We’re pretty easygoing about peace. Doesn’t take much of it to satisfy us. A vague approximation of it warms our hearts just fine. We went through World War III and never noticed, though it drew in ten countries, killed five million, and drove five million more from their homes. I probably wouldn’t have noticed either, except that there was money in it.
The work was advising a joint venture, errands like gauging risk and return, or squeezing ministerial face for a competitive edge. Life went on throughout the Congo war, and so did commerce. The trick is to find a niche on the ragged edges of the war. If you live in a place where capital markets are ropy, war torn countries are not a bad place to salt your long-term capital away. Some Israelis were in on the joint venture: Israelis don’t mind war, when the other side is helpless, and in this war almost everyone was helpless. A farmer’s rusty panga could be an overwhelming force. The Mai Mai used spears to great effect. Molars and penises served as weapons, for cannibalism and rape.
The war still smolders today, in Kivu, Ituri, and Katanga. It causes us no disquiet. But what if we got greedy for peace? What if peace changed from a heartwarming word to a remorseless objective like efficiency or profit? What if we demanded more and more?
Well, it’s happening, and it makes our rulers nervous. In the Wikileaks cable dump, American diplomats reticently quote a novel term, the right to peace. Officials from Spain and Russia invoke it. The UN Secretary General is heard to say it. The conjunction of two freighted terms sounds like heartwarming blather, but from the mouths of shrewd statesmen, it’s of import. Even the most aristocratic Hotchkiss/Harvard meathead will begin to think that something is afoot.
For our war machine and its government, peace is always trouble. In the run up to World War I our government sent a presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, to jail. His crime was opposing conscription. Socialist Charles Schenk was convicted of espionage. Schenk got a look at the Constitution, and pointed out that conscription looks a lot like unconstitutional involuntary servitude. Back then our antisemitism was for Jews, not Arabs, and we sent a few Jews up for twenty years. It seems they threw some leaflets out a window. In English and, insidiously, Yiddish, the alien anarchists denounced our invasion of Russia. They called for an end to arms production.
In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Smith Act to silence commie putschists and their nonaggression, and in the traditional patriotic frenzy that invariably cascades into backwoods slapstick, Mississippi took the concept and ran with it, crafting its own national security law. They convicted some Jehovah’s Witnesses of questioning the point of war. In this case, though, peace might not have been what tore it. In what was probably the crucial atrocity, the Dixie heretics also linked the origins of our Pledge of Allegiance to the convent-school rites of French Papists. In Mississippi, that’s a clear and present danger.
This embarrassing arc of American history still bends toward idiocy, with every provincial rent-a-cop and stewardess a homeland security hero. Arabic lettering on a t-shirt gets you kicked off a plane and questioned (though nowadays Yiddish is mostly OK.) The nation teems with deputized authorities demanding fatuous reverence to our proletarian cannon fodder and their hopeless anti-terror snipe hunts.
It’s not quite classic Orwell: to patriotic Americans, war may not be peace, but peace is insidious war. The government charged a Vietnam War protester with sedition for grabbing the leg of the recruit who stepped on him. It seems the mere word peace can be seditious. “Make love for peace… We’re trying to sell peace, like a product, you know.” John Lennon’s mischievous wordplay triggered a federal investigation — and eventually, a traditional American lone nut came along and solved the nation’s problem.
The war on peace is heating up again. Led by Patrick Fitzgerald, hero of the wet-squib Scooter Libby trial, federal agents infiltrated peace groups, and squads of paramilitary commandos raided their homes. The pretext was an edict criminalizing support for terror, an ingenious Ermächtigungsgestz that could put Jimmy Carter away. The guilty peaceniks were foiled by state-of-art security innovations: from their elite squadron of burly termagants to the FBI deployed fake lesbians as agents provocateur.
To observe the 2011 United Nations International Day of Peace, the US scheduled the launch of a Minuteman III ICBM. True to American traditions of hearty redneck defiance, we were to spend the day of global ceasefire plinking at the Marshall Islands, our backyard tin can target. But word got out, and with a week to go the government postponed the launch, spoiling some unsung Air Force Strangelove’s fun.
