Fighting War.

An essay for Quaker-B


Simon Grant wrote:
"... part of The Guardian's readership buys doom-mongering. ... I don't think a fatalistic attitude gets us anywhere. Surely a classic Quaker virtue has been ... a commitment to doing something about the situation as it exists and evolves."

MY RESPONSE: As a Guardian reader this makes me feel rather defensive. Surely one needs to be aware of the reality of current affairs if one is to do something about the situation. Currently world affairs are indeed gloomy and depressing. But that's not a reason for giving up the Guardian and cheering oneself up by reading Rees Mogg in The Times.

Simon also writes:

"... our greatest failing has been
the failure to produce a practical, credible alternative to
invasion. .... Could we offer our collective historical insights, as well as new light that may occur to us now, more
effectively to people in the Middle East? "

It seems to me that our problem is that what as Quakers propose are not seen as practical and credible. We would say leave the observers and inspectors to do their work, send in many more of them. Bring aid, be nice to people the media paint as nasty. And we would advocate patience, quoting the many regimes that have crumbled, often long before anticipated. (An Iraqi woman said that had they not been half starved by sanctions they might have been able to topple Saddam.)

The militarists and populist politicians and media offer a more dramatic solution, a quick campaign, shock and awe, horrendous bombs, 'the beauty of war', and make light of any possible collateral damage. Perhaps one way to shift opinion is to keep reiterating the true effects of war. Not just saying we oppose all war but graphically illustrating its effects. Perhaps we should start an advertising campaign intended to shock, like the one against drink driving, showing with as much brutal detail as would be allowed the true horrors of war.

At present we British are in the camp of the warmongers. We need to witness to our media and government, and offer support to the very considerable peace movement in the USA.

At present it seems to me that the next international political battle is going to be over Palestine. Will the warlords, the Isreali and US regimes, be allowed to continue to make false promises while seeking brutally to subdue the Palestinians?

For all its faults, the USA is a democracy. For instance its support for Isreal is due to mainly electoral pressure by lobbyists. We need to help build another pressure group to persuade our government to pay off some of its moral debt by standing up for peace and justice on this occasion, rather than simply supporting the Bush regime. I am very glad that Britain YM is making a special effort on this.

There are many Americans, and Israelis, in the peace movement. And there is a blossoming of groups (including Jews) seeking spiritual common ground - the "Perennial Philosophy". Perhaps the "new light that may occur to us now" that Simon seeks is our opportunity to act as catalyst and a bridge between these groups and British peace-lovers.

Stephen Petter
Bristol & Frenchay MM
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