Naked City

Peace-ing Together a Strategy

Wartime means boom-time for Peace Action, at 85,000 members the country's largest peace and disarmament organization. Last week, activists from across the country converged at the Holiday Inn South for Peace Action's annual national congress, which featured speakers, workshops, and training, as well as priority-setting sessions. Newly appointed Executive Director Kevin Martin appeared enthusiastic yet chagrined by his organization's sudden windfall of activity. "We totally revamped our strategy for this to discuss fighting the war," Martin said. "It was the unavoidable reality, I guess."

A grassroots organizer for 16 years (his previous stint was director of Project Abolition, an anti-nuke group), Martin had been at his new post for less than two weeks before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since then, he's been impressed by activists' ability to mobilize against the war -- especially student members, who have doubled their ranks nationwide. Although national leadership has been lacking (the peace movement is very decentralized, he explained), overall the call for justice without vengeance has been consistent among groups. "I haven't heard anyone in the peace movement standing in solidarity with the Taliban." Citing current news reports showing increased spending on intelligence, Martin said the Bush administration is using the war as an excuse to promote the CIA, the FBI, and Star Wars national missile defense. "A lot of us see an opportunity in the current crisis," Martin said. "People want to hear answers, and our answers are better than the administration's. Sept. 11 was a crime, not an act of war. This war won't work."

Mindful of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins Nov. 17, Peace Action has called for a fast for peace to end the war in Afghanistan. With a brutal winter upon them, millions of Afghans remain at risk of starvation. Martin said several members of Congress have expressed interest in joining the fast, even though all but one (California Democrat Barbara Lee) voted in support of war.

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