women and peace
Bombs Are Good Business, for Some: NATO´s war machinery is built on its plunder of the rest of the world, the environment and women.
By Ellen Diederich
In Europe the fear of war never disappears. We live in the shadow of the two world wars, and many "lesser" wars. Women in Europe have responded by organizing to mitigate war and promote peace. We have organized humanitarian aid. During the war in the former Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 1990s, we collected millions of deutschmarks, francs, pounds, lira, pesetas, and dollars to support women's projects and women who had been raped and psychologically traumatized. We did what women have always done in wars -- sought to reduce starvation and misery and the cruelest violations by working as nurses, doctors, and social workers. When the wars are over, we clean the ruins and start to build again.
Over the last 30 years the women´s movement has combined research and action to find out about the fate of the missing and to gain freedom for prisoners of war in El Salvador, former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Kurdistan, Chiapas, Afghanistan and elsewhere. We have engaged NATO generals and soldiers, as we blocked missile depots, protested at missile test sites, and strived to make our voices heard at white male-dominated summit meetings.
We trekked thousands of kilometers across Europe on women´s peace marches, talking to mayors and addressing town parliaments under the banner: "Make your city a Nuclear Free Zone!" During the East-West conflict, we traveled 150,000 kilometers across Europe in our women´s peace bus to meet and talk with women, children and men living in "enemy" countries. We made many friends. We saw that our needs and wishes are not that different.
During the United Nations international conferences on women in Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995), we created safe spaces where women whose countries were at war with each other --Iraq and Iran, Palestine and Israel among them -- could meet, negotiate and network. During the war in Bosnia, when we found out that rape was being used as a systematic form of ethnic cleansing, we resolved to break through the male logic of war and come to a logic of peace.
The logic of war is simple: it is good for the economy-or at least some economies. Humanitarian aid programs have developed into big business: all the goods are bought in the rich countries. NATO has become the richest military alliance ever. Its budget for one-and-a-half days equals the annual budget of the UN, including all of its aid, food, and peacekeeping programs. The arms industry, especially in the U.S., is booming. Under the rule of capitalism, merchandise must be sold to make room for more new merchandise to be produced. This rule is the same for the arms industry -- U.S. arms exports worldwide have increased from 40 to 62 percent since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The conflict in former Yugoslavia is costing US$ 125 million per day; just one Intercontinental Stealth bomber costs US$ 2.1 billion. In Germany, the cost of preparations to station military troops in Kosovo is DM 840 million. This amount does not include the cost of the aircraft -- one tornado (war plane) costs DM 86 million -- missiles and bombs, training of soldiers, their provisions of ground transportation.
Germany has now become a part of the rich European Union and the richest military alliance ever- an alliance with a war machinery and arms arsenal built on the plunder of the rest of the world, the environment, and women. Emerging from the trauma of both world wars in which our grandfathers and our fathers fought for domination of Europe, is it that Germany is now on the "right" side and dropping "good" bombs?
Even before the current conflict in the Balkans started, war and violence dominated our news. In countries with whom we are friends, war and violence persists: in Turkey (a NATO country) against the Kurdish peoples, in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Palestine, Iraq, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Congo, East Timor, Tibet, Afghanistan, Tashkent, the Philippines, and Colombia to mention a few. Who decides which human rights violations and situations of violence are the ones to attack? We believe the choices are made in the interests of securing the "rights" of multinational corporations, The new defense strategy of Germany and NATO makes it clear: the goal is to guarantee for all time unlimited access to markets and resources in the framework of a just world order -what you could call a military Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).
Part of the war strategy is to get people used to violence and killing. For that the military complex needs supporting images and propaganda. There is plenty to choose from in Germany. For one week in February this year, we collected everything written about war and violence in five German newspapers. We filled two big files. There is a cartoon for children broadcast by a commercial station at seven in the morning called Atomic Bee. It is about a bee that controls a nuclear bomb, and as soon as a conflict arises, this bee threatens to drop the bomb.
The reports on the wars that Hitler started are now collected on videos and advertised for sale day and night on TV. War has become a computer game in which the "Ramboization" of our children, especially of our boys, is in preparation for the wars they will be asked to wage as adults. This is what our children learn from this game: During World War I, 10 percent of all people killed were women and children and 90 percent were soldiers. In World War II, 50 percent of those killed were women and children and 50 percent were soldiers. During the Vietnam War, 90 percent of those killed were women and children and 10 percent were soldiers. In today´s wars, however, they see only women, children, men, and soldiers in poor countries being killed. Soldiers from the rich countries are returning every night safely to their military bases without having any contact with the "enemy"; their killing "cleansed" through their use of aircraft computers.
Like the women of Greenham Common in the U.K., we in the peace movement say it´s time to take the toys away from the boys; go back to the negotiation table under any conditions. And we say, start long-term planning for peace.
GENUINE LOCAL OPPOSITIONS TO DICTATORSHIPS:
RE-CHANNEL WAR BUDGETS INTO DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS: Imagine spending the NATO billions spent on bombing the Balkans, for the needs of the region. Imagine, if the United Nations had the NATO budget for its peacekeeping and aid programs.
STRENGTHEN THE UN: Suppose politicians and diplomats were educated and sensitized to put in place the necessary structural changes for making the UN an instrument of the community of nations to stop wars.
RE-TRAIN, RE-EDUCATE: What if soldiers were re-trained for peace and conflict resolution processes, and military barracks were converted into peace universities. Imagine peace-making becoming a required subject in schools and universities and women -- who are doing most of the peace work in the world-becoming teachers for peace and for the prevention of violence and conflict.
BROADEN NEGOTIATIONS; BRING MORE ORDINARY PEOPLE INTO THE PEACE PROCESS: Supposing that, as soon as a conflict started, 10,000 peace workers were sent to the affected region to work with local and national NGOs to prevent escalation. Imagine thousands of engineers educated to work for conversion of the arms industry into civil production, oriented towards the needs of human beings and their environments. Imagine the movement of critical, peace-loving shareholders at Mercedes-Benz and other arms and nuclear-producing corporations becoming stronger and more outspoken in favor of peace.
And now, imagine a world that does not serve the narrow interests of a few global multinational corporations. Imagine the exciting adventures that would await all humanity! For life; for peace; against war.
Ellen Diederich heads the International Women´s Peace Archive in Germany ** (with support from Women´s Peace Foundation in the U.S.) Contact: International Women´s Peace Archive, Lothringer Str. 64, D-46045 Oberhausen. Fax: 49 208 853 716; Email: Friedensa@aol.com.