Peace was all right in the old days. Back then it was exclusively the bailiwick of states, a stateman’s concern that was above their subjects’ pay grade. The League of Nations’ remit was the peace of the world. The members were states, monolithic black boxes interacting for the peoples sealed inside. The scope of their covenant was international law and treaty. To safeguard peace, the covenant provided for dispute resolution: by arbitration, by a new International Court of Justice, or by unanimous decision of the Great War’s victors in Council. The League bound its member states into a defensive alliance. The League’s covenant mandated disarmament and arms control.
The covenant looked inside states for one purpose only. Its disarmament provisions were based on a shrewd appraisal of the danger of war profiteering: “The Members of the League agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objections.”
Objectionable or not, war profiteering is the prerogative of America’s ruling class, and so Prescott Bush and Averell Harriman built us a top-quality enemy to fight. The two bankers were discreet stewards for Germany’s munitions, mining, and slaving interests. Bush’s Nazi clients blew the League to smithereens.
The war made the allies nostalgic for peace. Perhaps they even idealized peace a bit, for they imagined it without misery. In June 1941, fourteen allies set out The Saint James Agreement, declaring:
the only true basis of enduring peace is the willing co-operation of free peoples in a world in which, relieved of the menace of aggression, all may enjoy economic and social security; and that it is their intention to work together, and with other free peoples, both in war and peace to this end.
The US had not yet joined the war and did not have occasion to sign on. But that summer, in The Atlantic Charter, Roosevelt and Churchill pledged to “lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.” The peace they promised to all men in all lands would let them “live out their lives in freedom from fear and want,” and it specifically included improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security. You could tell the commies had them running scared.
The United Nations first came on the scene not as an institution but as a group of belligerents. The Washington Declaration was their war cry. In the Washington Declaration the United Nations threw ‘human rights’ into the mix, more as a bonus of victory than of peace. Enumerated rights were then just a gleam in the eyes of Roosevelt’s Brains Trust, but rights were soon to take on a life of their own and complicate peace.
The Moscow Declaration of 1943 looked ahead to the end of war, to arms control and an international organization. The unnamed organization would keep the peace “with the least diversion of the world’s human and economic resources for armaments.” That principle carried through to the Dumbarton Oaks proposals defining the United Nations. Swords were to give way to ploughshares. It was official. The Dumbarton Oaks Conference institutionalized well-being as part of peace.
The UN Charter was shot through with peace, as a purpose and a principle, but the institutional arrangements for pacific settlement of disputes left societies and associations out of it, focusing on states. Civil society was allowed a look in only on economic and social matters.
Peace waxed and waned. By 1984, the US had renewed its arms race. America planned to stud Europe with nuclear missiles. Europe reacted with mass protests for a nuclear freeze. The United Nations General Assembly weighed in with Resolution 39/11. Its Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace made explicit use of pervasive nuclear fears. The onus of peace-building was to fall on state policies and international dispute resolution, but the impetus had come from below. President Reagan blamed Soviet agents but he came to embrace arms reduction.
War returned to Europe and we bombed it to a frenzy in the Balkans, trying to help. The horn of Africa got out of hand too. America swaggered into the Somalia saloon to break it up and came back out through the window ass-up. This wasn’t what we had in mind at all.
Pacifists concluded that peace was too important to be left to the authorities. The Hague Agenda proposed the New Diplomacy, a collaborative process for citizens, pressure groups, and states. To put human and ecological needs ahead of national sovereignty and borders, they would “wrest peace-making away from the exclusive control of politicians and military establishments.” The New Diplomacy dovetailed with the old pinko tradition of internationalism from below, which aimed to weaken states by linking different peoples across borders.
