Lessons Learned speech by Joe Volk, Director of Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers)
Talk by Joe Volk, Director of Friends Committee on National Legislation
(Quakers) made in front of the White House on 6/7/99 before being arrested along with 28
"We are all here for peace in Yugoslavia. For peace to be made, enemies have to talk. We support and pray for a successful outcome to the negotiations in the news today. Whether today's negotiations succeed or not, the killing must be stopped. President Milosevic, stop ethnic purging now. President Clinton, stop NATO bombing now. Respect that of God in everyone.
What are the lessons of Kosovo? That you get what you pay for. That genocide has to be prevented, because once genocide has begun, wars do not stop it. That the NATO bombing has been a catastrophic failure in protecting civilians. That military tools are the wrong tools to fix problems such as those we have seen in the Balkans, Rwanda, Burundi, and elsewhere. Until and unless other tools are used, we will see more "Kosovos" in the future.
I believe that President Milosevic and his forces are guilty of committing war crimes and genocide. He is in violation of international laws prohibiting these terrible crimes. He must be held accountable for what he has done. To challenge him is a just cause, but a just cause and a just war are not the same thing.
President Clinton is in violation of important laws in Kosovo, as he is in Iraq: the U.S. Constitutional provision on the declaration of war, the U.S. War Powers Act, the UN Charter that requires UN Security Council authorization for the use of military force, and the Geneva Conventions and Protocols which prohibit the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
We are going to the White House at noon today to tell President Clinton, "Mr. President, you do not teach dictators to embrace democracy by violating the highest law in your own land, your Constitution. You do not promote respect for international law by violating international law. You do not prevent a humanitarian crisis by creating a humanitarian crisis. And, you do not punish war criminals by committing war crimes."
As a Quaker lobbyist in the public interest, every year I see the President call for increases in military spending. I watch Congress follow the President like sheep to approve his requests to increase military spending, and then Congress turns lion-like by going to the President and demanding increases of his increase in military spending. Each year we spend billions
and billions on military power to create security. But military power is for fighting wars - to engage and kill the enemy. Military power does not create security, promote democracy, protect human rights, or prevent genocide.
Every year the President and Congress ignore and reject the appeals by human rights groups, development organizations, foreign policy and religious groups to fund programs for the protection of human rights, for the identification of potential hot spots, for the prevention of armed conflict, for curbing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, for worldwide
information and education projects to counter hate propaganda, for an International Criminal Court to hold war criminals accountable. These and other such programs are the tools for creating human security, for protecting human rights, and preventing genocide. But our political leaders continue to pour billions of dollars into the military and virtually nothing
into these sensible programs.
The fact that the NATO bombing not only failed to protect civilians and to prevent genocide but also created a humanitarian disaster that will take generations to recover will not be reported by the press, will not be remarked upon by Congressional "watchdogs," and will be a dirty secret tucked away in the archives. Our weapons industry lobbyists will say, "If you think our weapons worked well in Yugoslavia, just wait until you see the next generation of high-tech weapons your tax dollars are going to buy us!" As a result, we will have more "Kosovos" and "Rwandas" in the next century. You get what you pay for, and we are paying for war.
When this war is over, the President, the Pentagon, and the weapons makers and dealers will lobby Congress using your tax dollars to demand more of your tax dollars. They will call the NATO bombing a victory, appeal to you to dig deep in your pockets to pay to replace the cruise missiles and the "smart bombs," and they will ask you to dig deeper still to buy the next
generation of high-tech weaponry. They will continue to purchase weapons named for the victims of genocide in the U.S.- the Apaches and Blackhawks. President Clinton has sent Apache and Blackhawk helicopters to the fight against genocide in Kosovo. These helicopters are named for indigenous people of North America against whom forces of our government committed war crimes and what today would be defined as genocide. There was no law against genocide when the Apaches, the Blackhawks and other people were being forcibly removed from their land, when their villages were being burned, when their children were being taken away, and when their identities were being expunged, and no U.S. president was or ever will be indited.
Our political and military leaders have persuaded Congress to pay any price for military readiness, and we are all set for war-fighting. They refuse to pay a penny to purchase peace readiness, and we cannot maintain peace or human security. Our President, Congress, and military leaders do not know or understand peace. They think of peace in only two dimensions, pre-war and post-war. We must engage in the long and difficult political work to open their eyes, to unclog their ears, and to soften their hearts so that they can see the three-dimensional peace envisioned by the people of civil societies everywhere. That will mean shifting federal spending choices from weapons to people programs. Then we will create a world with no war."
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