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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, February 16, 2003
    Opposing War Is Good, But Not Good Enough
    On the back foot after yesterdayÕs peopleÕs show, Labour Chairman Dr John Reid has today pulled out the old slur that pacifism equals passivity: Òtaking no action against Saddam Hussein would signify a failure,Ó he said. And John Prescott said: "History teaches us that actions against humanity by evil people in defiance of international law cannot always be stopped by persuasion, by intellectual appeal, by economic sanctions or even dire threat."

    They can, however, be stopped by the application of international law, by popular opposition movements, by the use of dissenting media and other nonviolent means of undermining repressive regimes, all of which could be supported by Western governments with a bit of will and wit, in the present crisis.

    All this is pointed out by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall in an excellent article, With Weapons of the Will: How to topple Saddam Hussein - nonviolently. It is also supported by Falch A. Jabar who writes, Opposing War Is Good, But Not Good Enough. ÒGetting rid of the Ba'th regime in Iraq has been the cause of my life for almost a quarter of a century,Ó he writes, offering an analysis of the present situation rare in its insight, balance and, ultimately, positive nonviolent solution. This involves moves which will turn the 'ruling class-clan' against their leader:
      a) threatening Saddam with indictment;
      (b) giving him an alternative for safe passage at the same time;
      (c) sending a list of thirty or so of his aides who are persona non grata and demand that they leave the country with him;
      (d) encouraging this class-clan to oust Saddam into exile.Ó
    Plenty more where that came from. The short answer to the likes of Reid and Prescott today, is that pacifism doesnÕt equal passivity - that there are plenty of good, workable ideas around for taking action against Saddam Hussein whilst not failing the ordinary people of Iraq, the Kurds and the world community as a whole.

    Much of this has come from another excellent Sojourners initiaitive, just launched. TheyÕre calling it A National Teach-In on the War on Iraq. As part of their ongoing effort to offer creative nonviolent alternatives to war, they are organizing a series of teach-ins at colleges and in local communities through the week of February 24-28:
      A teach-in is an informational gathering designed to help individuals better understand particular issues of public interest. Students will explore complex issues surrounding the planned war on Iraq:

      Can Saddam Hussein be disarmed without war?
      What role can nonviolence play in bringing justice and democracy to the region?
      What are the real reasons for the rush to war?
      Will war lessen - or increase - the threat of terrorism in this country?
      What role should Christians and other people of faith play in efforts to stop the war?
      Are there alternatives to war?
    Sojourners invite us to organize a teach-in in our own places. UK included, I'd suggest - it seems a very good idea. But even if that wonÕt happen, itÕs still worth downloading the complete organizers' packet and related articles at Sojonet. ThatÕs where the earlier quotes came from, and this one from Walter Wink, which may give teeth to those back from Hyde Park wondering today if itÕs been at all worth it:
      ÒI donÕt see myself as a pacifist. I see myself rather as a violent person trying to become nonviolent.Ó