In 2000 the General Assembly adopted the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. As the UN members redefined it, peace is not merely the absence of conflict. It’s a process, a treadmill of dialogue and conflict resolution. Fractious masses get involved. No more master strokes of deft diplomacy, no more parceling out nations on scraps of paper, fifty-fifty, ninety-ten — the Great Men of Yalta were dead, and the world they left us was bursting at the seams. The genial shipboard tea or walk in the woods was now to be supplanted by a bewildering welter of responsibilities, some defined in treaty law, some not. Tolerance. Solidarity. Cooperation. Pluralism. Cultural diversity. Dialogue. Understanding.
It could have been terribly cumbersome but the Supreme Court installed George Bush, scion of war profiteers and secret agents, the Saudis stuck a thumb in America’s eye, and that took care of the Culture of Peace.
The peaceniks saw it coming. They were ready. The world let the first illegal war slide: America milked universal sympathy to get a Security Council resolution authorizing nothing, and waved it like a banner as they marched off to war in Afghanistan. Worked like a charm, thanks to Americans’ blissful ignorance of the supreme law of the land. No one here knows what UN Charter Chapter VII says. It never came up.
But when America tried that again, with Iraq, the world dug in its heels with the largest coordinated mass protest in history. February 15th, 2003 saw public assemblies in 794 localities worldwide.1
In America a lot of militarist energy went into mocking pacifists as mournful chubbies holding candles, begging pardon for things they had no hand in. Jingoes derided as affectations their gentle demeanor and the compassionate sidelong inclination of their heads. America’s home-front warriors poked at their Achille’s heel: their inner peace was ineffectual here, in the land of war and death. But the new pacifists are hard-nosed guerreros wielding the disruptive potential of law and institutions against the American rogue state. Their brand of peace would drop a wrench into the works of our national meat grinder, impoverishing death merchants, dispossessing kleptocrats, and bringing murderous authorities to book. They set guns against butter in a battle to the death.
The UN set out to make peace an endless chore of states. To do it they went back to their Atlantic Charter roots. The UN Human Rights Commission got into the peace business with Resolution 2002/71. Peace was vital for human rights, they declared. War was a competing claim on resources that states need to improve living conditions, as required by social and economic rights. The Commission tied peace to development, subordinating guns to butter.
Making war and social justice an either/or choice helped consolidate dissent in the US. Now a common ideal brought the peace movement together with the more rambunctious sorts who besieged the WTO or spiked trees. Labor groups took up the antiwar cause. The peace movement gained troublemaking know-how, clever means of escalating pressure. United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) coalesced, clogging the streets of Washington in 2003, falling in with 3 million people worldwide in 2004, and sparking protests in 750 US cities in March 2005.2 Without losing focus they opposed trade pacts, Israeli genocide, and the boot we keep on dark-skinned peoples’ necks. Now there was something for everyone in peace. The October 2011 protests explicitly link our Afghan war to current economic deprivation.
Peace as social justice means the outrage never ends. Peace as not-war had kept pacifists reactive, their impetus dependent on imminent rumors of war. Antiwar energy flags when wars stop, or as they drag on. In America, party loyalty undercuts opposition to the wars your party starts or inherits. Political opposition to the Iraq war was tamped down once it had served its purpose as a Democratic party cause célèbre.
The work of linking peace with social justice brought the movement in America in line with the rest of the world. In America, a comprehensive view of law and human rights was confined to two distinct elements of society: governing elites and native peoples. By contrast, outside the US, peace and social justice movements had long fought for all the same things. Their governments do not shout down the UN or the ICC, so their societies could see human rights entwining with humanitarian law. For the rest of the world, questions of war and peace naturally involve rights: civil and political, economic, social and cultural. The European Social Forum spilled a million antiwar demonstrators into the streets in their usual overwhelming variety. The Jakarta Peace Consensus planned a people’s war-crimes tribunal to combat malefactors including neo-liberalism, corporate looters, the WTO and the World Bank.
It was not unheard of in America to link injustice and war. Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech, “A Time to Break Silence,” did just that, defining war as an enemy of the poor and rejecting the distinction between rights as a cause and peace. But then the Memphis police disbanded King’s security detail, a traditional American lone nut came along, and we heard nothing more of that for a long time.
