Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On the wrong side again?


I ran across an article on a US military related website which has irritated me. This blog entry is my unreasonable response.

The article begins with this paragraph:
During a Honduran and American Anti-terrorism/Force protection exercise, here, Joint Task Force-Bravo simulated a two-fold scenario simultaneously, one a nonviolent demonstration and the other being an attack from a terrorist organization July 17.
Are there terrorist organizations in Honduras? Not that I know – unless you want to consider the drug-lords or some groups that seem to be connected to the Honduran police that have killed civilians.

But the scenario starts with a nonviolent demonstration which is interrupted by a terrorist bombing:
 
"During the nonviolent protest there was an explosion at the front gate, which was mastermind by a local terrorist organization," said U.S. Army Lt. Chad Wallway, Joint Security Force deputy commander. "
First of all, as a pacifist, I am somewhat dismayed by the connection made between two different groups. My concern is that this type of exercise might lead the Honduran military to see every nonviolent demonstration as terrorist. It’s not beyond the mentality of some Latin American military who still live in the 1970s and 1980s where anyone calling for justice was considered a Communist subversive; as a result thousands of people, many people of faith, were tortures, killed, or disappeared by Latin American death squads and military.

Why does a US-sponsored training seem to make this connection? Does the US consider any groups that want social change to be terrorists? (I remember a few months ago that a US military trainer listed Catholics in his power-point presentation as “Religious Extremism” together with Al-Queda, the Mormons, and Evangelical Christians.)

Honduras is a country where there is need for major social change. If the US government is using this type of training for the Honduran military or police, will it lead then to take a jaundiced view of protestors and lead to massive use of violence and deaths of peaceful civilians?

It has already happened. Last week Tomás Garcia, an indigenous leader taking part in an extended protest against a dam project in the department of Santa Bárbara, was killed by the Honduran military. His son was severely wounded.  This occurred two days before the joint US-Honduran military exercise.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable,” said President John F. Kennedy. 

I don’t believe in the inevitability of violence, but I do believe that more use of violence which make it much harder for real change to happen here in Honduras.

What the US Joint Task Force Bravo did in this scenario is part of the problem – seeking violent solutions to what are, at root, problems of injustice, inequality, and repression.

Is the US again putting itself on the wrong side again?

Maybe we need to listen again to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “Beyond Vietnam” sermons where he stated:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-centered" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered...

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, expect a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war....  We still have a chance today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

1 comment:

Jim Cain said...

John,

At the very least, such an exercise may put the Honduran military on edge at nonviolent demonstrations to the point that a firecracker (or similar sound) will be misinterpreted as a gunshot or a particular handbag as carrying a bomb. Then, Honduras will have their own Kent State.

Jim