Pacifism and the Congo Dilemma

From the War Resisters League’s Judith Mahoney Paster­nak, “an hon­est look at the chal­lenge paci­fism faces in places like the Congo”:www.warresisters.org/nva0703-1.htm:
bq. There are those who chal­lenge the paci­fist posi­tion with such ques­tions as, “A man with a gun is aim­ing it at your moth­er. You have a gun in your hand. What non­vi­o­lent action do you take?” Our usu­al answer is, “I’m a paci­fist. I don’t have a gun in my hand. Next ques­tion.” But at least once in every gen­er­a­tion — more fre­quent­ly, alas, in these violence-ridden years — the chal­lenge is a hard­er one to shrug off with a flip answer.
The answer of course is to stop wars before they start, by stop­ping the arms trade, the dic­ta­tor­ships, and the crush­ing eco­nom­ic reforms demand­ed by West­ern banks _before_ these forces all com­bine and erupt into war. Paster­nak out­lines four parts to a blue­print that could end much of the vio­lence in the Congo.
I’ve always been impressed that the folks at War Resisters are will­ing to talk about the lim­its of non­vi­o­lence (see David McReynolds seven-part “Phi­los­o­phy of Nonviolence”:www.nonviolence.org/issues/philosophy-nonviolence.php). While war is nev­er the only option (and arguably nev­er the best one), it’s much more effec­tive to stop wars ten years before the bul­lets start fly­ing. In each of the wars the U.S. has fought recent­ly, we can see past U.S. poli­cies set­ting up the con­flict ten, twen­ty and thir­ty years ago.
The largest peace march­es in the world can rarely pre­vent a war once the troops ships have set sail. If U.S. pol­i­cy and aid hadn’t sup­port­ed the “wrong” side in Iraq and Afghanistan twen­ty years ago, I don’t think we would have fought these cur­rent wars. Paci­fists and their kin need to start ask­ing the tough ques­tions about the cur­rent repres­sive regimes the U.S. is sup­port­ing – places like Sau­di Ara­bia and Pak­istan – and we need to demand that build­ing democ­ra­cy is our country’s num­ber one goal in the Iraq and Afghanistan occu­pa­tions (yes, pri­or­i­tize it _over_ secu­ri­ty, so that we “don’t replace Sad­dam Hus­sein with equal­ly repres­sive thugs”:www.nonviolence.org/articles/000130.php.

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