Now, with peace propounded as a human right, legal experts worked to present peace and justice standards to the General Assembly. In 2006 a Spanish human-rights coalition met to write The Luarca Declaration on the Right to Peace. The document left primary responsibility for peace with the UN and its member states, but it stepped back from war, as King did, to consider the desperation or predation that drives it, and linked war to the economic order. It defined human security in material terms as “instruments, means, and resources.” To permit mass participation it reaffirmed a right to truthful information. Since the most effective curb on war is populations dragging their feet, the Luarca Declaration asserted individual and collective rights of disobedience, objection, and denunciation.
The Luarca declaration spurred a hundred conferences and seminars in fifty cities worldwide. Local and regional governments signed on, along with universities and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The ferment spawned Right to Peace declarations in Bilbao, Barcelona, La Plata, Yaounde, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Sarajevo, Alexandria, and Havana.
In June 2010 the UN Human Rights Council formally requested a draft declaration from The International Congress on the Human Right to Peace. Four experts drafted the Santiago Declaration as a UN General Assembly Resolution.
When founding mother Virginia Gildersleeve wrote the soaring preamble of the UN Charter, the self-evident poesy of it left peace undefined. The Right to Peace movement now defined peace as the sum of all the specific requirements of UN charter documents and treaties. Since each UN body justified its mission as a means to the end of peace, it was easy to trace the legal authority back to the UN. UN members created the Human Rights Commission because rights and freedoms are requisite for peace. They created the World Health Organization and UNESCO because health and development are requisite for peace. They created the International Labor Organization because peace takes social justice. They created the Food and Agriculture Organization because hunger threatens peace. It’s all there in black and white in the constitutions of the UN agencies, adopted by the world by acclamation.
Peace then encompasses all state duties set out in the UN Charter, the International Bill of Human Rights, and evolving humanitarian law. Any lapse of the state through overreach or neglect violates the people’s right to peace, even absent war. Peace is a continuous series of popular demands, an unending test for the state, a regimen that saps the energy for war. Under this conception of the right to peace, the simple two-finger gesture holds our government to the detailed, objective standards of the civilized world. In a word or a sign, peace confronts our state with its manifold failure.
The Right to Peace provides a unifying framework for the growing body of treaty law that subordinates the state to its people. It has much in common with another effort at synthesis, a doctrine promoted by the UN Secretariat called Responsibility to Protect. But Responsibility to Protect is focused on averting the most serious crimes. By contrast, peace is a continuum. There is no threshold for minor failings. The Right to Peace means each state must always do its best. Oppression, exclusion, and impoverishment all compromise peace.
Peace so defined is a right for people and a duty of states. The Santiago Declaration sets out specific implications of the right to peace. Several of the declaration’s clauses mean trouble for our exceptional American state.
Article 2: People have a right to education that embeds peace in their culture, and helps them resolve conflicts. This provision is a straight forward affirmation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 26 (2). The disruptive impact of this demand is fairly clear.
This is the land of Columbine and Virginia Tech, where massacre is practically an intramural sport. Competence in peacemaking would be something of a wrench here too, where conflict resolution is the purview of jack-booted school police who reprove their errant charges with handcuffs and Tasers, and of the paramilitary commandos who besieged a school in the war on tasteless bathroom pranks. When the yellow school bus lets them out under the protective wing of the No Passing sign, our men in blue shoot them dead. Yet it’s not all strictness and discipline. For tiny tots there are exciting helicopter visits from the National Guard for sanitized war play (we don’t make them play at pulping their little Pakistani pen pals from drones, not until they’re older.)
