Peace and Disarmament: A Call to Action
by US Representative Dennis J. Kucinich
July 12, 2002
"Come my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world."
- Alfred Lord Tennyson
This is a call for common sense, for peaceful, non-violent citizen action to protect our precious world from widening war and from stumbling into a nuclear catastrophe.
Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) join Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (right) as he unveils his plan for a cabinet-level Department of Peace.
The climate for conflict has intensified, with the struggle between Pakistan and India, the China-Taiwan tug of war, and the increased bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinians. United States' troop deployments in the Philippines, Yemen, Georgia, Columbia and Indonesia create new possibilities for expanded war. An invasion of Iraq is planned. The recent disclosure that Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Libya are considered by the US as possible targets for nuclear attack catalyzes potential conflicts everywhere.
These crucial political decisions promoting increased military actions, plus a new nuclear first-use policy, are occurring without the consent of the American people, without public debate, without public hearings, without public votes. The President is taking Congress's approval of responding to the Sept. 11 terrorists as a license to flirt with nuclear war.
In a Democracy, All Decisions Are Political
"Politics ought to stay out of fighting a war," the President has been quoted as saying on March 13, 2002. Yet Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution explicitly requires that Congress take responsibility when it comes to declaring war. This President is very popular, according to the polls. But polls are not a substitute for democratic process.
Dismissing constitutionally mandated congressional oversight belies reality: Spending $400 billion a year for defense is a political decision. Committing troops abroad is a political decision. War is a political decision. When men and women die on the battlefield that is the result of a political decision. The use of nuclear weapons, which can end the lives of millions, is a profound political decision. In a monarchy there need be no political decisions. In a democracy, all decisions are political, in that they derive from the consent of the governed.
In a democracy, budgetary, military and national objectives must be subordinate to the political process. Before we celebrate an imperial presidency, let it be said that the lack of free and open political process, the lack of free and open political debate, and the lack of free and open political dissent can be fatal in a democracy.
We have reached a moment in our country's history where it is urgent that people everywhere speak out as president of his or her own life, to protect the peace of the nation and world within and without. We should caution leaders who generate fear through talk of endless war or the final conflict. We should appeal to our leaders to consider that their own bellicose thoughts, words and deeds are reshaping consciousness and can have an adverse effect on our nation. Because when one person thinks: fight! he or she finds a fight. One faction thinks: war! and starts a war. One nation thinks: nuclear! and approaches the abyss.
When peace is not on the agenda of our political parties or our governments, then it must be the work and the duty of each citizen of the world.
Each of us is a citizen of a common planet, bound to a common destiny. So connected are we, that each of us has the power to be the eyes of the world, the voice of the world, the conscience of the world, or the end of the world. And as each one of us chooses, so becomes the world. Each of us is architect of this world. Our thoughts, the concepts. Our words, the designs. Our deeds, the bricks and mortar of our daily lives.
Some of our leaders have been thinking and talking about nuclear war. There has been much news about a planning document which describes how and when America might wage nuclear war. The Nuclear Posture Review recently released to the media by the government:
Some dismiss this review as routine government planning. But it becomes ominous when taken in the context of a war on terrorism, which keeps expanding its boundaries, rhetorically and literally. The President equates the "war on terrorism" with World War II. He expresses a desire to have the nuclear option "on the table." He unilaterally withdraws from the ABM treaty. He seeks $8.9 billion to fund deployment of a missile shield. He institutes, without congressional knowledge, a shadow government in a bunker outside our nation's Capitol. He tries to pass off as arms reduction, the storage of (instead of the elimination of) nuclear weapons.
- Assumes that the US has the right to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike.
- Equates nuclear weapons with conventional weapons.
- Attempts to minimize the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.
- Promotes a nuclear response to a chemical or biological attack.
Two generations ago we lived with nuclear nightmares. In our nightmares, we saw the long, slow arc of a Soviet missile flash into our very neighborhood. We surveyed, wide-eyed, pictures of the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. We supported the elimination of all nuclear weapons. We knew that if you "nuked" others you "nuked" yourself.
The proposed use of nuclear weapons pollutes the psyche with the arrogance of infinite power. It creates delusions of domination of matter and space. It is dehumanizing through its calculations of mass casualties. With a world at risk, we must find the bombs in our own lives and disarm them. We must listen to that quiet inner voice which counsels that the survival of all is achieved through the unity of all.
This is a call to action: to replace expanded war with expanded peace.
