"THERE IS ONE THING STRONGER
THAN ALL THE ARMIES IN THE WORLD:
AND THAT IS AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME."
Statement from Veterans For Peace
Regarding current events in Northern Africa
January 30, 2011Events unfolding in Tunisia and Egypt hold much hope for the people of that region and indeed the entire world. What do those events show us?
- The demonstrations are succeeding because in the main people are relying on the power of nonviolence. People are demonstrating nonviolently and young troops are refusing to violently stop them.
- Two weeks ago, few people thought the events in Tunisia and Egypt could ever happen but they are happening.
There is absolutely no reason Victor Hugo's words can't come to life in our own country.
- A clear majority of U.S. troops and U.S. residents oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but few believe we can bring the killing to a swift conclusion.
- If a small percentage of U.S. troops refused to fight and an even smaller percentage of U.S. residents halted business as usual by simply staying home from work and school, the killing would end.
Anyone who thinks Hugo's words are only a dream today in Egypt or America should be aware of what has already come to pass in Egypt, as in so many other places since then.
In Egypt, grassroots organizing during World War I led to a demand, only two days after the November 11 armistice in 1918, for a meeting to discuss independence with the head of the British forces that had occupied Egypt for 36 years.
The British refused, but the growing movement refused to back down. When four of its leaders were arrested in March, 1919 trying to represent Egypt at the Versailles Treaty talks, people began a general uprising.
All social classes participated. Organizers adopted as their symbol the "Crescent and the Cross," uniting majority Muslims and minority Coptic Christians. Within a week Egypt was economically paralyzed by strikes of every sort. The protests were mainly nonviolent in the cities but when the British tried to suppress the demonstrations violently, 800 Egyptians and nearly 30 British soldiers were killed by that summer.
Years later, Egyptian women chose March 16 as Women's Day because on that day in 1919, 300 women demonstrators led by Hoda Sha'arawi denounced British occupation and Hameida Khalil became the first woman to give her life for independence.
This mostly nonviolent revolution forced the British to recognize limited Egyptian independence in 1922. The following year, Egyptians adopted a new constitution.
Since the 1978 Camp David “Peace Accords,” the U.S. has given Egypt over $50 billion in military aid, plus forgiving $7 billion in military debt for Egypt’s support in the 1990 Persian Gulf War. The U.S. has a huge responsibility to see that Egypt does not use the weapons we gave it to crush a democratic movement.
"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world: and that is an idea whose time has come."