CODEPINK at BookPeople, May 16
at BookPeople, May 16We all remember that moment of great hope when, on Feb. 15, 2003, millions across the world took to the streets coming out against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Well, more than two years have passed, and we're still killing people (IraqBodyCount.org, an independent database of media-reported fatalities, puts the Iraqi civilian death toll at between 21,523 and 24,415); we're still taking their money (thanks to the Coalition Provision Authority's Order 39, which made it legal for foreign investors to pillage Iraq's resources); and now we're gearing up for the next round: Iran, Syria, Venezuela, who knows? All this leaves the most optimistic mind reeling: What the fuck are you supposed to do?
Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism (Inner Ocean Publishing, $14.95) is a manual dedicated to answering that question. Edited by Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, co-founders of the rapidly expanding anti-war group CODEPINK, it's full of practical information and extraordinary examples of success, serving both as an educational tool and a source of inspiration. "We can't take that feeling of overwhelm away from you," said Evans from CODEPINK's L.A. office, "but we can say: Here's what you do in the face of that."
Last Monday at BookPeople, self-proclaimed "unreasonable women" Evans and Stop the Next War contributor Diane Wilson brought Austin's beleaguered peace movement a remedy in the form of warm, heroic tales of their activism.
"This woman is my teacher," said Evans of Wilson, as the fourth-generation shrimper (and gutsy environmental activist who's facing four months in jail for chaining herself to a chemical plant) modestly waved away the praise. The women went on to talk about the importance of humanizing those who Americans have been taught are the enemy. Wilson spoke of an American airport shuttle bus driver who advised that the U.S. "just turn the whole damn country into a parking lot," wiping the Iraqi people clean off the face of the Earth. "In Iraq, the people knew the difference between the Bush administration and the American people," she said. It was also in Iraq where Evans and Benjamin realized the necessity for a book like Stop the Next War Now, when they woke the morning after Bush's now-famous "the game is over" speech to a country preparing itself for the worst.
"The woman who was taking care of our room buried herself in my chest, looked up at the sky, and said, 'How will I protect my children?'" Evans recalls. "And I had felt, at that moment, a sense of powerlessness. We were all grappling with what we would do. Do we go home? Do we stay? Do we try to help? And Medea just looked at me and said, 'We just have to stop the next one.'"
And so they began doing just that. Last summer, while the rest of the anti-war movement was scrambling to put the less offensive presidential candidate in office, the two women stayed focused on the larger picture. "Medea and I were trying to figure out where we had gone wrong," Evans said. "We asked ourselves: What are the pieces that take us to war? How do we educate people on this?"
It was with this simple recipe that Stop the Next War Now took shape, blending well-known voices with those that needed to be heard, offering not only real ways to change the world, but resources from which to learn more. In "Bring Halliburton Home," Canadian author Naomi Klein outlines clearly the illegality of the "economic colonization" of Iraq; in "Regaining My Humanity," U.S. soldier Camilo Mejia writes from jail about his refusal to participate in a war in which he does not believe; and in "Armies for Peace," Editor Gar Smith writes of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, a movement to with one-tenth of 1% of the U.S. military budget recruit 11,000 peace soldiers. The hope is that, armed with the knowledge and experience of all these voices, readers will be confident in theirs. "Now, the work is to make people understand," Evans explained. "You have a bad school and instead, you're paying for a war. You don't have health care, and you're paying for a war. They're closing down your libraries, but you're paying for war. We need to get out there and tell the story, the real story, because that's what's going to stop the next one."