---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 21:18:17 -0700
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Marching in Gandhi's Footsteps
Marching in Gandhi's Footsteps
Rather than being victims of history, David Hartsough believes we should
make it -- he's raising a 'peace force' to do just that.
Bangkok Post, March 23, 2002
By Kate Rope
George W. Bush is dividing the world and waging war. Osama Bin
Laden is skillfully eluding capture and giving hope to the
thousands he has trained to kill. Betwixt the two, hot spots in
Israel and the occupied territories are descending into ever
more gruesome violence, other countries are being forced
to choose which side of the "war" they support, and nobody is
talking about peace.
Except, perhaps, David Hartsough, who is quietly building an army
in the midst of the fury. A veteran of the civil rights struggle in
the US and a peace activist who's been on the frontlines of some
of the most destructive clashes of the last half century,
Hartsough is traveling the globe to rally a force that will march
into the danger zones of the world armed with only a commitment
to peace. Born from the work left unfinished by Mahatma Gandhi
some 70 years ago, it's a hard-sell in times like these, but
Hartsough is an experienced and persuasive salesman.
Sitting in the Thammasat office of Chaiwat Satha-anand,
Thailand's most prominent peace academic, Hartsough comes
across first as a friendly, traveler type. His greying hair,
well-worn trousers and forest-green rucksack look like the
accouterments you'd expect a peace-loving wanderer to sport.
But when he sits down to tell his story and how and why his
approach will work, it is with the resolve and no-nonsense
confidence of a battle-seasoned general. Hartsough knows
non-violence can work because he has spent his life in the field.
When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, he was
building a shanti sena, a "peace troop". From that idea,
Hartsough and others have created the Global Non-violent
Peace Force -- a corps of civilians trained in active non-
violence techniques that will be sent to areas of conflict
around the world to protect human rights and create the
space for peaceful resolution of differences.
At the invitation of NGOs or other parties, the corps will enter
combat areas to provide unarmed escorts for peaceworkers
and training in active non-violence, as well as summon the
attention of the world. Hartsough hopes to have the force
"non-combat-ready" by 2003, with an initial contingent of
200 active members, 400 reservists and 500 supporters
around the globe who will send email, make phone calls, alert
the press and turn the international spotlight on particular
conflicts. He already has 10 informal invitations from places
including Sri Lanka, Burma, Korea, Mindanao in the Philippines,
Columbia, Ecuador, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
At a conference due to be held in New Delhi in November, an
international steering committee, which includes Acharn
Chaiwat, will choose the location for a pilot project. If it is
successful, Hartsough hopes it will set a precedent for
solving conflicts peacefully.
Hartsough's early teachers were Gandhi, whom he read as
a child, Martin Luther King, whom he met as a teenager,
and his father, who risked his life in the early years of the
A Congregationalist minister who later became a Quaker,
Hartsough's father went to the Middle East when David
was eight years old to bring tents and medicine to refugees
displaced by the first Israel-Palestine war. "My father
gave sermons in church on the Good Samaritan story, and
it really impressed me that he was not just preaching it
but was willing to risk his life on the belief that 'everyone
is my neighbour'," he recalls.
Hartsough's father also took his teenage son to see the
work Martin Luther King was doing in Montgomery, Alabama,
to secure equal rights for black citizens of the United
States. King was the leader not only of the struggle
for civil rights in the US, but also of the first non-violent
movement in that country.
"I was very deeply moved that these people, who were facing
such oppression, were determined to get justice, but they
were determined to do that non-violently, even against people
who were bombing their churches and their homes. That put
me on the road to a much deeper understanding of non-
violence," says Hartsough.