Extracurricular brutality aside, peace as a subject of inquiry is suspect here. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a standardized course of study for the children of the international technocratic elite. It covers science, math, and the humanities. Despite its suspicious foreign provenance, the IB’s comprehensive rigor won the endorsement of the rock-ribbed jingoes of George W. Bush’s Education Department. The IB is an optional curriculum for No Child Left Behind. Today US schools conduct more than 1,300 IB programs, more than any other country. But the coursework includes subversive matter such as human rights and peace. In Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Utah, and even in the shadow of the imperial capital, Fairfax County, Virginia, the IB has come under attack.
The IB is not Judeo-Christian enough for Pennsylvania youth. Or it’s anti-American. Or Marxist. So say a slate of school board crackpots pledged to defend American values against their pupils’ desire to get into a decent college. In the Republican gentile-Chełm of Fairfax, Virginia, the IB stands accused of encouraging “disarmament, socialism and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty.” Peace and conflict studies were a particular sticking point, though experimental science also rankled. The Fairfax cosmopolites smelled international conspiracy in the IB’s fancy foreign books. In a woebegone town in Minnesota, parents fear the IB will suborn all the above-average children to atheism and one-world government.
In their struggle against popular demand, canny nativists have learned to attack the IB in technocratic terms. The Pennsylvania board took issue with the higher indirect costs of the small classes enjoyed by the ambitious minority. IB courses don’t pack their classrooms tight enough, it seems. Utah eccentric Margaret Dayton slashed IB funding out of a hazy sense that it was Not Invented Here (and to be fair, it does slight indigenous local traditions such as polygamy and messianic cults.) The problem is, she says, America is special. It needs special education.
Factional strife in provincial backwaters has confined peace education to more cosmopolitan cultural centers. The philosophical underpinning of peace has become one more class marker to stratify our society. A grounding in rule of law and world-standard governance is most sought after in exclusive private schools and in the segregated districts of the dominant class. The privileged students who learn it are absorbed into the ruling elite, where they can use peace as our government intended, as a weapon to attack other countries and justify our wars. The masses remain largely insulated from subversive ideas about social justice, dignity or development.
As a result, it falls to civil society to inculcate a culture of peace. UFPJ stresses education for its organizing cadres. The International Congress on the Human Right to Peace has drawn religious organizations into a consultation process. Armed with the Right to Peace, these sects can ground the sentimental notion of peace in dispassionate rights and rule of law. The result is a well-established threat to the state, the sort of thing that got the old-time Christians crucified. In Latin America, US clients exterminated bumptious exponents of liberation theology for decades. When the Berlin Wall fell, we let freedom ring with a mass murder of Salvadoran clergy by assassins we trained at Fort Bragg. Just this year in US satellite Colombia, unknown assailants bagged us six priests. The Week of Peace had just ended when they chopped the last one up. Inside America, repression is somewhat less straight forward.
Other articles are also problematic. Take Article 3: People must have freedom from fear and want. States must protect you from violence or threat of any kind. You cannot be reduced to desperation. This is pure old-time Americana. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”
Or take Article 4: Our right to peace entails development, including freedom from unjust debt, and release from the sort of unfair order that leads to poverty and exclusion. We have a right to environmental safety, free from weapons that damage the earth.
Or Article 6: You must be permitted to resist oppression by breach of law or rights. War propaganda is prohibited – no more indoctrination in the glory or necessity of war.
Security, development, and freedom are always just around the corner. Our state is beavering away for peace, we’re told, but we can’t have it yet. The ill-will of a few dozen mad bombers on the other side of the world requires a globe-girdling police state, Soviet-style secret law, automated blanket surveillance, and abject deference to arbitrary authority. Resistance to war and oppression must be punished as a threat to our existence. So freedom from fear is a luxury we can’t afford.
As for freedom from want, don’t even think it. We’re tapped out, having gone deeper into debt to give bankers several trillion. The bankers needed it, you see, they ran their firms into the ground. The bankers took it home, every last trillion, and now you have to pay it back. So social security has to go. Kiss your right to health goodbye. A decent home and living? Maybe someday.
So after paying for the bare necessities of overwhelming, crushing might, a totalitarian police state, and state-sanctioned predatory fraud, there’s no money left for peace. The sheer spendthrift recklessness of putting human security first would ruin this state, which defines itself as anything but peace.
