Yet every day now,
Americans only a few years older than most Iraqis
are being shipped to war zones. The heart cracks at
how frightened these young men and women look. "We've
got a job to do," they say, but a carefully fostered
ignorance that defends "doing a job" for
leaders who haven't done their job of statesmanship
is not acceptable, post-Nuremburg. It is not an excuse
for lacerated flesh and fragmented minds. Contorted
logic to the contrary, the real way to support our
troops is not to put them in harm's way.
After all, there are three prerequisites
for a volunteer army. The first is practical, requiring
that a segment of the population be economically disadvantaged.
(In a society still racked by sexism and racism, this
is why almost a third of U.S. forces in the first
Gulf War-- and nearly half of the 27,000 women-- were
African American.) Most people enter the armed forces
for basics they can get nowhere else: guaranteed income,
decent housing, free medical/dental care, a higher
education; in effect, the Pentagon benefits from practicing
its own form of socialism. The second prerequisite
is political: the promise that equality and power
are gained by military service-- yet those who do
the killing and dying still aren't those who make
the policies. The third prerequisite is psychological:
the mystique created for war-- a mystique of manhood,
weaponry, battle-- that eroticizes violence and glamorizes
death. The only way the first incentive will disappear
is by eradicating sex, race, and economic bigotry.
The only way the second will evaporate is by redefining
power and empowering ourselves. The only way the third
will vanish is by refusing to support the masculine
mystique. We need people with the courage to live,
But here's the good news.
While armies are marching, so are ordinary people.
In this country and across the world, there are the
largest peace demonstrations in history. The gender
gap on peace persists, but when it narrows, it does
so because men are shifting their opinions, closer
to women's. During the Vietnam War, it took years
to build demonstrations of millions. In the U.S.,
most organizing was based on the draft. This time,
it took only weeks-- even without the draft.
The difference? First, the power of Women's Movements
across the globe-- strong, organized, networked women,
going into action, leading; second, the radical
tool that the Internet can be; and third, the work
we've all been doing for so long, which has changed
For decades, feminists have been
advocating nonviolence at home and abroad. The United
Nations' women's symbol of peace, development, and
equality has been absorbed into the mainstream of
women's organizations worldwide. Feminists have been
proving the connections between patriarchy, violence,
war, and the impact on women and children. Such groups
as Womer's International League for Peace and Freedom
(WILPF), the National Organization for Women (NOW),
and Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) have
been advocating peace and no first strike for years.
Moreover, feminists have been leaders in the environmental
movement, advocating nonviolence to the earth and
atmosphere. No wonder that this time, as the war drums
began to beat about Iraq, the Feminist Movement was
ready. Virtually every major women's group is involved,
as are hundreds of thousands of individual activists.
Never before has the Women's Movement been this
unified and ready in its demands for peace.
So this is no time for despair.
Ms. offers here a sampling of recent
and ongoing peace activism, with resources to help
us all become more involved in stopping this conflagration,
or, if it has already begun, in acting together, swiftly
and stubbornly, to end it. To protect ourselves at
home, we need new definitions of security that fully
comprehend the power of Virginia Woolf's great lines,
written in another time of carnage: "As a
woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country.
As a woman my country is the whole world."
List of Coalitions and Groups
Advocating Nonviolence >>