Women Must Stand Up For Peace & Security

A deranged soldier, armed with gun and knife, walks off the base into the nearby small town, and massacres 16 people, including 9 children.

No, it’s not the plot of the latest Schwarzenegger movie.

It’s real life in Afghanistan.

Or Oslo, Norway.

Or Homs, Syria.

Or the local high school or university in Anytown, USA.

What happened in Afghanistan this week is part of an ever-escalating pattern of violence visited on innocent civilians by armed men.

Janjaweed

Whether the men are sponsored by a state (ie, they’re soldiers), are part of armed militias (think Taliban or Janjaweed or Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army) or individual “rogue” psychopaths is immaterial to the victims of the violence.

The larger point that must be reckoned with is that we cannot expect to live in a global society dripping with arms and saturated with constant virtual and real instances of violence, and come away unscathed.

Americans are always so shocked when the violence happens in our backyard, as in school shootings or Timothy McVeigh-style bombings or police brutality against unarmed Occupy protesters.

We’re shocked when our soldiers, “our boys,” commit atrocities while serving in the armed forces abroad.

But how can we expect our boys to be immune to the general atmosphere of violence that we all live and breathe—young boys and men in particular?

People like to argue about whether playing countless hours of shoot-em-up video games results in more violent youth.

All I can tell you is that the military now uses video game technology to teach warfare to young soldiers, and one of the goals is precisely to overcome the natural human aversion to killing, especially killing those who haven’t done you any harm.

Lt. Col. David Grossman

In the class I teach periodically on gendered violence in military culture and war, we read excerpts from the work of Lt. Col. David Grossman, who maintains a website called “Killology.com.

Grossman, a psychologist who has become one of the most sought-after military and police trainers in the U.S., if not the world, defines “killology” as “the study of the reactions of healthy people in killing circumstances (such as police and military in combat) and the factors that enable and restrain killing in these situations.”

Grossman began his career teaching soldiers and police officers “the psychological techniques needed to develop Mental Toughness, a Survival Mindset, and a Hardened Focus,” integrating “psychological skills with physical and tactical training… to achieve maximal performance excellence as a modern warrior.”

Interestingly, now he not only offers training in the psychological “hardening” necessary to become a socially sanctioned killer—ie, a soldier–but also has begun to write and speak out against media violence, which, he says, teaches children to kill.

I think he would agree that what happened at Abu Ghraib a few years back, or in Afghanistan this week, when ordinary American soldiers go haywire and start torturing and killing civilians, is not just a case of a few bad apples.

If we allow our kids to grow up playing “harmless” violent games that are ever more realistic, gripping their imaginations and giving them access to the bloodthirsty, adrenalin high of killing, we can’t expect them to be agents of peace, especially when, as soldiers, they are further trained for war and given real weapons and the authority to use them.

My heart bleeds for the victims of this latest massacre in Afghanistan.  I can hardly imagine the pain of the survivors of the family of nine children and their mother annihilated all in one foul blow.

They aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last innocent bystanders to be caught in the crossfire of a senseless war.

I think of the many other places in the world where civilians have been caught in the crossfire of baleful enemies: Central and South America in the 1970s and 80s, when the US and USSR funded proxy wars that wreaked havoc with innocent local communities; current conflicts in Africa and the Middle East that are really about the control—by outsiders, the same old Great Powers–of ever-shrinking resources; the list goes on.

Like the Russians before them, the American military is preparing to throw up its hands and give Afghanistan back to the warlords.

It will be a disaster for the women and girls there, who had begun to hope that a more liberal mindset might prevail and help them shake off the bonds of radical Islamic gender-based oppression.

Perhaps it is up to the women of the world to rise up together to insist that our men and boys stop pouring so much time, energy and money into creating and using lethal weapons, and representations of violence.

We have seen what happens when we let boys be boys and play with their guns, real or virtual.

