Monday, November 16, 2009


Militarism in Today's World

Perspective by Olive Branch*

Dec. 1 is the 61st anniversary of the abolition of the army in Costa Rica.

As we reach the tenth year of the twentieth century we are no closer to world peace than we were centuries ago. We have organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States which have stressed peaceful means of settling disputes but military solutions, including the threat of war, are still a fact.

The nations of the world keep adding on to their military structures. China has a million man army, the largest in the world. Some nations are building missile systems for long range attacks. Weapons such as napalm, depleted uranium and nuclear arms that kill and injure civilians long after the war has moved on should have been banned before they were ever used yet newer, more deadly weapons are funded for development.

The war in Afghanistan has lasted eight years. The war in Colombia more than twenty. The war in Iraq, based on lies of weapons of mass destruction, is not settled after six years. The fighting in the Middle East continues after countless lives and homes have been lost and is far from resolved. The war on drugs, begun in the 1980's, has not diminished the flow of drugs. Yet, instead of thinking of peace, the nations of the world continue building up arsenals.

At the summit meeting of presidents of the Americas held in Trinidad-Tabago in May 2009, President Arias of Costa Rica's gave a speech that was praised by all those present. He strongly criticized increased military spending. “In Latin America alone military budgets in 2008 added up to $50,000 millions, a 25% increase over the previous year. Who is our enemy?” he asks.

In 2008 the world spent $1300 millions on arms and the military while at the same time millions of humans live in misery, without the basics of running water, electricity, schools, roads or health care. In addtion to an already overstuffed military there is a trend toward using commercial private security companies as police and military forces, and in providing military training and military equipment for civilian police.

In the Americas, instead of working toward a world without wars we see build ups in budgets and arsenals. Colombia, Paraguay, Venezuela and Brazil have increased military capability and Colombia plans to open their bases to the United States military. In Honduras the army was used to remove an elected president and to control the streets and airports. The United States not only has the biggest military budget in the Americas but has about 700 bases, outposts and installations around the world.

And here in peaceful, non-military Costa Rica, the civilian police force receives training from the United States military either at the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Georgia or from visits of the U.S. Southern Command here. Even though president Arias promised to send no more police to the military School of Americas, the government continues to do so. The president also authorized the use of military type weapons by the police here. Such weapons were carried by the police at the northern border following the Christmas holidays prompting a protest by the Nicaraguan ambassador here.

President Obama of the United States has just won the year's Nobel Peace Prize for his preference for negotiations over military threats and his support for disarmament. Next year the nations of the world, through the UN will review the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty, which was signed in 1968. Article VI of the treaty calls for reductions and and end to all nuclear weapons. That means all the countries including the five permenent members of the Security Council that hold veto power over UN decisions and which are all nuclear weapons nations.

A peaceful future looks promising. Now is a good time to speak out for peace and against military control of our governments and our national resources. Let's all call for controls over the weapons industry and the weapons trade, the arms, the bombs, the combat planes and helicopters, the chemical compounds that burn and radiate. Let's speak out in the streets, in the press, on T shirts, at the ballot box, through our voices, our music, our computers and pens. Through bumper stickers and books and peace oriented groups. In churches, community halls, schools, universities and the halls of governments. Let's make the nations of the world put their priorities in order. It's time for peace.

Olive Branch is the collective name for the Heredia group of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Costa Rican Section. WILPF international was founded in 1915 in the Hague and has national sections in many countries. See

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