be the thickest of threads that hold it together.

A group of think-tank chiefs recently toured Iraq at the request of Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Baghdad, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Their report found that, while "the United States needs to be prepared to stay the course in Iraq for several years," it is in no shape to do so. The administrative authority in Baghdad "lacks the personnel, money and flexibility to be fully effective," and its officials are, by their own admission, "isolated and cut off from Iraqis." Therefore, the report concludes, the United States "should reach out broadly to other countries," not only "to fill its staffing needs," but to form "a new coalition that involves various international actors, including from countries and organizations that took no part in the original war coalition."

President Bush will have to take some painful steps. The United States can no longer run the show. It's time to start sharing the decision-making powers. The United Nations seems the most logical forum, since it has experience with peacekeeping and postwar reconstruction; but if this medicine is too bitter, then a U.N. mandate and teams of advisers for some makeshift "new coalition" — perhaps involving members of NATO and the Arab League — is conceivable.

Yet other countries — substantial countries with large armies and hard currency — will only send troops if Bush gives them incentives to do so. Surely he and Dick Cheney, proud capitalists both, understand the role of capital in international relations. All the contracts for Iraqi development cannot keep going to Bechtel and Halliburton. German, Russian, and yes, even French firms must get a piece of the action. (French officials have been blatant about this aspect of their requirements, but that doesn't make satisfying them any less necessary.) It will not be pleasant to let the French profit while the House cafeteria still has "freedom fries" on its menu. But to refuse them a share of postwar revenue in exchange for sharing postwar risks would not only doom our own interests in the region, it would also convince conspiracy theorists everywhere — those who think Bush went to war for oil, contracts, and the pursuit of global conquest — that their cynicism was justified.

– edited from
PeaceMeal, July/August 2003

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Is everything roses?

The projected federal budget deficit for this year and next add up to a whopping $930 billion. That’s what the entire national debt was when Ronald Reagan became president.

The current administration has a "no problem" attitude toward the nation’s financial condition. President Bush’s new budget director, Joshua Bolten, said a deficit of this magnitude is "manageable" — in spite of the fact that next year’s deficit calculation does not even include the cost of maintaining troops in Iraq and Afghanistan or rebuilding those nations. Mr. Bolten said those expenses were impossible to predict.

Nobody is asking the questions: Is there any limit to the national debt? Or can we go on with our deficit spending ad infinitum? When does the United States go bankrupt?

The national debt now stands at $6.8 trillion ($6,800,000,000,000). With a population of 292 million, that comes out to $23,000 for every man, woman, and child — or $115,000 for a family of five.

The deficit for this year and next year alone will add more than $3,000 for every person. You can figure out yourself when to declare personal bankruptcy.

– Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, July/August 2003