Department of Peace?
On April 11th, I had the opportunity to participate in a teleconference organized by Rep. Dennis Kucinich announcing and promoting his bill creating a Department of Peace as a Cabinet-level office in the US government, funded to the tune of 2% of the Defense Department budget. Actually, this is legislation Rep. Kucinich first proposed on July 11, 2001, and he's been able to attract over 47 fellow congresspersons as endorsers of the bill.
Kucinich writes, "Citizens across the United States are now uniting in a great cause to establish a Department of Peace, seeking nothing less than the transformation of our society, to make non-violence an organizing principle, to make war archaic through creating a paradigm shift in our culture for human development, for economic and political justice, and for violence control. Its work in violence control will be to support disarmament, treaties, peaceful coexistence, and peaceful consensus building. Its focus on economic and political justice will examine and enhance resource distribution and human and economic rights, and strengthen democratic values."
So, obviously, this effort is not just an anti-war measure, though of course that in itself would be nice. The idea here is to address all aspects of violence and break the seeming inevitability of violence our society accepts. This applies to community organizations advocating conflict resolution, prevention of domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse, school violence, police violence, and hate crimes. It seeks to ferret out the root causes of dysfunction in our society and deal with them to break the cycles of violence.
Likewise it addresses the international dimension of conflict: economic, religious, ethnic, and class issues which breed conflict and are often not examined, let alone resolved.
So how can this be done? Job opportunities could be created to balance military recruitment, so people could serve their country and the world doing peace work. This would be actively engaged from the community to the cabinet.
One teleconference participant asked whether with, say, a Bush administration, such a department would have any effect. Kucinich responded that, just like with departments of environment, health, and education, it would force these options to be addressed by administrations and it would increase the internal information flow. A Bush-type might appoint an ineffectual cabinet officer, but he'd need to address the area, and peace would be a discussion topic in the election.
The point was made that the money spent in heading off conflict would pay huge dividends if that conflict could actually be stopped, much like conservation of resources produces a gain in resources available. Carrying the environmental analogy further, the us-against-the-world scenario is unsustainable, taking too much of the resources our country needs for its quality of life. Kucinich said, "The Department of Peace is practical for Americans looking for a higher quality of life."
It will be interesting if this idea can make its way into the Democratic presidential race, and if the Democrats would dare embrace it. We currently have a military industrial complex operating out of the Department of Defense (only such sources as Amy Goodman's Democracy Now program on Pacifica Radio call it what it is, the "Department of War"), so maybe a counterweight is an idea that could fly. It's certainly a concept this country needs; just ask the rest of the world.
Much more information is available on the Department of Peace at www.dopcampaign.org
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