After a year spent at an elite, almost entirely white college
on the East Coast of the United States, where he was
helping the admissions office recruit black students,
Hartsough heard that Howard University, a black college
in Washington, DC, needed white students. Deciding to
practise what he was preaching, he transferred to Howard
in 1959, and there he received a lesson more valuable than
anything else he could have learned: the power of peaceful
In 1960, all across the southern states of the US, people
began protesting the segregation of lunch counters. So,
every Saturday, Hartsough and his black friends would leave
DC, which had already been desegregated, and cross into
Maryland. They would sit at a lunch counter there until they
were arrested. After spending the weekend in jail singing
freedom songs, they'd be released in time for classes on
Monday, only to be back in action the following Saturday.
Hartsough stayed clear of nearby Virginia, which was home
not only to the American Nazi Party but also to a law that
handed down a year's prison sentence and a thousand-dollar
fine to anyone who protested at a lunch counter.
"We didn't have a thousand dollars and we didn't want to
spend a year in prison," says Hartsough laughing. But when
months passed and no one challenged the racist law there,
he and his friends mustered their courage, did some extra
training in non-violence, and crossed the state line.
"Twelve of us went in and sat down at this lunch counter at
the People's Drugstore in Arlington, Virginia, and within
minutes there were six cars and sirens coming from all
directions. They didn't arrest us, but neither were they
going to serve us any food either. We stayed there for two
days, and it was the most difficult two days of my life."
Hartsough and his friends endured vicious name-calling, lit
cigarettes being dropped down their shirt-fronts, punches
so hard they were knocked off their stools to the floor,
where they were kicked, and members of the American
Nazi Party sporting swastikas and brandishing photos of
apes, asking them malevolently, "Is we or is we ain't equal?"
At the end of the second day, as Hartsough sat in meditation
trying to think about loving his enemies, a man approached
him from behind. "He said to me, 'you nigger-lover', and he
had this horrible look of hatred on his face; 'if you don't get
out of this store in two seconds, I'm going to stab this
through your heart'." In the man's hand was a switchblade.
"I had two seconds to decide if I really believed in non-violence,
and I looked this man right in the eye, and I said, 'Friend, do
what you believe is right, and I'll still try and love you', and
it was quite amazing, because his jaw began to fall and his
hand began to drop and he left the store."
The most difficult part was to come. The protest had been
on newspaper front pages and an angry crowd of 500 had
gathered outside the drugstore, armed with rocks and
firecrackers and threatening to kill the 12.
For their part, Hartsough and his friends decided to write to
Arlington's religious and political leaders asking for local
eating establishments to be opened to everyone. "We said
that if nothing changed in a week, we'd come back. Some
friendly newspaper reporters had their cars outside and got
us out of there alive, and we went back to Washington and
for six days we were shaking and wondering, 'Do we have
the courage to go back and do it again?'"
But they didn't have to make that choice. On the sixth day,
the call came that the lunch counters in Arlington were now
open to all.
"That taught me a very powerful lesson," says Hartsough,
"That by acting on our conscience we got those people to
act on their conscience, and those people got the society
to act on its conscience. That you don't need millions of
people ... even a few can make change."
Since that time, Hartsough has been working beside the
few and sometimes the many, to make change all over the
world. He has been jailed well over 100 times, but his most
high-profile arrest was at the hands of Slobodan Milosevic.
Before violence erupted in Kosovo in the late 1990s,
hundreds of thousands of Albanians marched to secure
basic freedoms -- the right to attend school, secure jobs,
speak their own language, get access to medical care --
that had been taken from them by the Serb regime.
They enlisted the help of Hartsough and others to awaken
the international community to what was happening and
bring moral, political and economic pressure to bear on
the Serbs, like that which had succeeded against apartheid.
So Hartsough traveled the US and Europe to rally support,
but met with none. He finally returned to Kosovo with a
small crew of four Americans to conduct non-violence
training sessions. Though there was no international media
attention, coverage on Albanian TV got Milosevic's attention
and Hartsough and the five were locked up. "It became
front-page news around the world," says Hartsough, "which
was stupid, because 100,000 people marching for justice
had not been news, but five Americans in jail was."
