The Empire Strikes Back

War vs. Peace: Novelists and Essayists Tell the 'Voice' Where They Stand

Suheir Hammad, poet Before any military action is ever taken anywhere, all citizens of the world will recite the pledge below:

Me, I pledge my allegiance/to the love of all of humanity/and to the aspirations we all share/one species/one blood/one love/one destiny/one love/one destiny/under all manifestations of god/indivisible/with liberty and/medicine and shelter and/food and self-determination and freedom of religion and freedom of expression and freedom of movement and love and justice/for all.

Vivian Gornick, author of The Situation and the Story A military strike? Where? What? When? Above all, against whom? If you hit them in Iraq, they'll re-group in Libya. if you squash them in Libya, they'll rise up in Afghanistan. They have struck us, and in their strike announced: We'd rather die—and take you with us—than go on living in the world you have forced us to occupy. Force will get us nowhere. It is reparations that are owing, not retribution.

Illustration by Limbert Fabian

Vandana Shiva, author of The Stolen Harvest Military response to terrorism aggravates the conditions that give rise to terrorism. It will trigger a chain reaction of violence. The alternative to the military response is the creation of peace and democracy in every sphere of life and every level of society. Fighting for economic democracy and the creation of people's security is at the heart of finding peaceful responses to terrorism.

Bernardine Dohrn, director of the Children and Family Justice Center Nothing justifies the unspeakable attack against human beings. And if our rejection of terrorism encompasses all forms—individual, group, and official—we are obliged, even amid tidal waves of sorrow and solidarity, fury and fear, to openly reckon with U.S. interventions, tyranny, and terror. No aggrandizement of American power will yield safety or security. We need to strengthen our longings for peace and our active resistance to xenophobia. Can we choose to share our fate with other peoples on the uneasy terrain where equity and justice are the only possible paths to peace?

Todd Gitlin, author of Media Unlimited Objectors to war must also be conscientious. "Bombing the hell out of Afghanistan," as recommended by Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, may or may not have been rejected. To the degree that the American assaults are indiscriminate, American vengeance will fuse with fundamentalist paranoia and generate terrorist recruits. But even less unjust wars will likely blow back on us. Thinking with our blood won't do. I wish I knew what would.

David Barsamian, author of Decline and Fall of Public Broadcasting The U.S. can pursue what it did in the Balkans, when it acted through the International Court at the Hague. These criminals—Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians—were apprehended at almost no additional cost to human life. It seems there's a double-standard for "Islamic terrorists" who are being tried in public by a cowboy administration. The U.S. is harboring a Haitan death-squad leader, Emmanuel Constant. Should the Haitain air force bomb the U.S.?

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