The Futility of War Is Why I Joined Hundreds of Activists to Risk Arrest at the White House
Continued from previous page
Outside the White House on Thursday, we found ourselves singing “We Shall Overcome” with confidence. And what we learned later of other witnessing conducted that same day provided still more affirmation, grit and determination.
For example, 75 witnesses braved freezing temperatures at the Times Square recruiting station in New York to express solidarity with our demonstration in Washington.
There in Times Square stood not only veterans, but also grandmothers from the Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies and Grandmothers Against the War. Two of the grandmothers were in their 90s, but stood for more than an hour in the cold. The Catholic Worker, War Resister League and other anti-war groups were also represented.
What? You didn’t hear about any of this, including the arrest of 135 veterans and other anti-war activists in front of the White House? Need I remind you of the Fawning Corporate Media and how its practitioners have always downplayed or ignored protests, large or small, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
A Rich Tradition
Civil Disobedience was Henry David Thoreau’s response to his 1846 imprisonment for refusing to pay a poll tax that violated his conscience. Thoreau was protesting an earlier war of aggression, the U.S. attack on Mexico.
In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau asked:
“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.
“It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”
Imprisonment was Thoreau’s first direct experience with state power and, in typical fashion, he analyzed it:
“The State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”
Prior to his arrest, Thoreau had lived a quiet, solitary life at Walden, an isolated pond in the woods about a mile and a half from Concord. He returned to Walden to mull over two questions: 1) Why do some men obey laws without asking if the laws are just or unjust; and 2) why do others obey laws they think are wrong?
More recent American prophets have thrown their own light on the crises of our time while confronting the questions posed by Thoreau.
Amid the carnage of Vietnam, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, posed a challenge to those who hoped for peace without sacrifice, those who would say, “Let us have peace but let us loose nothing. Let our lives stand intact; let us know neither prison nor ill repute nor disruption of ties.”
Berrigan saw no such easy option. “There is no peace,” he said, “because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war — at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison.”
So, if the making of peace today means prison, that’s where we need to be. It is time to accept our responsibility to do ALL we can to stop the violence of wars waged in our name. Now it’s our turn to ponder those questions.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 30 years, during which he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). This article first appeared at Consortiumnews.com.