Saturday, December 23, 2006

Religion, Capitalism, Violence, Oh my!

Pacem in Terris


Almost every Christmas song out there usually as a few lines talking about peace on earth. For example, "Hark! The herald angels sing, glory to the new born king. Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconcilded!"

Its very beautiful, and nice, because everyone sings about peace on earth and goodwill towards men. Im sure everyone means it their own way. Everyone wants peace, but they want it on their terms. Even the most brutal monster in history, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, etc. all wanted peace on earth. However they had a specific ideas about what that peace would look like.

Which is why I believe the President when he says he does not like war and wishes for peace. Im sure he very much does. But he qualifies that with stating that we need to "acheive victory". Meaning like all leaders, he would prefer peace over war; but will use war if he cannot get his way.


Which brings me to the most important question of the season: When we say Peace on Earth, what does that mean?

The question was addressed some years ago, after the Second World War. Im not a great fan of the speaker but this is one of my favorite speeches of the 20th century. The topic of his speech was, in his words, "the most important topic on earth: peace.

"What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time...

"I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary, rational end of rational men. I realize the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war, and frequently the words of the pursuers fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.

"First examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again. I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal."

Two years before this speech was delivered, the United States had invaded Cuba, but failed to overthrow Fidel Castro. A year later, the Soviet Union was installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. What ensued is referred to as "the most dangerous moment in the history of the world." 40 years later it was revealed just how close we came to the end of the world. A Soviet submarine was being blocked by US ships from reaching Cuba. The three officers on board had been given the authority from Moscow, if all three agreed, to launch a nuclear attack. Two agreed, one did not. Robert Macnamara (Sec of Defense) admitted in 2002 that "
"a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world."

Vasili Arkhipov saved the world from two men, John Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev. We can only wonder how they felt after the crisis ended, realizing that they literally came to the brink of nuclear war.

Said Kennedy a year later, in the speech I quoted from above, "We must rexamine our attitudes toward the Soviet Union." It was the height of the Cold War, and for 15 years Americans had been bombarded with propaganda to hate and fear the Soviets with all their might. Then Kennedy realized, after he came close to doing so, that the idea of war with the Soviets was insane. So he appealed to the compassion of the American people toward the evil empire of the Soveit Union:

"No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue...And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union in the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and families were burned or sacked. A third of the nation's territory, including two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland -- a loss equivalent to the destruction of this country east of Chicago."

It was a turning point in that the US and USSR had been preparing for, and fully expecting, war with eachother from the late 1940's until the Cuban Missile Crisis. But they realized the stakes (world destruction) were too high. It stopped being a real question anymore. The Cold War continued until 1989, but what stopped in 1962 was the expectation of an actual war between the two.


Did it really take that much to stop a war? Two leaders; ignorant, cowardice, shamefully allowing domestic pressures to overcome their integrity and nearly destroy the world?

Today the U.S. is in crisis. We are at war in the Middle East. We illegally invaded a sovereign nation, and for almost four years now we have been destroying that country, helplessly trying to fight illusive insurgents as 600,000 Iraqis die in the process. Meanwhile, the US announced intentions to build a massive fleet off the coast of Iran. Plans for the "Missile Defense Shield", which is an offensive weapons system aimed at Russia and China, continue at pace. Russia and China have reacted by massively increasing their military force, most importantly increasing missiles aimed at the US.

And all the while, the threat of terrorist attack by Islamic extremists grows more likely by the day. The United States continues killing Iraqis, threatening Iran, allowing its Israeli client state to brutalize the Palestinian people, and staunchly defends the most oppressive and tolitarian state in the world, Saudi Arabia. All across the region, the people are oppressed by dictators, which we refer to as "Kings" and "Presidents". And everyday, among the oppressed, more people fall into the lowest depths of evil, on par with the US/Israeli/Arab governments, and join the ranks of terrorist organizations. When they attack, the President announces they hate our freedom, then sends fighter jets to massacre innocent people.

And in the new Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand and Seven, the President has announced, the United States will dramatically escalate the war in Iraq, bringing a "surge" of violence upon the country, in order to acheive victory.

Christmas Wishes

The reason I speak of the Middle East, is that it is, in President Eisehower's words, "the most strategically important area of the world." It is because of its dominant resource, oil. It is not, nor has it ever been, for the United States to take the oil for itself. But it has, and one can read the declassified record planning this, been to control the region, through client states, who will, among other things, follow US orders such as raising or lowering the price of oil.

And that is because for most of the industrial world, Middle Eastern oil is the single most important resource their country uses. Europe and Japan get 99% of their oil from that region. The State Department declared that control o that oil gives the US a "veto power" over Europe and Japan. Which is why the US government in 1945 declared the oil of the region to be "a stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."

I hope for the United States to leave the region, permanently, unless welcomed there by a legitimate government. I wish for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to end, immediately. Both sides suffer enormously. In a perfect world, the Jews and Muslims could live together in a single, bi-national state. But as that seems unlikely, the Israelis must end their occupation of Palestinian land.

And the United States must make peace with all countries in the region. Contraty to state propaganda, countries like Iran and Syria do not seek confrontation with us. Indeed they both fear us. They would certainly love to make peace with the United States. Our fundamental goal should be a world where people are not denied their rights, the most fundamental of which, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

In that peace, and security, for the people of the Middle East, we can hope that progress and reforms will take place on their own. History has shown, almost without exception, that is the only way lasting and meaningful changes can take place. Then real, meaningful peace and progress can come. The people of the Middle East, including Israeli's, can come together with the people of the United States and work to solve our differences without threats of war and destruction looming over us.

"For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal."

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