Unwilling to take the international heat, Milosevic soon
released the activists and turned them out of the country.
Not long after, the world woke up to the situation in Kosovo
and NATO began dropping bombs, a response Hartsough
believes could have been avoided and is at the heart of why
he is now devoting all of his time to building the peace
"I traveled all around the US saying, 'Kosovo is an explosion
waiting to happen, we need people to come'. Nobody
responded, and then it exploded, and after it exploded,
NATO said our only choices were to do nothing or to start
bombing. But many of us there felt that with 200 trained
and courageous peace troops we might have made an
important contribution to a peaceful resolution."
Hartsough wants his peace force to march right down the
middle path between doing nothing and bombing, so that
places like Sri Lanka, now possibly on the precipice of peace,
can be delivered there rather than disintegrate into further
acts of death and destruction.
To charges that this is naive and unrealistic in the world's
present landscape of violence, Hartsough marshals
evidence that forces like the one he is building have been
successful around the globe.
Peace Brigades International, a smaller corps than the one
Hartsough plans, was instrumental in giving courage to the
civil society in Guatemala which challenged a repressive
government that was killing hundreds of thousands of
citizens, says Hartsough.
At the invitation of a group called "The Families of the
Detained and Disappeared", the Brigades came in to escort
protesters, providing a buffer between military death squads
that carried out the government's orders and the civilians
who were challenging the government's power.
During a four-year period, only two peace-workers were
stabbed in Guatemala and no one was killed. In the increasingly
safe environment, more members of the civil society
emerged to oppose government oppression. Hartsough, who
was there at the time, attributes Guatemala's transition to
democracy in large part to the work of the Brigades.
To prepare a training module for his force, he studied the
work of Peace Brigades International and others and has
compiled a 300-page document on what has worked, what
hasn't, and what has never been tried.
"We're not going to take on the whole world in the first
year," says Hartsough. "Ideally we'd like something that in
two years' time we could see some real success. We're
convinced that if we do this well the world will discover
that here is a method that costs one millionth of what a
military response to a conflict costs, is much more
effective, and you don't have the terrible death and
destruction and hatred that can continue for generations."
Despite being a less expensive alternative to armed conflict,
peace doesn't come cheap and Hartsough and his colleagues
need to raise a pretty penny by peace-movement standards
-- $8 million (352 million baht) a year -- a sum that may be
even harder to gather in the wake of September 11.
Hartsough is quick to point out, however, that this amount
is equal to what the world spends on the military every four
minutes. If he can secure the funding, he hopes to have the
force fully operational -- with 2,000 active members, 4,000
reservists and 5,000 supporters -- by 2010.
Though September 11 has engendered more violence,
Hartsough sees this moment in history as an opportunity to
advance his cause. He points to an article in the International
Herald Tribune exposing the deaths inflicted on one Afghan
village by the American bombing campaign.
"As more and more facts like this come out, I think people
are going to be revolted by this militaristic response to
something terrible. The United States has spent trillions of
dollars on military security, bombers, planes, nuclear weapons,
the CIA, FBI ... and that got us zero security. It didn't protect
one person on September 11. Isn't it time to look at an
alternative way to get security?
"After [Martin Luther] King was killed, I was devastated,
because he gave so much hope for a new kind of America with
him as a leader. But I finally came out of that depression
feeling that the only thing we've got is for many of us to
become like King," argues Hartsough. "Today we have a whole
lot of local leaders like him that most of the world doesn't
even know about. They're in Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Latin
America, Africa and Thailand."
And, like King, they are all saying unpopular things to a few
people in the hopes of changing the minds of the many.
This is a legacy which Hartsough is happy to carry on.
"I have felt ever since that time [in Arlington, Virginia] that
we don't have to be just subjects of history. We can help
For more info about
>THE GLOBAL NON-VIOLENT PEACE FORCE, go to:
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