Can we afford to stand by and watch the endless replay of rapes, homicides, massacres, the endless parade of crippled bombing victims, the burned, the sightless, the psychologically damaged for life?

I am losing faith in the ability of the men in charge to solve this problem.

Back to Lysistrata!

If we want life, we women have to walk boldly forward and manifest our visions of peace, security and cooperation.

We need to create a procession of the world’s women, those who will stand up for peace and nonviolence—a procession so long, so wide and so loud that it cannot be ignored.

Women of the world, the future is in your hands.  What will you do with it?

 

From war games to peace games, it’s time to stop playing games

I am having an uncomfortable feeling of déjà-vu as the winds of March come up, blowing us headlong into an uncertain spring.

Ten years ago we were reeling in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.  Governments and the media were howling for retaliation, and the massive U.S./NATO war machine was gearing up for a fight, first with Iraq, and then with Afghanistan.

Now it’s an Iranian president who is talking tough and daring the U.S. and Israel to bring it on.

Have we learned anything from our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan?

We have a different, much more cautious and diplomatically-minded president minding the store.

But what can he do when American troops are so stupid—even ten years after being embroiled in on-going nation-building efforts in the Islamic world—as to defame the holy Koran?

How can he possibly convince potential Islamic allies that the US means well when it’s so glaringly obvious that we are insensitive, boorish bullies?

It’s shocking that the troops were so mismanaged that such a huge mistake could have been made.

First there was a report from some remote province in Afghanistan that a few Marines had urinated on dead Taliban fighters.  That was bad enough, but no—the US military had to take it further and actually start BURNING A WHOLE TRUCKLOAD of Korans.

WTF?

I mean really!  How would we like it if a bunch of Muslim soldiers came to one of our states and starting burning Bibles and Torahs?  It smacks of unbelievable cultural arrogance, coupled with unbelievable tactical stupidity.

So now two American officers have died in the ensuing protests in Kabul, along with two other American soldiers killed in one of the outlying provinces.

Killing an American military officer in Afghanistan is like killing a police lieutenant in New York City.  Do that and you’re asking for it.

Sparks are flying everywhere these days, and there’s way too much dry tinder sitting around.  It’s impossible to see exactly where all this is heading, but it sure isn’t in a “and they all lived happily ever after” kind of direction.

Once again, it’s necessary for ordinary American citizens to stand up and be the friction that stops this war machine from advancing.

Occupy has gone underground for the winter, it seems, but it’s time for all of us Americans to start sending messages to our leaders, in no uncertain terms.

We do not want war.  We want peace.  We want to live harmoniously with our neighbors and fellow global citizens on this planet and we demand that our military representatives respect other cultures, as we would want to be respected ourselves.

I know I will be patted on the head and told that it’s more complicated than this.

But it’s not.  It’s very simple.  This is how it is:

Human beings have over-populated the planet.  We are now fighting over limited resources like water, arable land, fossil fuels and natural resources.  That is what the fuss over Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran has been about.  That is what is going on with Syria, Sudan and Libya as well.

It’s all about the dangerous and difficult demise of the premise of unlimited growth and a globalized economy.

We now face the prospect of more war for two reasons:

1) so that we can burn up a lot more resources and have to rebuild them, thus cranking up our military-industrial complex and giving a boost to the economy in an election year;

2) so that we or our allies can gain control of valuable and strategic resources.

High-minded ideals like democracy, human rights and humanitarian aid have nothing to do with it.  They are what you bring in to mop up when the resisters are lying belly-up in despair.

And meanwhile climate change looms over us all.  All these little diversions are just so many more irrelevant goose chases that keep us from focusing on what’s really important: working feverishly to mitigate and adapt to climate change before we are swept away.

World leaders are playing a dangerously, devilishly simple zero sum game.  But we need to change the rules of the game now so that all of us can win.  Because if we don’t, one thing is certain: we will all lose, even those who currently seem invincible.

It’s that simple.

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