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Vol. XVII, No.2 Winter, 2003


Letter From Joanne Landy, Thomas Harrison, Jennifer Scarlott, Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy



We oppose the impending U.S.-led war on Iraq, which threatens to inflict vast suffering and destruction, while exacerbating rather than resolving threats to regional and global peace. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who should be removed from power, both for the good of the Iraqi people and for the security of neighboring countries. However, it is up to the Iraqi people themselves to oust Saddam Hussein, dismantle his police state regime, and democratize their country. People in the United States can be of immense help in this effort--not by supporting military intervention, but by building a strong peace movement and working to ensure that our government pursues a consistently democratic and just foreign policy.

We do not believe that the goal of the approaching war against Iraq is to bring democracy to the Iraqis, nor that it will produce this result. Instead, the Bush Administration's aim is to expand and solidify U.S. predominance in the Middle East, at the cost of tens of thousands of civilian lives if necessary. This war is about U.S. political, military and economic power, about seizing control of oil fields and about strengthening the United States as the enforcer of an inhumane global status quo. That is why we are opposed to war against Iraq, whether waged unilaterally by Washington or by the UN Security Council, unaccountable to the UN General Assembly and bullied and bribed into endorsing the war.

The U.S. military may have the ability to destroy Saddam Hussein, but the United States cannot promote democracy in the Muslim world and peace in the Middle East, nor can it deal with the threat posed to all of us by terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda, and by weapons of mass destruction, by pursuing its current policies. Indeed, the U.S. could address these problems only by doing the opposite of what it is doing today -- that is, by:

-Renouncing the use of military intervention to extend and consolidate U.S. imperial power, and withdrawing U.S. troops from the Middle East.-
Ending its support for corrupt and authoritarian regimes, e.g. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Egypt.
-Opposing, and ending U.S. complicity in, all forms of terrorism worldwide -- not just by Al Qaeda, Palestinian suicide bombers and Chechen hostage takers, but also by Colombian paramilitaries, the Israeli military in the Occupied Territories and Russian counterinsurgency forces in Chechnya.-
Ending the cruel sanctions on Iraq, which inflict massive harm on the civilian population.
-Supporting the right of national self-determination for all peoples in the Middle East, including the Kurds, Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Ending one-sided support for Israel in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
-Taking unilateral steps toward renouncing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and vigorously promoting international disarmament treaties.
-Abandoning IMF/World Bank economic policies that bring mass misery to people in large parts of the world. Initiating a major foreign aid program directed at popular rather than corporate needs.

A U.S. government that carried out these policies would be in a position to honestly and consistently foster democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere. It could encourage democratic forces (not unrepresentative cliques, but genuinely popular parties and movements) in Iraq, Iran and Syria, as well as Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Turkey. Some of these forces exist today, others have yet to arise, but all would flower if nurtured by a new U.S. foreign policy.

These initiatives, taken together, would constitute a truly democratic foreign policy. Only such a policy could begin to reverse the mistrust and outright hatred felt by so much of the world's population toward the U.S. At the same time, it would weaken the power of dictatorships and the appeal of terrorism and reactionary religious fundamentalism. Though nothing the United States can do would decisively undermine these elements right away, over time a new U.S. foreign policy would drastically undercut their power and influence.

The Administration's frantic and flagrantly dishonest efforts to portray Saddam Hussein as an imminent military threat to people in this country and to the inhabitants of other Middle Eastern countries lack credibility. Saddam Hussein is a killer and serial aggressor who would doubtless like nothing better than to wreak vengeance on the U.S. and to dominate the Gulf Region. But there is no reason to believe he is suicidal or insane. Considerable evidence suggests that Saddam Hussein is much weaker militarily than he was before the Gulf War and that he is still some distance from being able to manufacture nuclear weapons. But most important, unlike Al Qaeda, he has a state and a position of power to protect; he knows that any Iraqi act of aggression now against the U.S. or his neighbors would bring about his total destruction. As even CIA Director George Tenet has pointed out, it is precisely the certainty of a war to the finish against his regime that would provide Saddam Hussein with the incentive he now lacks to use whatever weapons he has against the U.S. and its allies.

Weapons of mass destruction endanger us all and must be eliminated. But a war against Iraq is not the answer. War threatens massive harm to Iraqi civilians, will add to the ranks of terrorists throughout the Muslim world, and will encourage international bullies to pursue further acts of aggression. Everyone is legitimately concerned about terrorism; however, the path to genuine security involves promoting democracy, social justice and respect for the right of self-determination, along with disarmament, weapons-free-zones, and inspections. Of all the countries in the world, the United States possesses by far the most powerful arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. If the U.S. were to initiate a democratic foreign policy and take serious steps toward disarmament, it would be able to encourage global disarmament as well as regional demilitarization in the Middle East.