We need to create a new, clear vision of a world as one. A new, clear vision with the teaching of nonviolence, nonviolent intervention and mediation. A new clear vision of peaceful coexistence in a world of tolerance.
This is a call to action: to replace expanded war with expanded peace and to place the very survival of this planet on the agenda of all people, everywhere. As citizens of a common planet, we have an obligation to ourselves and our posterity. We must demand that our nation and all nations put down the nuclear sword. We must demand that our nation and all nations:
Our nation must:
- Abide by the principles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Stop the development of new nuclear weapons.
- Take all nuclear weapons systems off alert.
- Persist towards total, worldwide elimination of all nuclear weapons.
We are in a climate where people expect debate within our two party system to produce policy alternatives. However both major political parties have fallen short. People who ask, "Where is the Democratic Party?" and expect to hear debate may be disappointed. When peace is not on the agenda of our political parties or our governments, then it must be the work and the duty of each citizen of the world.
- Revive the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty.
- Sign and enforce the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
- Abandon plans to build a so-called missile shield.
- Prohibit the introduction of weapons into outer space.
We must bring terrorists to justice
without undermining the very civil liberties that permit our democracy to breathe.
When terrorists threaten our security, we must enforce the law and bring terrorists to justice within our system of constitutional justice, without undermining the very civil liberties that permit our democracy to breathe. We must pay attention when we sense a threat to survival.
That is why we must speak out now to protect this nation, all nations, and the entire planet and:
It is practical to work for peace. We must work for peace as a means of achieving permanent security. It is similarly practical to work for total nuclear disarmament, particularly when nuclear arms do not even come close to addressing the real security problems that confront our nation witness the events of September 11, 2001.
- Challenge those who believe that war is inevitable.
- Challenge those who believe in a nuclear right.
- Challenge those who would build new nuclear weapons.
- Challenge those who seek nuclear re-armament.
- Challenge those who seek nuclear escalation.
- Challenge those who would make of any nation a nuclear target.
- Challenge those who would threaten to use nuclear weapons against civilian populations.
- Challenge those who would break nuclear treaties.
- Challenge those who think about nuclear weapons, to think about peace.
We can make war archaic. Skeptics may dismiss the possibility that a nation that spends $400 billion a year for military purposes can somehow convert swords into plowshares. Yet the very founding and the history of this country demonstrates the creative possibilities of America. We are a nation that is known for realizing impossible dreams. Ours is a nation that, in its second century, abolished slavery which many at the time considered impossible. Ours is a nation where women won the right to vote which many at the time considered impossible. Ours is a nation that institutionalized the civil rights movement which many at the time considered impossible. If we have the courage to claim peace with the passion, the emotion and the integrity with which we have claimed independence, freedom and equality we can become that nation which makes non-violence an organizing principle in our society and, in doing so, change the world.
That is the purpose of HR 2459. It is a bill to create a Department of Peace. It envisions new structures to help create peace in our homes, in our families, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and in our nation. It considers the conditions that cause people to become the terrorists of the future issues of poverty, scarcity and exploitation. It is practical to make outer space safe from weapons, so that humanity can continue to pursue a destiny among the stars. HR 3616 seeks to ban weapons in space, to keep the stars a place of dreams, of new possibilities, of transcendence.
People worldwide need to march and to pray for peace. Now. People worldwide need to be connecting with each other on the web, for peace. Now. We are in a new era of electronic democracy, where the world wide web, numerous web sites and bulletin boards enable new organizations, exercising freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, to spring into being instantly. www.thespiritoffreedom.com is such a web site. It is dedicated to becoming an electronic forum for peace, for sustainability, for renewal and for revitalization.
Now is the time to think, speak, write, organize and take action to create peace as a social imperative, as an economic imperative, and as a political imperative. Now is the time to think, speak, write, organize, march, rally, hold vigils and take other nonviolent action to create peace in our cities, in our nation and in the world. And as the hymn says, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."
This is the work of the human family, of people all over the world demanding that governments and non-governmental actors alike put down their nuclear weapons. This is the work of the human family, responding in this moment of crisis to protect our nation, this planet and all life within it. We can achieve both nuclear disarmament and peace through being a living testament to a Human Rights Covenant where each person on this planet is entitled to a life where he or she may consciously evolve in mind, body and spirit.
Think peace. Speak peace. Act peace. Peace.
Dennis J. Kuchinch is a Democratic Congressman from Ohios 10th District. He welcomes an exchange of ideas of these issues and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.thespiritoffreedom.com. This is a slightly edited version of a speech delivered on April 3, 2002.
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