It is Time to Choose Peace and Compassion in Middle East

The world is wracked with shock, anger, and a deep sadness following the attacks in Paris last week.  No one should go through that kind of horror and have their lives destroyed.  We grieve with France over the loss of life and over the terror that has gripped the nation.

However, living with that kind of fear is the constant reality for many people in the Middle East with drones flying overhead and with soldiers and mercenaries occupying the land.  I think about the mothers and fathers, children, grandparents, brothers and sisters, people living in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen whose lives are no more than “collateral damage” to the US government, people who are being murdered with total disregard for their humanity.  We must also grieve for them and not let them be forgotten.

We have known for a long time that our government’s drone warfare program in the Middle East is both immoral and illegal, but the release of the Drone Papers several weeks ago confirms what we already knew.  This was a ground-breaking months-long investigation using U.S. government intelligence documents leaked by an anonymous whistleblower from the intelligence community.  The report provided chilling insight into the US drone program that is responsible for death and destruction.  The report gives us details that support the dismantling of this program that is the best recruitment tool ever for Al-Queda and ISIS.

The Drone Papers provide documentation showing that, through the use of unreliable data using cell phones and other electronic devices to provide target location, nearly 90% of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended victims.  However the Obama administration masks the true number of civilians killed in drone strikes by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies, even if they were not the targets.  The people who are being murdered by our government have names and people who love them and miss them, and almost all of them are peacefully living their lives when they are struck down by a missile from a drone.

How many innocent people must die in France, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, in the US, and other places around the world before we learn that violence only creates more violence, before we realize that the US government’s “War on Terror” is failing miserably, before we understand that we are all in this together, and the only way we will survive is by working together to create peace?

Martin Luther King, Jr. was so clear when he declared:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Arming some groups and bombing others in the Middle East is doing nothing but creating more organizations that become radicalized and want to strike out against us because we are killing their people.  We must call for an immediate stop to all U.S./NATO air attacks in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and stop all U.S./NATO support for Saudi air attacks in Yemen.

We must also call for an immediate stop to all U.S. “targeted killing” actions globally, including drone surveillance and drone assassinations.

We must provide entry and refuge for those fleeing the wars in the Middle East.  The people who are fleeing the Middle East are mothers and fathers who want their children to have a chance at a good life.  They are running away from the same people who organized the attacks in Paris.  Governor Walker is so wrong in saying that he will not let refugees into the state.  His comments are racist, hateful, prejudicial, and are not based in kind of reality.

Our voices must spring up across the world demanding an end to violence, hatred, and killing.  We must call for new solutions, working together, providing support to those who need it, and creating a lasting peace to this world where we are all connected, where we are one human family.

Joy First, PhD,  Mount Horeb, WI, is a long-time peace activist and a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars.  She engages in nonviolent civil resistance to call attention to and bring an end to the crimes of the government. 

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