The Bush Administration has used the alleged Iraqi military danger to justify an alarming new doctrine of preemptive war. In the National Security Strategy, publicly released on September 20, 2002, the Bush Administration asserted that the U.S. has the right to attack any country that might be a potential threat, not merely in response to an act of military aggression. Much of the world sees this doctrine for what it is: the proclamation of an undisguised U.S. global imperium.

Ordinary Iraqis, and people everywhere, need to know that there is another America, made up of those who both recognize the urgent need for democratic change in the Middle East and reject our government's militaristic and imperial foreign policy. By signing this statement we declare our intention to work for a new democratic U.S. foreign policy. That means helping to rein in the war-makers and building the most powerful antiwar movement possible, and at the same time forging links of solidarity and concrete support for democratic forces in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

We refuse to accept the inevitability of war on Iraq despite the enormous military juggernaut that has been put in place, and we declare our commitment to work with others in this country and abroad to avert it. And if war should start, we will do all in our power to end it immediately.

[People wishing to sign the statement or donate to help disseminate it can contact Campaign for Peace and Democracy, POB 630245, Bronx, NY 10463, A two-page ad with the names of the signers appeared in the issue of The Nation mailed out on December 18 (cover date 1/6/03). The list of signers will be updated periodically on the ZNet site]

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We have assembled in New York City on November 10, 2002 to declare that as Veterans who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States, we are gravely concerned about the course the Bush administration is forcing on our country and the world.

We are especially alarmed at their relentless drive for war with Iraq. We believe the cause of world peace and security is best served through international cooperation and by sending United Nations inspectors back to Iraq, not by saber rattling and threats of a unilateral US military attack. We are opposed to an invasion of Iraq.

We also declare that the misnamed "USA Patriot Act" represents a serious threat to the fundamental civil liberties and freedoms that we swore to protect and defend. We call for a repeal of this legislation, for an end to blanket roundups and detentions targeting Muslim communities and for a restriction on excessive police powers aimed at silencing dissent.

We are patriots who have stood in defense of this country. We have a right and a duty to speak out. We will not remain silent while our rights are undermined and the threat of endless war looms. We are committed to this struggle for peace, justice and freedom and we appeal to our fellow citizens and elected representatives to speak up and act before it is too late.

This statement was adopted unanimously at a meeting of 175 veterans held the day before Veterans Day 2002 at the Local 1199 SEIU hall in Manhattan. The meeting was sponsored by the Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Black Veterans for Social Justice and Military Families Network.

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Missing the Messages: While media experts are preoccupied with the analysis of Bin Laden's voice, they have completely failed to understand, or even read the actual words. Speculation about hidden meanings and clues totally ignores the obvious intended message, which is so clear that it does not even need decoding. Wild speculation of meaning is based more on imagination and fear than expertise.

Because of the hate and fear evoked by Osama, because we were so traumatized by him, we automatically block what he is communicating, making dangerous assumptions about what we imagine he means. The image of the enemy generates a powerful emotional charge that interferes with accurate perception.

Let's try to make sense out of this and not let emotions cloud our thinking. Let's not make the immature assumption that accurately understanding the enemy is somehow unpatriotic. When being threatened, understanding the psychology of the enemy is a matter of life and death.

The Messages: We have received three clear messages from Bin Laden in the last year, on November 11, 2001, October 6, 2002, and November 12, 2002. All are credible and plausible and make psychological sense. They have all been grossly misinterpreted.

As a clinical and political psychologist, I consider these communications to be contain information vital to our survival. Just because Bin Laden is our arch enemy, it does not follow that we should not take his communications seriously, or accurately.

While President Bush said on November 13 that he intended to take these messages seriously, his interpretation is incorrect, in fact, it is the opposite of the true meaning. Bush suggested that these messages mean that we have to go to war. In fact they mean that if we do go to war we will provoke a chain reaction of terrorist attacks that would not occur if we do not go to war. Our own CIA, as well political psychologists, terrorism experts, Middle East analysts, and social psychologists including Dr. Phil Zimbardo, president of the American Psychological Association, expert on violence , speaker on the psychology of evil all agree that going to war will increase terrorism globally.

Bin Laden's messages are always interpreted as unconditional threats and intentions of plans to attack.  They are not. The consistent theme in all messages, said in many ways, is a conditional warning that whatever we do, they will respond in kind. It is entirely credible. What is missed, whether intentionally or unconsciously, is the conditionality - the centrality of our role in provoking retaliation, and our potential role in preventing retaliation, reducing tension, and reducing terrorism.

