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C i r c l e  o f  C o n v e n e r s

A Citizens’ Interfaith Coalition
to Reaffirm and Extend the Geneva Conventions

(organizational info for identification purposes only)

Rev. Taigen Dan Leighton, Ph.D.
Zen Teacher, author, activist
Joanna Macy, PhD
Teacher, author, activist, Berkeley, CA
Writer and mindfulness meditation teacher, Goleta, CA
The Rev. Richard Mapplebeckpalmer
Grace North Church, Berkeley, CA
Dennis Rivers, MA [Web site editor]
Cooperative Communication Skills Extended Learning Community, Berkeley, CA
Allan Solomonow, Former Director of Middle East Peace Program (1983 -2009)
American Friends Service Committee — San Francisco Office
Rev. John Stoner, Mennonite
Founder, Every Church a Peace Church (ECAPC)
Mary Watkins, PhD
Core Faculty Member, Pacifica Institute, Carpinteria, CA

We who have signed our names above publicly endorse the goal of this site: to reaffirm and extend the Geneva Conventions in line with their 140-year history of seeking to care for the wounded, protect prisoners, and safeguard civilians, and to work toward these goals through the five-point plan of action outlined on the Welcome page of this site.

Supporting the Geneva Conventions and Opposing War
How the Two Fit Together

We are mindful that any attempt to regulate the violence of war can be taken as an implied acceptance of war as a legitimate action on the part of countries or aggrieved groups. Therefore we wish to explicitly declare that while we want to constrain the violence of war, we also reject every form of war as a profound failing of human thought, feeling, creativity and foresight. Our work to support the Geneva Conventions only makes sense to us as part of our work to reduce all violence and abuse, and to support the evolution everywhere of compassionate and creative problem solving. We cannot accept that some forms of lethal violence are “better” than others.  What we can see is that, as a practical matter, we need to start with the protection of the most vulnerable, of non-combatants, while also working to help nations see beyond war.  

We invite everyone to seriously consider the above stance, but we certainly do not require it of anyone who wants to support the Geneva Conventions, and neither does our five-point plan of action require it.  Our appeal in support the Geneva Conventions is to everyone, and we actively welcome support for the Geneva Conventions from military personnel and from people who hold “just war” views. 

Because of the arguments that have gone on over the last century about the Geneva Conventions and war, and are going on today, we feel the need to offer the following extended explanation of our stand against war.

Six aspects of war compel us to insist that people can do better than to kill one another in large numbers: 

First of all, war is cruelly destructive of human lives, values, psyches and well-being.  Those who support the necessity of war imagine that young people in uniform can kill one another for months at time without being emotionally damaged by the killing they do.  But that is deeply untrue, as the many suicides of returning veterans bear witness. Many combat veterans are deeply troubled for the rest of their lives by the pain and death they inflicted on others.

Second, a thoughtful examination of the recent history of war reveals that war is almost always completely, shockingly, adverse to the interests of those who consent to engage in it, and always adverse to the interests of those who do not consent, and of those who do not have even the opportunity to consent, but are directly or indirectly affected by the waste and devastation of war. War always injures bystanders.

Third, war is no longer worthy of human beings.  If we are smart enough to organize for the intricate complexities of modern war, we must also be smart enough to find other ways to solve our problems. To argue otherwise seems to us like both blindness and madness.

Fourth, like forest fires and drug addictions, wars and the culture of weapons-making create the hypnotic illusion and momentum of their own pressing necessity.  The trillion dollars a year that the United States spends every two years on machines of death and the people to operate them, makes the world a more dangerous place rather than a safer place, considering all the peaceful initiatives that must be sacrificed in order to make those gargantuan military expenditures possible.  A similar self-perpetuating, self-exacerbating process can be seen in countries around the world in which civil wars against both governments and civilian populations are becoming chronic.

Fifth, looked at in the few minutes before people start shooting at each other, many wars might appear to be justified.  But if we look at wars over the decades before they occurred, we see that every war could have been prevented if the parties involved made real efforts to build cooperative relationships based on mutual respect. While it is painful to contemplate, so many wars that have been presented to the public as noble enterprises turned out in retrospect to have been tragic blunders based on foggy thinking (Vietnam and World War I) or frenzied ambition (Japan’s attack on the U.S., Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, both instances of starting an impossible-to-win war against a country much larger than one’s own).

And finally, war is destructive of the web of life, of land, air, water, plant and animal life, often leaving behind a toxic legacy of death and injury that lasts for decades.  Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in the Iraq war-of-choice, cried out in anguish, asking, “For what noble cause did my son die?”  To which we must add, what great national honor accrues to the United States when a child in Vietnam is born today with birth defects from Agent Orange defoliants sprayed half a century ago, or when an elephant in Southeast Asia steps on a land mine.  We find it impossible to accept the idea that war, and the obsessive preparation for war, is the best that human beings can do.

Therefore, beyond supporting the Geneva Conventions, we also support a variety of important changes that would make war unnecessary:

  • the thoughtful application of conflict-resolution practices to resolve existing conflicts;
  • the preemptive defusing of future conflicts through developing networks of multi-lateral dialogues and cooperative alliances;
  • the reduction of arms dealing, arms races and munitions obsession; and,
  • the compassionate, equitable sharing, distribution and re-distribution of natural and economic resources around the world.

We support these worthy changes, and we urge you to support them, too. But these changes will probably be long in coming. Meanwhile, the world is at war today in many places, so we cannot ignore the complex and morally ambiguous issues surrounding the conduct of war. The conduct of war, especially regarding injury to civilians and the treatment of prisoners, needs to be regulated today. Reaffirming the Geneva Conventions is the clearest and most immediately available step in that direction.  Whatever success we have in limiting the violence of war, will give hope to people to press forward in their efforts to limit not only the conduct of war but the occurrence of war as well.

We appeal to all nations, and to all groups in armed conflict, to both embrace the Geneva Conventions and to examine more critically the practice of war as a method of solving human problems. And as U.S. citizens, we especially appeal to the United States government to convert its current verbal support of the Geneva Conventions into actual practice by taking such actions as treating all detainees as formal prisoners of war, and by renouncing the use of such indiscriminately injurious weapons as cluster bombs, land mines, and Depleted Uranium munitions (which permanently poison people, land and water).

The authors of this statement, listed above, have placed it in the Creative Commons.  It may be reproduced with attribution as explained by clicking the icon below.