The Santiago Declaration has an answer to that objection. Under Article 7, States must disarm at their people’s demand, and fairly distribute the resources freed for equitable development, poverty reduction, and protection of the vulnerable. States may not delegate their war powers to private institutions.
But don’t the authorities know best? They have secret information. That dodge fails the test of Article 8: You have the right to information, to see war coming and to freely denounce it. States may not manipulate you into backing war. Your peaceful culture must not be suppressed.
When driving us to war in Iraq, the US government relied on suppression of information for a veneer of legitimacy. Its best trick was illegal collusion with its satellite Columbia, which held the UN Presidency at the time. Colombia accepted the IAEA report on Iraqi compliance with disarmament, and immediately turned it over to US officials, who took it home and censored it. US spooks cut out three-quarters of it and came back to pass out bowdlerized pap to an incredulous Security Council. The resulting preparatory fog of war concealed the profiteering that impelled the war and helped Colin Powell’s whoppers pass the laugh test.
To pull this stunt the US government flouted Articles 19 and 20 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR). The CCPR binds our state as treaty law, as we acknowledged when we signed up. It trumps our neo-Soviet secrecy rules. But the CCPR’s sole sanction is shame, and international disgrace was no deterrent to a government bent on war.
So the Santiago Declaration enlists the people to turn over our rogue state’s rocks. As the US went to war in Iraq, whistleblowers and foreign journalists gave the world a glimpse of what our government had to hide. Now independent entities such as Wikileaks help officials maintain their integrity and air the putrefaction of our wars. American activists such as David House risk vindictive prosecution to free our information.
You’d think there ought to be a role here for the authors of Pacem in Terris, with their universal viewpoint, but there is not. Ask the Catholics about cultural suppression. In Vatican doctrine, economic and social rights, the means of life, are as much a part of Catholicism as the right to life. But Catholic institutions and associations in America have been muzzled with respect to those bolshy rights. Perhaps it’s to do with the pyramid of priestly skulls down south. While the Catholic colleges do work of unique value, on UN reform and human rights – real advocacy, not foreign-service Pecksniffery – the laity by and large gets nothing out of human rights but monomaniacal fetus-hugging. The syncretic genius of the universal church makes room for lots of flag worship too. Say what you like about the Catholic Church, they certainly know how to ingratiate themselves with primitive cultures.
Consider Articles 9 and 10: Refugees and emigres must be protected when their human security is threatened. To safeguard their rights, they may participate in public affairs wherever they reside.
These articles would infringe quite drastically on American cultural identity. We love to torture migrants. It’s the national pastime. It keeps us in touch with our genocidal folkways and helps insulate us from the global South’s dangerous ideas.
Under Article 11, victims have a right to know the truth, and a right to justice, including identification and punishment of those responsible, and redress, compensation and reparation. All their rights must be restored. This comes straight from the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, supreme law of the land.
Except… No. America’s Supreme Court3 fears that judicial redress might inhibit our courageous officials from using their authority. Authority here is understood to encompass murder, torture, and the highest crime, criminal aggression. In today’s America, justice is what our executive chooses to do.
Under Article 12, vulnerable groups must be protected. Vulnerable groups include individuals deprived of their liberty – even the bewildered children and dotards swept up in our terror dragnet. American public discourse distinguishes battlefield mayhem from torture as distinct technical problems. The Right to Peace says violence is violence. That includes even our venial violence to helpless captives – beating their hooded faces, gouging their eyes, slitting their genitals, drowning them, freezing them, pulping their flesh, asphyxiating them, leashing them, forcing them to masturbate, or raping them.
This provision really cramps our style. It fails to respect American culture in all its bestial glory. Our anti-terror gulag is run in precise accord with the exemplary domestic penal practices of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which is organized into White Supremacist gangs meting out lethal beatings and rape.