Some of the quotes are listed below. They all say that our actions will determine their actions. Politicians and the media often respond to the first half of a sentence without reading the second part. In fact, many news stories have based entire commentaries on fragments taken out of context, which is irresponsible and dangerous, We misread them at our own peril.

In general, the media's responses promote an exaggerated sense of impending threats that have the effect of increasing fear and passivity. They ignore information about ways that we can behave that will reduce these threats. We should wonder why these parts are left out.

Here are some quotes that were not reported in full or interpreted accurately:

*November 11, 2001 Bin Laden said that he had nuclear weapons, but he would not use them unless we used them first. Bin Laden said that he was holding them as a deterrent, and said that if the US used them, then he would reserve the right to use them in retaliation.

*Sun Oct 6, 2002. "By God, the youths of God are preparing for you things that would fill your hearts with terror and target your economic lifeline until you stop your oppression and aggression" against Muslims, said the voice in the audiotape. (All reports said that he was threatening our economic lifeline, and was planning an action soon, leaving out the second half of the sentence).

"So let America increase the pace of this conflict or decrease it, and we will respond in kind."

*November 12, 2002 'It is time we get even,'' says the voice. ''You will be killed just as you kill, and will be bombed just as you bomb. And expect more that will further distress you.''

Osama also suggested that he will attack other countries who cooperate with us. This is totally predictable, as multilateral action would increase the number of targets for retaliation, and would still provoke hatred of the U.S. for leading the coalition.

Preventing Retaliation
We are on the verge of going to war in the name of preventing a threat. The reasons given for going to war, the fantasy of a preemptive strike, a term used incorrectly. It is, in fact, a provocative strike. This war will unleash a cascade of unintended consequences, including a massive Jihad against the US. It is entirely likely that terrorist attacks are planned to be carried out once we start the war.

Terrorism is a form of asymmetrical warfare. There is no amount of domination that cannot be turned against us, as we saw on September 11. Counter-terrorism - trying to physically get rid of terrorists ­ can never work. It is treating the symptom but not the cause. It creates more terrorism while trying to eliminate it. Our attacks on Al Qaida in Afghanistan caused them to decentralize to other locations and increased recruitment, making them harder to find. There is no end game to counter­terrorism. The only way to reduce terrorism is to address the root causes and to transform our use of our power in the world. (For a deeper analysis of this see my chapter, "Intersubjective Dimensions of Terrorism and Its transcendence" in Volume 1, The Psychology of Terrorism, Chris Stout, Editor).

The connection between Iraq and Al Qaida is one created by us, we are driving them into each other's arms. Osama has said that if we invade Iraq, he will respond in kind, he will bomb, he will killŠ. if we do. If we don't he won't. There is every reason to believe him.

History is filled with military blunders. If we go war, it will be a megablunder. With asymmetrical warfare and weapons of mass destruction the consequences will likely be beyond anything we have ever seen.

The misinterpretation of Osama's message supports the irrational drive towards war. By exaggerating the threat and censoring the message of the conditionality of violence, we collude with the forces that promise permanent world war. We are blinded from seeing our way out of this escalating spiral of retaliation.

We have an opportunity to avert disaster. We need to see and hear clearly and accurately, even messages from our most hated villains. If we go to war we are likely to create more Sadaams and Osamas who will crop up in ten years. The stakes are as high as can be.

It will take major miracles to prevent this war, but we can start with consciousness.

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Jerusalem (Musrara), Winter 2002-2003

Dear Friends,

AIKIDO. Our mission is to transform how the world deals with conflict ­ away from adversarial approaches to cooperative solutions. In perilous times like these, my colleagues and I are often impatient and yearn for peaceful outcomes to the problems that are tearing apart the planet. We understand, however, that we are a relatively small organization and lack the direct power to reverse the course of current events. If we were to take a confrontational stance, we would be acting like boxers who use their fists to try to knock opponents backwards by 180 degrees. This is not who we are. Rather, we follow a strategy rooted in the Japanese martial art of aikido. So, when we face an opposing force ­ whether an attacker or a violent conflict ­ we accept the force as a given. We blend with it and, in the process, try to shift it 15 or 20 degrees in order to create a new situation, in which everyone is safe. Thus, aikido provides a metaphor for the way we do our work. In effect, we practice societal aikido.

