Proposal for United for Peace and Justice

By David Swanson

The largest peace coalition in the United States, United for Peace and Justice, will meet in Chicago on December 12 through 14th to set its agenda for the coming year. A draft Strategic Framework is already available. It includes four area for the peace movement to work on:

1) We remain committed to the urgent goal that has always been the centerpiece of our work: immediately ending the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq and bringing all the troops home! We call for an end to the ongoing U.S. war and occupation in Afghanistan.

2) Our work for peace and justice will include an action response to the economic, social and environmental crisis at home and worldwide.

3) We will work to prevent new wars in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere.

4) It is time to challenge the Global War on Terror and the Empire Building Agenda of the U.S.

These four points are elaborated upon in the document. Point number 2 includes the all-important project of shifting resources from wars to diplomacy, foreign aid, and human needs (although this is complicated now by the fact that “bailouts” have dwarfed wars as a way to waste money). A few other points are included as well, but as non-priorities.

Through December 6th, UFPJ is accepting feedback through its website. And there will be opportunities to make proposals at the meeting in Chicago.

I’ve heard a lot of proposals not on the list that I approve of. Some are modifications of one of the existing projects, such as a particular focus on single-payer health care or a stronger position against sanctions and other hostile actions toward Iran. Some are specific tactics, such as an effort to work together with ANSWER on a sixth-anniversary protest, or a proposal for Iraq Moratorium days each month. I think these are all excellent ideas and plan to support them.

But I think we are also missing a key element that should be included as a separate fifth point or combined with an existing but re-worked project. If point #2 were re-framed as an effort to prevent future wars, then the project of shifting resources to human needs would still belong there, but something else would as well.

I think it is imperative that we deter future wars, as well as defunding them, that we reestablish the rule of law in addition to simply requesting that certain laws be voluntarily obeyed for the moment. We can do this by prosecuting high officials who are guilty of war crimes, including the supreme crime of aggressive war. We can also shift power away from the Pentagon and the White House, and back to Congress and to the United Nations.

If we do not take these steps, we will be permiting a lawless world in which crimes are lamented but the criminals not punished. We will be handing every future president absolute power and asking him or her not to be corrupted by it. And when a president launches a new war of aggression next year or next decade, our response will be constrained to “Stop that this instant or, or, or… we’ll march in the streets!” And our lobbying will either be directed at the president or at a powerless Congress.

I don’t want to underestimate the power of marching in streets. I’m in favor of doing a lot more of it. But it cannot be our only power. And it isn’t. Many UFPJ member groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights and AfterDowningStreet are working to prevent pardons, advance prosecutions, and restore checks and balances in our government. The Congress has significantly lost the powers to legislate, raise and spend money, declare and end wars, approve and reject treaties, approve and reject officials, oversee the government, and impeach those who abuse power. We cannot proceed as a movement within a democracy unless we restore and expand that democracy. We will not be able to persuade future officials to listen to us if past officials have suffered no penalty for ignoring us.