Forwarded from Floyd Rudmin:
Good morning,

I belong to several of these peace activist listserves, and part of my activity everyday is to forward items from one to another.  But I wonder how much this is just a small set of like-minded people keeping themselves busy reminding themselves that they are like-minded.  Maybe something more active is possible.

My own entry into peace activism and peace research came mostly after having children.  I worry about their future.  I was motivated originally by fear of nuclear war, and now by terrorism and violent state reactions to terrorism.  So, in that way, I am very like US and Israeli militant hardliners. And like Palestinians trying to defend their communities from Israeli tanks.  And like refugees everywhere doing things legal and illegal to get their families into safe societies. Everyone on all sides of these conflicts have similar human motives. Everyone has been struck by the similarity in the
rhetoric of Bush and bin Laden.

Like most people on this listserve, I am convinced that the War on Terror is about the worst way to reduce terrorism. I would guess that it will increase terrorism because it entails an acceleration of violence, injustice and arrogance, and thus an acceleration in revenge and retribution.  The US is planning to do to the whole world what Israel has done in the occupied territories.  Morality and costs aside, it does not seem to work well, and its counter-productivity is predictable.

So, in thinking what might be effective things to do other than just keep forwarding essays to people who like them because they already agree with them? What about this idea?


The idea would be for citizens groups, and levels of government below the national government (towns, counties, cities, states, provinces, etc.), and maybe if successful, even national governments, to identify transgressions that their nation or group (example, a religion) has done to another people, to document the transgression, and then in various ways apologize and offer amends. 

For example, Japanese peace activists to apologize to the Chinese for the Nanjing Massacre (1937-38, Japanese soldiers killed about 300,000 Chinese in the most brutal ways AFTER the city had surrendered).

For example, India and Pakistan to apologize to the Kashmiri people for making their once idyllic communities into places of fear and hatred, amidst rubble and cemeteries.

For example, Americans to apologize to Iran for destroying their democracy in 1953, or to Chile for destroying their democracy.

For example, for the Brits to apologize to Irish Catholics for "Bloody Sunday".

The list of transgressions is immense and without end, and probably no nation or people is without a reason to apologize.  Which means that various groups of like-minded people, here and there in their various societies, can proceed to document to themselves and their compatriots what was the transgression, and then to use creative ways
of communicating, of making gestures of apology, of making amends, and of lobbying their local and national governments.

The apology projects might be co-ordinated, support one another, and share successes and failures.

An apology seems to be a powerful thing.  Often victims want an apology more than compensation, more than punishment of the perpetrators.  But it is such an ordinary thing in everyday life, that it would be very hard to oppose an apology.  And if a government or nationalistic group were to oppose an apology, then they would have to say out loud why, and thus reveal themselves, their motives and emotions.

An apology seems like a win-win situation.  Those who apologize come to understand the reality of their national history that is often sanitized from history books.  An apology is verbal and thus does not require huge resources.  Individual activists and small groups can successfully apologize.  If an apology is strongly opposed, then the opponents must enter into a debate about history, and must reveal motives, both past motives and current motives.  An apology is a human bond, since it entails sympathy with someone else, who before the apology was treated as non-existent, with non-existent suffering. 

Finally, "The Apologies Project" as a name has a nice ring, reminiscent of "The Apollo Project" to go to the Moon.  It is a big project, taking on impossible tasks, but actually in steps so small that small groups can succeed in doing them.  (see also the Theory of Small Wins, applied to peace education by Floyd Rudmin at )

The name's ring also has a very American quality, and could be wrapped in the American flag just as easily, in fact more easily, than the War on Terror.   Certainly, apologies for past transgressions the US has done to other peoples will probably be more effective in preventing more terrorism against the USA than will dropping bombs on villages, or arresting people without due processes, or sending assassins here and there in the world.

To begin, we would probably need a coalition of a few peace groups in several different countries, plus some people who are skilled at organizing and skilled at websites.  It would probably be less threatening to powerful nations if some small nations first made some apologies.  In "The Apologies Project", smallness has some advantages.


Floyd Rudmin


A response received:
This is a profound and brilliant idea. I'm considering what I can do with it.

Joanna Santa Barbara

Floyd Rudmin can be contacted at