So in each of its aspects, peace rubs our government the wrong way but our ruling class accepts it, as a means to the end of social control. Democratic party placemen tried to channel pacifist ferment for partisan advantage and turn it off for subsequent wars. They were thwarted by the comprehensive demands of the right to peace. Public resentment mounted despite the party’s efforts to silence or deride dissent. Democrats showed they never wanted economic rights with their attacks on social programs. They showed they had no use for civil or political rights when they tightened the grip of the police state. They held the UN Charter in contempt when they tore up their authorizing resolution to topple a sovereign state and render one side defenseless in Libya’s civil war. They came out for state predation and exclusion when they propped up criminal banks that loot wealth worldwide.
When you assert your right to peace, neither party measures up. Voting is a pointless waste of time. The right to peace itself offers much more effective recourse: to disobedience, conscientious objection, denunciation, and non-participation, as set out in Article 5. You have a right to conscientious objection on non-religious UN Charter grounds. You may publicly denounce armaments production or development, and withhold participation. The troops may disobey unlawful orders – and orders without UN authorization are illegal under US law.
Organized groups exercising these rights could paralyze an outlaw state’s war apparat. America’s overwhelming destructive capacity can stand against the world, but not against its people. The requisite repression would bleed this weakened state white. Jihadist terror opened a vein, sapping the nation with a frenzied response of repression, profiteering, and war. As the state lurches toward failure, all opposition becomes a threat. Mounting repression marks a brittle and exhausted state. Consider the state’s torture and degradation of Bradley Manning for allegations that amount to crucial protections of the Santiago Declaration: the human right of disobedience under Article 5(4); and the peoples’ right to information under Article 8(1) and (2). Or take the pressure on Canada to extradite Jeremy Hinzman for exercising his right to conscientious objection under Article 5(3). When presidential candidate Ron Paul objected to US militarism and war, statist media engaged in a concerted campaign to silence him and shunt him aside.
It wouldn’t occur to a provincial like Paul to stand on his rights. Yet taxpayers like Paul who object to the use of their taxes for war would have recourse to Article 5(6): states must provide them with alternatives compatible with peace. Declining to pay taxes to the war machine, that is the A-bomb of peace. Libertarians, like all Americans, are trained to recoil from the UN as an overweening alien authority, but the rules of the so-called New World Order subject states to humans. In America, human rights are strictly diplomatic weapons, used by our state to club disobedient countries. By contrast, the Santiago Declaration uses human rights as intended, to help people resist overreaching states.
War, like peace, takes constant work. The population has to be brutalized every day. The preparatory propaganda for the Iraq war effectively demonized Saddam Hussein with nightmarish tales of torture from captured pilots. This proved to us that Saddam was a cowardly animal. The government knew that when our turn came to be cowardly animals, all loyal Americans would turn on a dime and torment the designated victims. The state maintains our bestiality with human sacrifice by lethal injection. Crowds celebrate each new sacrifice outside the prison, and party activists cheer the death toll in political rallies.
To America’s dominant religious tradition, war is sacred. The right kind of war fulfills the prophecies of the Book of Revelation, lifting a curse, renewing heaven and earth, annihilating unbelievers, and uniting obedient Christians with their god. This is no outcast cult. Its worshipers include leading legislators, presidential candidates, senior special forces staff, and an Air Force hierarchy that coercively proselytizes cadets. Their final battle’s coming: they’ve poured out the sixth bowl. Their enemy is peace. We are the mirror image of Iran, with vulnerable humanists struggling to appease a hostile blood-and-soil theocracy.
Death and suffering, that’s the critical national resource. The state has harnessed them to generate power. Death and suffering power this state. We’re the wasting assets being depleted. But weak nations and powerless peoples have begun to form a sort of cartel. They want to take control of death, constrict supply and raise its price. The Right to Peace is an OPEC for blood.
- Bennis, Phyllis, Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power, Northampton MA, Interlink Publishing Group, 2006, p. 261. [↩]
- Bennis, op. cit., p. 63-67 [↩]
- Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 2087 (2011) Kennedy, J., concurring [↩]