Over 300 people gathered last week at a conference at American University in Washington, DC, which brought together a remarkable assembly of philosophers, scientists, activists, diplomats, lawyers, doctors, economists, media experts, and activists working against patriarchy, gender discrimination, poverty, and racism, to develop creative answers and intelligent directions on how people can take action to put an end to war. The event was organized by World Beyond War, a new and vibrant network and campaign, which in less than two years has gained the endorsement of thousands of people and organizations in 135 countries who signed a pledge “to commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.” The gathering initiated a sorely needed examination of the public perception of the inevitability of war on the planet while promoting the possibilities and solutions for abolishing it.
One of the more astonishing reports was the heart-wrenching presentations on the ongoing state of chaos and destruction in the Congo, where more than 6 million people have died. We learned how the United States and its allies have been supporting brutal dictators who are responsible for these deaths, ever since the CIA was involved in the overthrow and murder of its first democratically elected president, Patrice Lumumba, in 1961. (To help those trying to spread the word and bring peace to the region, check out www.congojustice.org or www.friendsofthecongo.org.)
Dennis Kucinich spoke about his success in establishing a Department of Peace as well as missed opportunities when Congress rejected the impeachment legislation he introduced to hold the Bush administration to account for war crimes in Iraq. Gar Alperovitz gave a challenging analysis of a new initiative to create the post-capitalist economy, The Next System Project, with inspiring examples of programs instituted at the community level, such as worker cooperatives and public ownership of banks and utilities. Barbara Wien delivered a rousing presentation on patriarchy, calling it “the mother’s milk of militarism.” We heard, via video link, UK Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time peace activist who has been campaigning to scrap Britain’s nuclear arsenal, on the very same day he was reelected to lead his party and be its next candidate for prime minister. Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin gave a chilling report on how Saudi Arabia corrupts and buys the US Congress and its army of lobbyists with huge multimillion-dollar payments. Bruce Gagnon, with the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, reported on the rising tide of activism in South Korea and Japan to protest the destabilizing new US missile bases in Asia and how more than 10,000 people demonstrated in Seoul. Journalist Gareth Porter proposed a 10-year plan for ending what he described as “the permanent war state,” crediting General Smedley, known for having characterized war as a “racket.”