For example, in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, we carry out activities aimed at deflecting the violence in non violent directions. As much as we would like to end the violence now, we lack the ability. But if we remain well grounded and have a solid place to stand, then we believe we can help shift things toward negotiations and peace. Thus, we work with Palestinians and Israelis to try to make non-violent action into the prevailing norm. Here is what we are doing, with funding from the Danish, Dutch, Finnish, UK, and US governments, the European Union, the Ploughshares Fund, and the Arca, Compton, and New Land Foundations.

Polling: In August, we commissioned Palestinian and Israeli polling organizations to determine attitudes toward non violence on both sides. The polls attracted much attention, and we are releasing a second poll this December.

A Force More Powerful: Last spring we arranged for Palestinian independent TV stations to broadcast this six-part PBS series on non-violence. The stations are re-broadcasting the series in late 2002, accompanied by panel discussions.

NGOs: We work with the Academy for Educational Development to support Palestinian NGOs in promoting non-violence and democracy.

Women & Non-Violence. In partnership with the Truman Institute of the Hebrew University and Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy (MEND), we sponsor eight Israeli and eight Palestinian women in exploring non violent approaches to conflict resolution and assisting them in developing training capabilities.

CGNews: Our Common Ground News Service has distributed numerous articles on non-violence, including a series of ten that we commissioned. These articles have been widely reprinted in the Arabic, Hebrew, and English-language media.

Regional Cooperation: In addition to our work with Palestinians and Israelis, we have been engaged for 11 years in promoting cooperation across the region. Using aikido, we try to shift Middle Easterners, away from confronting each other as the enemy, to standing side-by-side and facing shared problems. For instance, in October in Istanbul, with funding from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, we convened Egyptian, Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian health professionals to promote cooperation on infectious disease surveillance. Participants, both governmental and non governmental, agreed that, despite the bleak political situation, they should work together to limit disease outbreaks, whether natural or caused by biological attack. As a participant noted, "Viruses do not stop at checkpoints."

Infectious Spirit: Participants decided to establish a new entity, called the Middle East Consortium on Infectious Disease Surveillance (MECIDS), for which we will provide staff support. The aim is to develop and harmonize regional methods for detection, reporting, processing, and data collection. The group decided to begin cooperative projects immediately on food-borne diseases and the West Nile virus. The atmosphere in the meeting was "more than exciting," according to an Israeli public health specialist. A Palestinian microbiologist said, "I expected more difficulty in finding common ground. People were professional around the table. We are one epidemiological family ­ brothers and sisters in blood."

As discouraging as events are in the Middle East, we work in other places where there is good news. In Angola, for example, four decades of war finally seem to have ended. We started our Angola program in 1996, and we chose to continue even after a previous peace process collapsed. Our view is that peace-making and peace-building are long-term processes; that setbacks are inevitable; and that we need to keep alive what ABC-TV's Ted Koppel has called our "voice of hope." So, with funds from the Belgian, British, Dutch, and Swiss governments, the European Union, and the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, we carry out the following activities in Angola:

Media: We have produced a TV series, three radio soap opera series, theater performances, and the Angolan Peace Song. All projects are aimed at a mass audience and advance such themes as peace is possible; peace begins with me; and individuals can make a difference.

Refugees: We sponsor training in conflict resolution and collaborative problem-solving. In addition, we use live drama to reach thousands of internally displaced people (IDP).

Peace and Security. This project, headed by a former elite commando officer, provides police and military forces with training in conflict resolution and community policing.

Kofi Annan: In August, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan visited Angola, and we were proud to welcome him to an IDP camp where one of our theater troupes performed for him.

VISION-BASED GIVING. While we are fortunate to have the support of many committed, generous donors, we have never made a systematic effort to seek out such people. Yet, individual contributions provide us with the flexibility to begin new projects and respond to urgent needs. They become the start-up funds that enable us to leverage large-scale grants. We particularly value individual donors who contribute because they share our vision. We would very much like ­ and could usefully spend ­ a much higher level of individual contributions. For example, we have started an ambitious initiative, under the leadership of Carole Frampton, to explore how to expand the common ground approach into a worldwide movement. This is a project that goes well beyond the guidelines normally used by our main funding sources in governments and foundations. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Thank you. With the support of people like you, we have been able to accomplish a great deal in our first 20 years. Please accept our deep gratitude.

With best wishes,
John Marks, President , Search for Common Ground, 1601 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20009 (202)265-4300,,

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These articles and opinions of the authors do not constitute the endorsement of Nonviolent Change nor its publisher, Organization Development Institute, or any of its staff.

©2002, 2003, 2004,2005. All rights reserve. The Nonviolent Change Journal is published by the Research/ActionTeam on Nonviolent Large Systems Change - an interorganizational and international project of The Organization Development Institute.

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