Peace is possible, but is must be constantly won anew. Anita Roddick’s last column for Ode.
The way things stand now war is just too easy. It’s too easy to send someone else’s children to fight and die. It is too easy to dehumanise the enemy, making people believe, for example, that every Iraqi wore the face of Saddam Hussein. It is too easy for leaders to commit egregious crimes under international law, including the crime of aggression, and not to pay the price like the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg.
It is time to change the rules so that those who wage war, particularly illegal war, will reap the consequences themselves. It is time to end the double standards, and to replace might with the rule of law – without which, as Thomas Hobbes said, life is ‘nasty, brutish and short’. It is time to demand that our leaders find peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.
Nelson Mandela said: ‘If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy – then they become your partner.’ But where do we find the techniques we need to work with them? We can find it in the past, in modern creative exchanges and in traditions.
Recently, President Khatami of Iran, for example, has been a strong proponent of substituting dialogue between Islamic and non-Islamic nations in place of conflict. Such dialogue, if it’s sincere and serious, could lead to a wider recognition of the inherent unity of the human race that transcends race, gender, class, culture, civilisation and the other marks of difference frequently invoked to justify conflict.
And I’ve always found it interesting how for years the small island of Malta has been sponsoring meetings to protect the rights of unborn generations. One of the suggestions made by the Maltese was to transform the United Nations Trusteeship Council, originally designed to administer territories that were moving from being dependencies to full nationhood, into a body committed to making sure the resources of the entire planet are held in trust for the future inhabitants, and are not squandered in the attempt to satisfy the selfish desires of any one generation. That’s one way to make the next generation count.
Here are simple suggestions to stop war in its tracks:
1. Require the leaders who promote and support war to personally participate in the hostilities – like medieval kings had to. This would provide a critical threshold of personal commitment to war by requiring some actual personal sacrifice of leaders.
2. Show the faces and tell the stories of the children of the ‘enemy’ until we can feel the pain of their deaths as though they were the deaths of our own children. It is much more difficult to slaughter an enemy who one recognises as being part of the human family.
3. Give full support to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, so that national leaders can be tried for all war crimes at the end of any hostilities. All leaders who commit horrendous crimes must be held to account under international law as they were at Nuremberg, and they must be aware of this from the outset.
4. Impeach any elected leaders who support illegal, preventative war – described at the Nuremberg Trials as ‘aggressive’ war. It is the responsibility of the citizens in a democracy to exercise control over their leaders who threaten to commit crimes under international law, and impeachment provides an important tool to achieve this control.
5. Rise up as a people and demand that one’s government follows its constitution. Cut off funding for war and find a way to peace. For any challenge to the legitimacy of war is the most powerful force for change to be found in history.
Human development demands that we now take the next step and de-legitimise war and the preparation of war. We must achieve local, national and global security through other means. It’s the next logical step in the sequence.
It isn’t going to be easy. It isn’t going to be achieved without sacrifice and doubt along the way. But peace in this world is possible. It just has to be constantly won anew.