Cordaro, VP, Vol. 28, No. 1, 2004, Time For Nonviolent, Direct Action Campaign p.4
From War to Occupation, Protest to Campaign
IT IS TIME FOR A NONVIOLENT, DIRECT ACTION CAMPAIGN
By Frank Cordaro
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq and a return visit to the STARC Armory, some questions are raised which I offer for thought:
Are the recent wars, now occupations, in Iraq and Afghanistan open-ended, with no exit in sight?
If so, shouldn’t our peacemaking model move from “one reaction demo to the next” to a more sustained campaign of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience?
In Iowa, is not the STARC Armory the best place to maintain a sustained direct action campaign?
Over 4,000 Iowa National Guard personnel have left Iowa to participate in the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations (DM Register Dec. 4, 2003). Every one of those 4,000+ Guard members were federalized and given orders to leave the state through the Iowa National Guard command at the STARC Armory. STARC Armory is the closest thing we have in Iowa to the Pentagon. Because of this, it is a most appropriate and identifiable place for Iowans to lodge their protests regarding the misuse of our National Guard people.
On the subject of war, our hearts and minds are seldom swayed by the brutal facts of the matter alone. Rather, it is the rising cost of war, paid for with the expenditure of human equity and the personal sacrifices of our military personnel, which ultimately raises the collective pro-war consciousness of our communities.
More than 4,000 Iowa National Guard families have sacrificed their sons and daughters, watched them taken from their jobs and family obligations, to risk their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many have been wounded. Some have killed and must carry that onerous experience for life. To this date, 20 Iowans have made the ultimate sacrifice, having lost their lives in this unjust, immoral and illegal US foreign policy adventure.
As peacemakers we need to recognize these sacrifices, then honestly and courageously measure our own efforts accordingly. I am reminded of a quote from Fr. Dan Berrigan, SJ: “Because we want peace with half a heart, half a life and will, the war making continues.. Because the making of war is total- but the making of peace by our cowardice is partial.”
It is during wartime that peacemakers need to take greater risk and make greater sacrifices for peace. If we do not do this, the risk and sacrifices made by the war makers will override our voices for peace. The risks that come with peacemaking are well known – loss of good name, friends, status, property, job, freedom and sometimes life. Nonviolently resisting war is often declared “outlawed behavior”.
We also know that many of our peace and justice heroes have made these same sacrifices throughout history: Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Romero, Dorothy Day, Debs, Mother Jones, Emma Goldman, Jane Adams, Joe Hill and the Wobblies, Nelson Mandela, Saint Francis, Jesus, etc. Many of them were declared outlaws and subversives of their day.
The Sunday, March 21, demonstration at the STARC Armory offers peacemakers in Iowa a unique opportunity to modestly act up, take a minimal risk and make a calculated sacrifice for peace. The tradition of direct action civil disobedience as a means for social change is a well established US tradition. It is one of our richest and most cherished political rights, honored best when practiced.
Surely, if 4,000 Iowans are willing to leave the state and risk their lives to make war, Iowans in the peace movement can find the will to join us at the main gate of STARC Armory on March 21st. Over 400 Iowa National Guard personnel who have been called up for active duty were active college students. They left their classes and schools, families and loved ones to join in our country’s war-making efforts. Are there not 40 Iowa college students who are willing to do this modest act of crossing a property line, risking arrest on a petty misdemeanor charge? The penalty for your efforts will most likely be a couple of days in jail, a fine and possibly some community service hours.
Compared to the sacrifices others are making for the sake of these US-led wars and occupations, especially the sacrifices the Iraqi and Afghan people are forced to endure, the planned direct action for peace at the gate of STARC Armory on March 21st is modestly low risk, yet highly influential.
By establishing a “campaign” at the Armory, we can help bring to public awareness, through expenditure of our own human equity and personal sacrifice, our pro-peace and justice message. Such a message is a much needed voice these days. It is critical that we focus Public attention on the ultimate futility of war as a solution to world problems. War never brings peace. It never has. It never will.
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