Jackson blasts US policy

The Nation - Friday, November 07, 2003

The United States can become a force for peace only if it changes its present course on foreign relations and abandons its unilateralism and double standards, Reverend Jesse Jackson told a mostly student audience at Thammasat University yesterday.

'There will be no peace until lions and lambs lie together, until the strong and the weak agree to reconcile,' he said. 'Coalitions of unlikely partners are built on mutual interests, common ground.

'I believe that all nations must play by one set of rules. The fact that the United States is strong enough to ignore other nations, at least in the short term, is not the same as saying it makes sense to do so, or that it is somehow moral to bully them, intimidate them or bribe them into supporting our unilateral decisions.'

Jackson spoke on the topic of 'The US After the War on Iraq: Beating Swords into Ploughshares' at the event organised by the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation.

The American civil- and black-rights activist criticised his government for debasing international institutions, abandoning international treaties and talking tough to other nations including long-time allies such as Germany and France. He urged the world community to find a way toward peaceful multilateralism.

'Unilateralism is dead,' said Jackson, an aide to the late Martin Luther King Jr and a former presidential candidate.

The occupation in Iraq would only fan more hatred and violence, he warned.

'The world believed this is about oil, not terrorism, about payback, not regime change . . . about empire, not democracy.'

Jackson prodded people around the world to keep their hope for a peaceful and better future alive by tackling global poverty and environmental problems. This can only arise from a global sense of togetherness, he said.

'Every nation must develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies . . . We still have a choice today: non-violent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must find new ways to speak for peace and justice throughout the developing world.'

Citing United Nations statistics, Jackson called attention to the 365,000 children dying every single day from what the UN calls 'conditions of starvation'. About three billion people around the world make to do with less than US$2 (Bt80) a day. One sixth of the world's population lives a wealthy life while five out of six persons suffers.

'My nation is the world's number one arms dealer, and it pains me to say so. We could waste less on weapons of war and mass destruction, and spend more on growing food, cleaning air and the water, curing the age-old diseases that still torment the poor, fighting Aids all around the world.'

Change never comes from the government but from the power of protesters outside the government, Jackson said, citing Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi as examples.

'We're winning. We're in a better world because of martyrs, boycotts, pickets and marching.

'One candle will challenge all darkness. Let your conscience be your guide. Let's not follow opinion polls.'

Pravit Rojanaphruk

Nantiya Tangwisutijit