It's Time to Witness to Truth

It is no secret that Saddam Hussein has stayed in power for many years with the tacit approval of our government. According to Newsweek (9/23/02), the Reagan administration provided his regime the key military intelligence and possibly means of access to military hardware that enabled Iraq to win its war with Iran. Then we allowed Iraq to buy much equipment from U.S. suppliers that could be converted from peaceful domestic uses to very threatening ones, such as creating biological weapons or a crude nuclear device. After decades of support for one whom U.S. officials have regarded as a psychopath since the ’70s, the current Bush administration has been strident in its insistence that Saddam Hussein personifies evil. But isn’t this an evil to which our shortsighted foreign policy has largely contributed? A year ago, we were hearing nearly the same story about Osama bin Laden and the Taliban—"monsters" we created by training bin Laden and arming the Taliban to assist us in our efforts to repel the Soviets from Afghanistan. Is our current administration’s foreign policy any less shortsighted?

Do not misunderstand my intention. There never is justification for brutal, repressive regimes or terrorist groups that target civilian populations and prey upon those who are weaker—such as the women of Afghanistan. Clearly, such regimes and groups must be resisted and dismantled. The question of our time is how to do this in a way that does not plunge the global community into Armageddon.

On September 19, a full-page ad in the New York Times declared, "Not in Our Name." More than 4,000 individuals signed a compelling statement that said, in part, "Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression. . . . We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do—we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. . . . We must take the highest officers of the land seriously when they talk of a war that will last a generation and when they speak of a new domestic order. We are confronting a new openly imperial policy towards the world and a domestic policy that manufactures and manipulates fear to curtail rights. There is a deadly trajectory to the events of the past months that must be seen for what it is and resisted. Too many times in history people have waited until it was too late to resist. . . ."

For more than two decades, I’ve been a member of the same monthly meeting as Stephen G. Cary, former chair of the board of American Friends Service Committee. A few months before his death, Steve met with a group from our meeting to discuss his article, "A Response to September Eleventh" (FJ Mar.). I’ve been inspired by Steve’s spoken ministry for many years and have had the opportunity to hear him express his concerns with varying degrees of intensity. It was very sobering, therefore, to hear such a seasoned peace worker and Friend say that he’s never felt more alarmed for our nation than now. He also said he felt he ought to be openly protesting our government’s policies, perhaps engaging in civil disobedience.

I am moved by the personal witness of John Gallery featured in our cover photo and in his article, "A Perspective on the Peace Testimony" (p.6). The utter simplicity of his weekly vigil for peace with others at Independence Mall in Philadelphia speaks for itself—and could easily be replicated anywhere. Friends, Steve Cary was losing his struggle with cancer when he spoke to us with such concern about the times in which we are living. But, unlike Steve, most of us are still quite healthy and able to mount the resistance of which he spoke. Now is the time to become quite visible and to speak truth to power. We are living in definitive times—and the future will be shaped by our ability to resist imperious and destructive policies as much as by presenting clearly better alternatives for establishing lasting peace.