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For peace activists, U.S. is not the answer: Somalia creates short-term ambivalence.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Twisting between their abhorrence of probable violence and their compassion for a devastated people, longtime peace activists, still fighting for strategic balance in the wake of the Cold War, were generally tentative in their responses to last week's military intervention in Somalia.

"This is different from Iraq," Gordon Zahn, veteran Boston peace activist, scholar and writer, explained recently. The United States has no real national interest involved Zahn said. It is a humanitarian as opposed to a strictly military mission. "As long as it is a restrained police action, I have no serious objection to it," Zahn said.

But the perennial peace advocate did express some fear that Operation Restore Hope would expand beyond a police action, as such operations often have, into some sort of U.S. political control. "The U.N. should have been stickier on control," Zahn said. "It is nonsense to have absolute U.S. control."

From his base in Madison, Wis., Nukewatch founder Sam Day is more adamant. Day, who has backed his peace principles with numerous jail terms for protest actions, said the intervention was "a bad idea," the "wrong way to go."

We have to feed those people, Day said, but that should have been worked out long ago, through the United Nations - and it could have been if the United States had applied the same kind of pressure it exercised before the Gulf War - so military intervention would not have been necessary.

As it stands, Day said the United States had a "strategic military interest" in the operation, in that it provided "another workout for the U.S. rapid deployment force and further justification for a U.S. global military presence." The intervention sets an especially bad precedent, Day said, because it has a "deceptive humanitarian face."

Speaking from Pax Christi U.S.A. headquarters in Erie, Pa., Tom Cordaro said the United States armed Somali dictator Siad Barre during the Cold War, so it was partly responsible for the current chaos and should have a role in the reparation. But Cordaro, another long-time peace advocate, said Pax Christi was alarmed by the United States' "use all necessary force" position.

The United Nations should not have acquiesced on the U.S. command issue, Cordaro said. There should be multilateral control and the United Nations should more clearly define the use of force, namely only in self-defense, he said.

Beyond that, we must give the United Nations the resources and the stature to work out nonviolent solutions around the world, perhaps including a global tax on weapons and other military expenditures, Cordaro said. We have to take a step back from the current hot spots and create the U.N. structures that will help the Somalias, Bosnias and Sudans long before there is any need for military intervention, he said.

All of the half-dozen activists interviewed nationwide agreed that the United States should not become a unilateral world policeman, under any circumstances, and that radical, long-term development programs were necessary. "There has to be an international effort to eliminate poverty," Zahn said.

That, Zahn added, includes dealing with violence and hunger in our own country. While emphasizing that he did not want to sound like a militarist, he said he would not rule out the use of federal troops, under civilian control, to police U.S. cities in an attempt to stop the deadly violence and bring humanitarian aid to the hungry.

In that same vein, Zahn said the idea of a nonmilitary national service program for college students and the like was appealing "even to a peacenik like me."

Giving that notion a global sweep, Pax Christi's Cordaro said one solution might be a pool of international volunteers trained in nonviolent tactics, a global peace corps under U.N. or NGO control, that could go unarmed into places like Somalia and Sudan and try to defuse the situation without violence.

"The peace movement has a long way to go to sort out the principles to judge (situations like Somalia)," Cordaro said. "We have to come up with more creative ways of dealing with them."

Nukewatch's Day agreed. "We should have been at the problem (of Somalia) long ago," he said. Now, unlike the Gulf War, "it is hard to encapsulate it in political action, reduce it to something on a placard you can stand in front of the federal courthouse with."

Cordaro's brother Frank, a priest in the Des Moines, Iowa, diocese, said from Council Bluffs that the church was one answer to the peace movement's post-Cold War dilemma. Frank Cordaro, released last month from yet another jail term for antiwar actions, said that what is needed is a "resistance church."

We need a church of "downward mobility," he said, a church that will put "the challenges of liberation theology on a First World footing."

"That won't end war," Frank Cordaro said, "but at least it will put the church on the right side."
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Author:McCarthy, Tim
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Dec 18, 1992
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