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Worldwide Peace Appeal
Thousands Seek Ways to Make the World Secure

Gwyn Kirk
Wednesday, May 12, 1999
1999 San Francisco Chronicle

This country has a military budget of $265 billion a year, and rising. That is more than the total for the next 13 biggest spenders combined: Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Cuba. The United States outspends Iraq's annual military budget in two days.

What kind of security does this buy? For the cost of one B-2 bomber (about $1.5 billion), for example, we could:

-- Build 11,512 modestly priced ($130,000) new houses,
-- Buy groceries for one year for 360,577 families,
-- Pay the annual salaries of 125,000 child-care workers,
-- Provide summer job training for 397,059 young people, or
-- Pay for one year at a public four-year college for 224,753 students.

Isn't this security? The idea that the military protects us is so ingrained it's hard to imagine anything else. In the Netherlands this week, thousands of people from five continents will discuss realistic alternatives for human security, based on research, analysis and practical experience. This is the Hague Appeal for Peace. The organizers note that ``the past 99 years have seen more death, and more brutal death, from war, famine and other preventable causes than any other time span in history. Those years have seen the tender flame of democracy snuffed out again and again by crazed dictators, military regimes and colossal international power struggles.''

These years have also witnessed effective movements for civil rights, and monumental growth in scientific and technical knowledge that makes possible a decent -- not luxurious -- life for everyone on the planet. The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, if taken seriously, could translate this possibility into reality. The Hague Appeal for Peace is a five-day conference and a long-term campaign to offer an opportunity for the global community talking about how to achieve these basic conditions for human security:

-- A physical environment that can sustain human life;
-- Adequate food, clothing and shelter;
-- Respect for human dignity and for their different cultures; and,
-- Protection from avoidable harm.

By these standards, there are no truly secure societies in the world. Military security actually goes against human security, as defined here. Military security is maintained at the expense of the natural environment, the economic and social needs of many people, fundamental human rights in many countries and protections against ill health, inadequate roads and unclean water, accidents and disasters.

Speakers in The Hague will include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, experts in international law and human rights, Nobel laureates, and thousands of ``ordinary people,'' including some from the Bay Area. A sampling of the scheduled discussions shows the breadth of their vision: the role of youth in creating a culture of peace, the need for an international criminal court, responsibilities of journalists in reporting conflicts, ending all forms of violence against women, stopping the use of child soldiers, banning land mines, eliminating nuclear weapons, promoting the use of trained civilian peace workers, the importance of human-rights education and enhancing the capacity of the United Nations to prevent and resolve armed conflict.

The Hague Appeal challenges us to take seriously the many existing proposals for alternative security measures that minimize the need for armed force. It calls on us to find the moral and political will to change our thinking about security. When conflicts arise, as they will, it calls on us and our governments to resolve them without resorting to violence. Military security is an oxymoron.

Gwyn Kirk is a member of the Bay Area Okinawa Peace Network. 1999 San Francisco Chronicle






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