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National NOW Times >> Spring 2003 >> Article

NOW Calls for Peace as Bush Wages War

by Amaya N. Roberson, Development Associate, and Lisa Bennett, Communications Director

Among the woman leaders marching for peace and justice on March 8 were NOW President Kim Gandy (center), Cheri Honkala of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (left of Gandy) and author Alice Walker (far right).
Among the woman leaders marching for peace and justice on March 8 were NOW President Kim Gandy (center), Cheri Honkala of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (left of Gandy) and author Alice Walker (far right). Photo by Lisa Bennett
On International Women's Day, March 8, NOW activists marched with 15,000 women, men and children to the White House in a feminist-led action demanding that President Bush not launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. Less than two weeks later, the United States began bombing Baghdad.

"As the Bush Administration wages war against Saddam Hussein, our hearts and thoughts go out to all those who suffer as a result of this attack," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Bush's tunnel vision is jeopardizing the women and men serving in the U.S. military and millions of lives in Iraq, where more than half the people are children."

Feminists know that real security, here and around the world, comes from creating safe communities with decent shelter, quality health care and education, and dignified work that pays a living wage. The cost of this invasion and the post-war rebuilding of Iraq will do serious harm to an already faltering U.S. economy, putting real security out of reach for more and more people.

"George Bush wants us to believe that the U.S. is united for war," said Gandy. "But I believe that most of the world is united for peace."

A Feminist Perspective

Missing from much of the discussion on war and peace is the feminist perspective, which addresses the ways that militarism perpetuates a climate of violence, fear and instability.

Bush has used the promotion of women's rights as one of the justifications for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But NOW understands that militarism will not lead to equality for women.

"We will not be tricked into thinking that war is a tool of feminism," says Gandy. "Because women will face many of the harshest consequences, NOW is determined that feminist voices be heard."

NOW's involvement in the anti-war movement reaffirms a longstanding commitment to ending violence against women in all its insidious forms. During war, civilian women are frequently targeted for rape and torture. The use of rape as a military weapon further terrorizes all the women and girls in the local population.

In addition to the explicit violence, many other transgressions make women the unseen casualties of war.

The loss of husbands, sons and fathers in battle can send women and their families into the depths of poverty. Even without the loss of a family member, military occupation limits freedom of movement, blocking women's access to work, food and medical services. Homes, businesses, factories, utilities and communications services are destroyed. Chemical weapons poison the soil, air and water, producing long-term health risks.

Back at home, domestic violence rates in military families are five times the rate in the civilian population, and women are often led to believe that being patriotic means staying silent about family violence.

Finally, the social services that many women and their families depend on are traded to subsidize the high cost of war. Cuts in social security, heath care and education most devastatingly affect older and low-income women.

"Bush is claiming that he will bring democracy to Iraq and equality to Iraqi women," says Gandy. "But just look at the damage he has done to democracy and women's rights here at home. And the fact remains that women in Afghanistan still live in fear and danger despite our 'liberation' of that country."

Bush's Sleight of Hand

NOW condemns terrorism of any kind, including the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; however, the Bush administration has made no valid case that Iraq has collaborated with al Qaeda, is harboring terrorists or was preparing to strike the United States.

However, by consistently linking Saddam Hussein, Iraq and Al Qaeda in his speeches, Bush has created the perception in the U.S. that the hijackers were from Iraq and that Hussein was behind 9-11.

The media have assisted Bush in this sleight of hand, and now they are serving as little more than a propaganda machine for the U.S. invasion. We may never know the true devastation of Bush's war on Iraq due to the administration's stranglehold on the media. TV news is helping the Bush Administration obscure the carnage with bloodless video game-like simulations of military strikes and carefully chosen photos that hide what our government calls "collateral damage."

"The most horrific consequences of this war will not be covered on the nightly news," says Gandy. "Political and corporate control of the U.S. media is keeping the people of the U.S. blind to the atrocities committed in the name of freedom and liberation."

In addition to violating international law and further damaging our reputation in the world community, the U.S. invasion of Iraq serves as a recruiting tool for more terrorists, making the U.S. and its citizens abroad less safe.

NOW supports pursuing terrorists, whether they be international or domestic, and bringing them to justice through appropriate legal channels—not embarking upon a multi-billion dollar war. In fact, resources that could be focused on dismantling al Qaeda and catching those responsible for the deadly anthrax mailings are being diverted to Iraq.

Turning Opposition Into Action

NOW activists are participating in anti-war vigils and protests, and organizing in their states, cities and counties to pass resolutions against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

NOW is partnering with social justice coalitions, such as CODE PINK for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and Win Without War, to let President Bush know that millions of people oppose his reckless disregard for international law, his obvious contempt for the U.N. and his arm-twisting of our nation's allies.

NOW calls for the U.S. government to be a leader for peace around the globe, not a contributor to further instability.

NOW advocates increased funding for international population assistance programs that combat poverty. Combating poverty, oppression and intolerance will help to create an environment where terrorism rarely thrives.

"NOW demands that the Bush administration help create true security in the U.S. and abroad, not simply further the cycle of violence," said Gandy. "We also call on international leaders to join in working toward peace and human rights around the world. As the drumbeat to stand behind Bush in a time of war grows louder every day, it is more important than ever to raise our voices for peace."

NOW's Progressive Feminist Agenda for Peace

  • Expose the Bush administration's exploitation of the tragedies of September 11, 2001 to advance a right-wing political agenda

  • Call for an end to the U.S. campaign of militarism and corporate profit that has contributed to anti-American sentiment around the world

  • Identify the connection between militarism and violence against women, including military sponsored rape and domestic violence

  • Advance equality for women and men in the U.S. military

  • Expose the stifling of political dissent by the Bush administration through policies such as the USA Patriot Act

  • Demand an increase in funding for domestic social services and curtail enormous increases in defense spending

  • Call for an end to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that exacerbates the plight of women and children in these countries, including U.S. military aggression

  • Urge compliance with international law and internationally accepted standards for human rights, beginning with the U.S. ratification of CEDAW

  • Support population assistance programs to reduce worldwide poverty

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