Friday, December 09, 2005

Thank you, windy city!


For release 12/8/05


By Robert C. Koehler

Tribune Media Services

Ever try to shift a paradigm? I salute the brave souls
scattered around the continent - some of them are in
Congress - who are doing just that, who are daring,
right now, to challenge the conventional wisdom of
war and peace at the highest levels at which the game
of geopolitics is played, and are calling for the
establishment of a Cabinet-level Department of Peace.

When long-time correspondent Bill Bhaneja, a senior
research fellow at the University of Ottawa and
retired Canadian diplomat, recently e-mailed me
the proposal he co-authored with Saul Arbess for such
an addition to Canada's government - inspired by
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich's H.R. 3760 - I confess
to a queasy skepticism that such a project was just
too darn idealistic.

Then I thought about bird flu - and George Bush's
wild musings two months ago about combating it
with National Guard troops, that is, by implementing
martial law to enforce quarantines. This from the
man who has "degraded" (in the words of one high-
level health official) the nation's public health
system and underfunded and politicized every branch
of government created to deal with national emergencies.

And it hit me with a jolt: The level of public
awareness is deteriorating. We're now whelping
leaders who haven't got a clue how to deal with
complex social issues except to start shooting at them.
And there's no adequate challenge to this in the media
or from the opposition party, and apparently no public
context big enough even to allow for debate.

For instance, there was Hillary Clinton the other day
telling potential supporters of her run for the
presidency, who I'd wager are against the war by a
large margin, that the United States must "finish
what it started" in Iraq, as though there's a consensus
what, exactly, we started and what "finishing" it would
mean, and how many more deadIraqis and U.S. servicemen
we might expect before we attain our
unarticulated goal.

It was sheer politician-speak, in other words, betraying
no courageous intelligence, no insight that our brutal
occupation might be fueling the insurgency and creating
the terrorists we're obliged to keeping fighting. But
the media have already pegged Hillary a frontrunner,
which means they're condemning America's anti-war majority,
once again, to a campaign season without a presidential
candidate who represents their ardent hopes.

This is intolerable. This is why I support and heartily
endorse what is, in fact, a global movement to raise
awareness by challenging the blood-myths of the nation-
state and the inevitability of war, and the geopolitical
canard extraordinaire that high-tech, high-kill, earth-
poisoning modern wars have any chance of achieving
controllable ends and do not spew incalculable suffering
and future wars in their wake.

"What we seek," write Bhaneja and Arbess, "is a world in
which peaceful relations between states are a systematically
pursued norm and that the numerous non-aggression pacts
between states become treaties of mutual support and
collaboration. We envision a world in which a positive
peace prevails as projected most recently in the U.N.
International Decade for a Culture of Peace (2001-2010)
Programme of Action."

The establishment of a peace academy, the training of
peace workers, the promotion of nonviolent conflict
resolution at every level of human interaction -
there's no reason why such projects should be nothing
more than the flickering dreams of protestors at
candlelight vigils. There's no reason why they should
not be the business of government. I have no doubt
whatsoever that the public is ready to move beyond
the barbarism history has bequeathed us, and would do
so in an eye blink if enough respected voices said,
"Now is the time." And respected voices are saying
this, if only we could hear them.
"What is quite clear - and would become clear as you
go along with this campaign - is that you are trying,
and I consider myself with you on this in every way . . .
(to create) not only a massive but a basic change in
our culture, in our entire approach to our relationships
with other human beings. . . . It's not a matter of simply
getting another department of government. You're speaking
of an entire philosophical revolution."

This is Walter Cronkite, in conversation with Kucinich last
September at a Department of Peace conference in Washington,
D.C. Kucinich, the hero of this movement, first introduced
Department of Peace legislation in 2001. The bill now has
some 60 sponsors in theHouse and, in September, was
introduced in the Senate (S. 1756) by Mark Dayton of Minnesota.

The architects of the war on terror have minds stuck in old
paradigms of domination and conquest. Their enemy is always
the same:Evil Incarnate. Today's jihadist was yesterday's
Communist, playing the same game of dominos.

This war is doomed to create nothing but losers, and more
and more people - including many who are in or close to
the military, such as Jack Murtha - are grasping this.
As they wake up, the Department of Peace will be waiting for them.

- - -

Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist,
is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally
syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at or visit his Web site at