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Permanent Mobilization for Peace, Justice and Prosperity

by Rep. Major Owens (ret.)
April 26, 2008, at Brooklyn Peace Fair

Brooklyn for Peace! Say it Loud! It's time to feel proud. There is No Manhattan for Peace; No Queens for Peace; No Bronx for Peace. But in Brooklyn one dedicated group is brave enough, dedicated enough to assume responsibility for all of Brooklyn. We salute all of the founders and constantly working members who have made Brooklyn for Peace a reality. These leaders have made a bold statement of a highly desirable aspiration.

Today's "Peace Fair" should also be viewed as a recruiting rally. We need more troops for peace. We need more brainpower with visions for a peaceful future with prosperity. We need more folks filled with zeal who are stubborn and determined. On our non-violent march for justice, we need soldiers who are as compassionate as they are brave.

Brooklyn is great for many reasons. We have a Borough President who constantly highlights most of the cultural, physical and material assets. But the greatest Brooklyn treasure remains unheralded. The true goldmine of Brooklyn is its wealth of citizen diversity. People of all kinds - races, creeds, colors, incomes are here in Brooklyn. Of still greater importance are the myriad of talents, of insights, of visions, of accumulated experiences, of education from the most practical to the most scholarly. Brooklyn has the human capital; Brooklyn has the brainpower to provide a leadership for America. Choose any mission; select any cause and Brooklyn is qualified to provide leadership.

Now hear this! Listen carefully. You are today a witness to more than just an outburst of borough chauvinism. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. A more robust and massive leadership of the national mobilization for peace should begin right here in Brooklyn. Brooklyn has the capacity. This is my personal declaration. The unfinished master plan of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The grand desire, Kings noble ambition to merge the civil rights movement and the poor people's campaign with the peace movement; Brooklyn can take a first step and a giant leap forward towards a permanent merger of the movement for justice, prosperity, and peace.

The needs and grievances overlap. Our targets for the challenges and correction and eradication of national and international immorality are the same. Evil is powerful and must be confronted by a united effort. Evil is lasting, goes on forever, and must be met by a movement that has staying power; a movement that can last forever.

To meet this challenge of well organized monstrous greed and exploitation, what should be our next move? To maintain and expand a Peace Movement with an effective critical mass, how do we continue this journey of a thousand miles? Please note that I am concerned with maintaining and expanding. I have not mentioned creating a Movement because we already have a Peace Movement. We should proudly remind America and the world that our opposition to the War in Iraq has been there since the beginning. Our "Stop the War" banners were waving before the first "shock and awe" bombardment hit Baghdad. Across the nation and particularly in New York, the Peace Movement has mobilized impressive masses. My plea today is for more. We must keep the pressure on. We must escalate!

The regime in power and the cautious progressive opposition operating in conspiracy with the press and media have achieved a successful containment of the Peace Movement. Yes, it's a sad fact that the Progressives in Washington want the peace advocates to chill out, just shut up and wait for November. Even when we march with tens of thousands, they manage to minimize and trivialize our message and its impact. The Peace Movement has been ambushed. The Peace Movement has been contained. We must immediately find a way to break out. They are laughing at our Iraq War 5th Anniversary Protest. They have reported that a few dozen protesters were arrested in Washington. Oh, What a Joke!

The next and most immediate step on this journey of a thousand miles should be the unfinished business of the 5th Anniversary Protests. I move that Brooklyn for Peace appeal to the National Peace Movement to develop ways to extend the 5th Anniversary Protest agenda all the way to the November elections. From now until that pivotal day of decision-making, there must be launched a steady stream of creative activities which the press and media cannot ignore. Block traffic in the busiest commercial sectors of the largest cities in America on the same day. There is no need to always travel to Washington as long as there are common demands set forth:

The demands must be —
No more dollars may be borrowed from the treasury for the war in Iraq until there is a troop withdrawal plan made available to the public; and for each dollar borrowed for the war, a dollar must be borrowed to pay for vital domestic needs (school construction, child health care, low and moderate income housing, assistance to foreclosure victims, not banks!). The American taxpayers must at the same time be provided with a plan showing how the Iraq oil revenues will be spent for Iraq defense and reconstruction. Behind these demands, there must be simultaneous actions across the nation.

  • Block traffic in ten cities, for one day in June; block traffic in every major city for one day in July; if demands are not met, then block traffic in every major city for two days in August, September, and October. All participants must pledge to adhere to the principles and rules of non-violence. Each group must organize camera crews and legal teams to respond to mass arrests.
  • A different and more complex activity which is certain to command the attention of the media would be to convene in Washington a "Peoples Panel for the Impeachment of George W. Bush." The details for such a mass voter education event are contained in an article I wrote for Huffington's blog.
  • Numerous other activities designed to allow citizens to express their anger in ways that cannot be ignored by the press and media should be encouraged and it must be remembered that we stand on high moral ground and the majority is on our side.

As we push for a more robust, and more visible and a more enduring expression of our 5th Anniversary protest, we must continually weave the grievances together. The issues are not separate. It's the War Stupid! The Million Dollar War causes budget cuts in health care and education. This borrowing for the war has dragged the value of the dollar down and driven the cost of gasoline up. Preoccupation with war profiteering led to neglect of banking and mortgage regulation enforcements. It's all together in one giant bleeding cancer. The swift and secret and intimidating militarization methods have made it possible for a Bush regime of opportunists, a bold class of hustlers to swindle us all very successfully. This hustler class is outrageously exploiting the conservative, smug, and greedy Wall Street investors and bankers as well as ordinary Americans seeking to just purchase their own homes.

