Peace movement marginalized in post-Sept. 11 world, says scholar

by Stephen Steele

BALTIMORE (CNS)As the United States moves toward war with Iraq, the peace movement is seen by the public and portrayed in the media as naive to the reality of life in an unsafe world, said a University of Notre Dame professor.p. Advocates of peace have been marginalized in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world by those who seek a more aggressive approach to fighting terrorism, said George Lopez, director of policy studies and a senior fellow at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame.

After the terrorist attacks on the United States, the peace movement “was seen as being out of touch with the sensitivity of those who felt a sense of loss,” Lopez said Dec. 16 at Catholic Relief Services headquarters in Baltimore.

Lopez made his remarks during the forum, “War is Not the Only Option: Possibilities for Peace in Iraq.” John Paul Lederach, professor of international peace studies at the Kroc Institute, also spoke.

Lopez said the peace movement needed to redefine itself in order to attract the “middle-class soccer mom from the suburbs.”

He said it was a legitimate concern of the United States to be sure that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, “but that doesn’t translate into the toppling of another government.”

He noted that the language used by the U.S. government to describe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was similar to what was said about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in the early 1980s.

“No one says how the United States was in the same situation with Gadhafi, and we worked it out,” Lopez said. "We were on the verge of war with Libya, and we walked away.

“Gadhafi was modified and mollified by a series of actions that made it attractive for him to not be associated with terror. Now Libya is no longer on the State Department’s list of terrorist states,” he told Catholic News Service.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, churches, universities and the mediainstitutions that historically challenge or oppose warhave failed the peace movement, Lopez said.

He said the message from churches has not been consistent and clear in offering alternatives to attacking Iraq. Universities and the media have been relatively silent in their criticisms, he said.

“The Catholic approach of the presumption against the use of the force is seen as the losing debate in the public square,” Lopez said. The church, he added, needs to engage in a serious dialogue with government leaders on alternatives to war with Iraq.

“During the 1980s, the government wanted a dialogue with the church, but not now. We have to re-engage this,” he said.

The United States has used for its foreign policy a “Dirty Harry ethic,” Lopez said, referring to the film series in which Clint Eastwood portrays a cop who goes outside the law in order to catch, and mostly kill, criminals.

“In a mostly tough and brutal world, someone has to break the rules … in order to catch the bad guys,” Lopez said. “This is the prevailing feeling in Washington and the prevailing feeling most people in the pews on Sunday will accept.”

Lederach said the West needs a serious dialogue with the Arab-Muslim world in order to avoid war.

He said that although dialogue required risk, a war with Iraq was riskier because of the potential that the conflict would spread to the Middle East and would increase hatred of the United States in the Arab-Muslim world.

December 17, 2002

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