One Step Closer
By Mary Stata on 04/24/2012 @ 01:45 PM
The establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board is a significant milestone for FCNL’s peaceful prevention of deadly conflict work. FCNL has advocated for several years to establish a high level panel within the U.S. government to identify countries at risk of mass violence, before a crisis occurs. Certainly, the APB’s establishment is only the first step. FCNL, along with other national organizations, made several concrete recommendations to the Administration last fall after the APB was initially announced. In the coming months, we will continue to lobby for these recommendations to be implemented as this new body begins its work.
While yesterday’s speech marked an important success for me, it was also personal. My grandparents survived Nazi-occupied Netherlands, and I grew up listening to stories of the war. My grandfather was imprisoned during the occupation due to his participation in the underground movement against the Nazis. He survived, although his health was permanently damaged and led to his premature death. My grandma’s stories of the war are filled with anecdotes of biking long distances to fetch food, hearing war planes overhead, and worries about my grandfather.
Growing up in a safe town in upstate New York, these stories of violence felt distant and difficult to imagine. It wasn’t until I was in high school during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, that my own beliefs about war and violence began to develop. In the midst of ongoing news reports about the U.S’ “shock and awe” campaign, I talked to my grandma. Seeing images of Baghdad burning on television brought back awful memories of the war she experienced as a young woman. In her eyes, the violence felt the same as World War II.
Watching President Obama deliver his speech yesterday made me think about my grandparents and their experience with war. I hope that the new tools and strategies developed by the Atrocities Prevention Board will not only help prevent violence in places like Kenya, but also be applied to the U.S’ own foreign policy. As the war in Afghanistan drags on, rhetoric about Iran escalates, and the U.S. military footprint in Asia expands, it is clear that military tools continue to dominate the U.S’ foreign policy.
My grandmother reminded me in 2003 that deadly conflict creates pain and suffering, no matter who causes it. While President Obama’s speech is a step in the right direction, we still have a lot of work to do to achieve a world free of war.