In the War against this hustler class protected by a cloak of frenzied militarization, to develop our current protests and resistance more effectively, we must also right now offer a vision and a plan for the future which addresses the concerns of justice and prosperity, as well as peace. Indeed, there can be no peace without a just and prospering nation. It is a very difficult job but we must make the masses of Americans understand this call of them to join the Peace Movement. In Brooklyn, we must expand our efforts in order to set an example for the rest of the nation.

At the core of our long-term master plan for peace and justice and prosperity, there must be an overwhelming, non-stop, non-negotiable, higher priority concern for education. Adoption of a permanent, expanded peace initiative with the education race, replacing the militarized arms race at the center of our nation's domestic and foreign policy would mean

  • First, that there must be a clear government mission statement proclaiming that education must be for the promotion of an ethic and philosophy of justice, peace and prosperity as the bedrock of national security and global cooperation.
  • School curricula, processes, rules and regulations must clearly emphasize the mission in every possible way.
  • Education must be supported as a human right and civil right with federal funding to under-gird and supplement state and local funding. The assumption should be that every citizen is needed in striving for national security and a better world society; thus publicly financed education becomes essential universal basic training.
  • To guarantee an ongoing, well coordinated national program which nurtures and maintains an overwhelming peace orientation in education, and the application of that knowledge, we must demand a grand geometric expansion of the U.S. Institute of Peace. The peace mission at home and worldwide will require an infinite number of young Americans with special training ranging from the techniques for the education of disconnected and disturbed urban students, to linguists and anthropologists able to speak Arabic, Swahili, Urdu, Pashten, etc. and to understand the cultures of those who speak these languages. Bilingual and multi-lingual technicians of all kinds will be needed. Lawyers and political scientists capable of new creative approaches to conflict resolution and more effective governance must be developed. Far beyond the usual recognized need for engineers, doctors and scientists, the output for education must cover all fields.
  • Some of these needs for educated specialists can be met through conventional programs of scholarships, fellowships, post-doctoral studies, ect., however, to accomplish the massive recruitment, development, and distribution of the vitally necessary brainpower needed for a permanent peace mobilization, under the Institute of Peace, there must be established a National Peace University. Although it should have a symbolic value equal to that of the National War College, West Point and the Naval Academy in Annapolis, the structure should be more creative with branches and units in every region of the country.
  • The Institute of Peace umbrella should also be stretched to embrace smaller related programs and agencies: The Peace Corps; VISTA; the Fulbright Fellows, etc. At every level, the personnel imprint of the forces for peace must grow until it matches the number of militarized personnel now influencing the nation's destiny. The Institute must be responsible for the cultivation of human resources ranging from the military equivalent of generals and admirals down to privates and midshippersons. We need a government that sponsors massive numbers of peacemakers, places them on the payroll, enhances their status, recognizes their contributions and offers tribute to those who make exceptional sacrifices at home or abroad. Government support for the nurturing of a culture of professional peacemakers must rise to equal the support now accorded only to the culture of the military.

Enough now. I can read your minds. Please bear with me as I pause to rain in my chain reaction imagination. Some of my friends called my proposals na&#iuml;ve; some have called them wacky. Blocking traffic and convening a People's Impeachment Panel seem far-reaching and ridiculous to many. A National Peace University is so Utopian to many that it does not deserve serious discussion. It is my recognition of these gut reactions and sentiments that leads me to call for follow-up study.

This period from now to the November elections is a critical, pivotal, decisive moment in the struggle for a society, permanently oriented away from militarization and toward peace. For a moment let me share the raw, blunt truth with you. There is a clear danger that our grandchildren and future generations will spit on our graves and curse us as a sellout generation.

A trillion dollars we have allowed to be spent for death and destruction while our schools are starving for resources, while millions suffer from lack of health care; while struggling families whose children are dying in Iraq are being victimized by mortgage predators. For five years we the people have behaved worse than the German citizens under Hitler. There is no Gestapo, no storm troopers, no bayonets in our backs, no threats of gas chambers. So why are we behaving like paralyzed sheep?

The call of Shakespeare's King Lear "Fool me not to bear it tamely! Touch me with noble anger," should be ringing in our ears.

Thomas Jefferson, despite his fervent belief in the constitution and the system of checks and balances still wisely warned us: "The tree of liberty must be nourished by the blood of each generation." Fortunately, to change the course of our current government, our generation does not have to bleed. But our generation must sweat. We must inconvenience ourselves more. We must take risks with civil disobedience, and we must be prepared to suffer. To achieve an end to war savagery and take the first vital steps toward meaningful change, direct confrontation with our current decision-makers is an absolute necessity.

This generation, led by those of us who are over sixty-five has ample cause and a solemn duty to act now. Under the Bush regime, we have accumulated a great trash pile of grievances. Most of the Bush deadly blunders and crimes are indefensible. Some of them have triggered dangerous and immediate threats to our democracy. The fanning of a firestorm of fear to justify the increased militarization of America is the most massive and long-term threat. Only a permanent counter-mobilization for justice, prosperity and peace; only a steady escalating construction of a culture of peace can block the smothering militarization of America which may soon become irreversible.

In the last twenty minutes, I have made some practical, down to earth suggestions. But none of these will be transformed from ideas to action unless we all resolve to perform at the highest levels of our energy, our dedication, our imagination, and our determination. I do not think that I am overstating the need when I call for a non-violent surge forward by great masses who are not afraid to be called "Fanatics for Peace". Our fervor is our first and most powerful weapon. Against overwhelming, deeply entrenched evil we cannot win unless some of us become "Fanatics for Peace". We can overcome! We can only overcome when we march forward with a resolve to make whatever sacrifices are necessary. For our grandchildren and generations unborn we must overcome!

WE CAN OVERCOME! WE SHALL OVERCOME!

Major Owens retired from the U. S. House of Representatives in January 2007. He represented New York's 11th District from 1983–2007.