response to defence white paper

An excellent response from the Medical Association for the Prevention of War to the 2009 Defence Whitewash paper can be found here. I wholeheartedly echo its sentiments.

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the inspiral Defence White Paper contribution

This was inspiral’s contribution to the White Paper consultations, written and read by Anthony.

My name is Anthony Nicholas. I am speaking on behalf of Inspiral, a faith community in the inner north of Melbourne, Australia, who are exploring together the way of life demonstrated by Jesus Christ. We have been asked to address three questions:

1) What role should our armed forces play?
2) What kind of armed forces should we develop?
3) Can we afford such forces?

I would like to answer these questions by way of a short concrete example.
On October 26, 2003, police raided the Sydney home of a Pakistani-Australian man called Faheem Khalid Lodhi. They found terrorist manuals showing how to make detonators, explosive devices and poisons. They also found maps of the Sydney electricity supply system and 38 aerial photos of Australian military installations. Justice Anthony Whealy determined that Lodhi’s intent was to pursue “violent jihad” to “instil terror into members of the public so that they could never again feel free from the threat of bombing in Australia.” Lodhi is now serving 20 years in prison classified as a high security ‘AA’ prisoner.

Lodhi was sent by a Pakistani Muslim Group called Lashkar-e-Taiba historically based in Pakistani Punjab. Lashkar-e-Taiba has always wanted India out of Kashmir. After September 11, they starting fighting in Afghanistan. Lodhi was sent here with orders to bomb because Lashkar did not like Australian troops fighting in Afghanistan. This example shows the kind of threats Australia is facing – they are real and have the potential to do great harm.

Our tanks, missiles and planes are not going to stop Lashkar-e-Taiba’s next bomber. To rely on the police is a bad idea – they will not stop these bombers every time, in every place. No – the soldier Australia needs to win this war is not Australian – he or she is a Pakistani Muslim. They are going to stop that bomber because they are going to say “Hey everybody, I don’t agree with this suicide bombing against Australia. Australians aren’t anti-muslim. Maybe we disagree on some things, but this is too much.” That is the soldier we need. They question is, how do we recruit them?

That is a hard question. But, you know what – we’ve done it before. Over 35 years, 40,000 people from Asia came to study in Australian institutions under the Colombo Plan. That’s a 40,000 strong army of people through Asia willing to give us a chance and a fair go to speak up on our behalf. What about now in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Have we got people on the ground? We need an army there, local people, muslims, who understand us, who will speak up on our behalf. We will have those people on the ground speaking up for us only if we act with love towards them. We must ensure that we do not act in a way that threatens their security, and instead chose a path that positively promotes their well-being. The Colombo plan is just one example showing our ability to do that when we set our minds to it.

Can we afford to reach out with love to our neighbours? Can we afford to bring them here on scholarships, to spend money learning their languages and reconciling our views of what is just? Yes we can. We far prefer our money spent on building happiness, justice (both here and overseas) and security rather than in buying more bullets, guns and insecurity.

Defence White Paper public consultations

Eight of us from inspiral went to the Defence White Paper public consultations last night. Submissions were overwhelmingly for more peaceful means of defence and security. This is the verbal submission I made on behalf of Urban Seed.

Thankyou for this opportunity to voice some of what I believe about defence and security. As someone who has committed his life to pursuing peace and justice through the method and lifestyle of nonviolence, it is all the more important that we hear alternative voices to the increasing reliance on violence, alienation and threat power that characterises most foreign policy these days. Once again we must listen to the voices of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Thich Nhat Hanh, voices for creative nonviolence.

I know a bit about defence, security, and safety, from working for an organisation called Urban Seed. Much of our work takes place just around the corner from here, in Baptist Place, which Urban Seed has called home for about 15 years. Every day we welcome some of the city’s most marginalised people into our homes and lives, mostly through sitting around a lunch table enjoying good food together. We call it Credo Café because it expresses something of what we believe about the world. Those who come for lunch at Credo are largely people whom the average citizen feels threatened by – the homeless, the mentally ill, those with drug and gambling addictions, people who have often led violent lives. In such a place, security becomes particularly important, especially when it is not merely a workplace, but a home. But what we’ve discovered is that safety based in threatening or excluding or hurting others is not safety at all. If security is to be real, it must be mutual.

And so we’ve been experimenting with nonviolence – not a mere refusal to act violently, but a creative, active power that sometimes aggressively and provocatively, but always lovingly, confronts situations of violence or oppression. Nonviolence is transformative of conflict because it does not seek to dominate or threaten the other, but to win them over by confronting them with the injustice of their actions. It is this kind of creative, self-giving love that characterises the safety of Credo, and it’s a safety that extends out into the surrounding neighbourhood. By welcoming people rather than shunning them, by extending active love rather than threats or violence, people are invited to respond in kind. Often we have people over for lunch who might ordinarily feel they have nothing in common, such as lawyers and homeless people, and as they sit around a table together, understanding is fostered, and friendships are formed. Sometimes when they leave Credo, potential enemies have become friends.

What happens on this local level can and should happen on a global level. Unless we extend active love to those we believe threaten us, the cycle of violence will continue.

And so I call on this committee to reject the logic of violence, which yields only bitterness and hatred and further violence, for the creative, powerful force of nonviolence. I call on you to equip our brave defence forces not with more weapons to kill, maim and destroy, but weapons of love that will build our nation into something we can be even more proud of, that will be of benefit to even our enemies. I call on you to transform our army, navy and air force from a domestic defence force to an earth defence force, which takes seriously the greatest threat to our existence, which is not terrorism but global warming. I urge you to stop buying weapons of mass destruction and instead use those billions of dollars to lift those in our own country and overseas out of poverty, to feed, clothe, heal and educate. By demonstrating such love we will have no enemies, no need for defence, and the only real security that exists.