[This post has been reproduced with permission granted by Dr. Paul N. Anderson, the Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University. Share your thoughts in the comments section below. He is aware of this post and he may be able to interact.]
A Declaration of Amnesty and Peace—
An Open Letter to President Obama and the US Congress
(Thanks for the responses; this is a revised letter as of 05/09/2011.)
Given that all wars must finally come to an end by means of a political solution, I encourage President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to issue a Declaration of Amnesty and Peace to all self-identified enemies of the United States willing to renounce violence and to agree to address grievances and concerns through conventional and political means. This would accomplish three things: it would acknowledge success in the declared war on terror; it would show graciousness to all who are willing to live at peace with others; and it would forge a division between extremists and persons of conscience, given the final failure of terrorism and violence to achieve their goals. As the final resolution of ten years of conflict is likely to involve a call for peaceable means to peaceable ends and the constructive addressing of legitimate concerns, why not begin that process now?
America is not at war with those who are not at war with America, so a unilateral declaration of amnesty and peace invites a realignment of concerns and loyalties. It also should be accompanied by an American pledge to work for justice, grace, and liberty for all—lending support for the oppressed and the downtrodden in the name of democracy and freedom. This declaration also should invite all organizations and nations to join with the United States of America in renouncing violent means to political ends, instead advocating diplomacy and democracy, so that communication between states and between the governed and their leaders can be open and full. Such has always been the stance of the United States, and all who stand for freedom, justice, grace, truth, and compassion are welcomed to join us in this sacred vocation.
The following points suggest how such an offer might be extended and accepted:
- The invitation could be ushered within a 30-day window, inviting all who would like to do so to visit sites designated by American Embassies around the world and to sign a statement of non-aggression and the willingness to address noted concerns in non-violent ways.
- In exchange, neither the United States nor its allies would target such persons as long as they uphold their agreements, and the United States would thereby commit to taking seriously noted concerns as a reliable partner in working for justice, grace, transparency, and freedom in the world.
- If such an offer is not made, however, my fear is that many lives will be lost unnecessarily. Therefore, whatever number the positive responses to such an offer might be, each will constitute a real success for those individuals and our endeavors. More significantly, posing an honorable alternative to violence is itself an advance over the escalation of misery and the bankruptcy of force.
This offer is made in good faith, as America has no interest in prolonging conflict or in exacting revenge. My hope is that we would thus walk away from the present conflict, inviting all combatants to lay down their arms in exchange for our doing the same. As the vast information recovered from the headquarters of Osama Bin Laden in recent days means that the identities and whereabouts of many of America’s self-declared enemies will be known, America should invite a renunciation of violence before taking action against its enemies, professed or perceived. This would be an honorable and merciful way forward, envisioning an end to our present conflict. We invite all persons everywhere to join us in a renewed and sustained commitment to nonviolent and peaceable means to addressing legitimate concerns. As is the case for all peoples and nations of the earth, we exist not for ourselves but for the world’s healing.
Paul N. Anderson
Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies
George Fox University, Newberg, OR 97132
A heartwarming gesture, that has been employed in various styles in the past (see below), but that always fails because it assumes that humans possess the ability to devise “political solutions” that will somehow suspend the pervasive, ever-destroying commitment of sin itself, and that it will somehow force the Serpent to take a vacation from his relentless passion to attack and vandalize all forms of shalom–wherever they be found on the earth. I’m sure there must be examples somewhere of evil men deciding to become good citizens if they are only given an amnesty (second chance) by governmnents…I just can’t think of any off the top of my head.
“My good friends, this is the second time there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Now I recommend you go home, and sleep quietly in your beds.” Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to the British people, September 1938
I think bad guys get a kick out of treaties, declarations, and high-ground politics that avoid punishing them for their badness, and instead make the supposed “good guys” look like little saviors, for awhile. I’m not sleeping…
I appreciate and support the general idea. My biggest worry would be that while the American Government may offer peace and refuge to those who accept the offer, can we guarantee that extremist groups in our own county wouldn’t use this opportunity to target these former terrorists? In other words, even if the American Government is ready to implement the move you’re suggesting, I’m not sure the American people are…
Good points, here; my assumption is that the US would continue to monitor and address threats before, during, and after such a declaration is made–note that amnesty and withholding force would be contingent upon the renouncing of violence in word and in deed. In that sense, of course, it would not “work” entirely; but, that doesn’t mean it should not be extended as an offer in good faith.
Whatever fraction of present self-pronounced adversaries accepted such an offer, it would take them out of active resistance; we would also have their addresses and information (many of them we do already) in case they reverted to aggression. Any percent of acceptances, whether 5% or 95%, would be a success. Even if no one took up the offer, extending an olive branch always makes a statement of honor and strength. If it is rejected, that also makes a statement about others.
There is no authority save moral authority, and by seizing the initiative, taking the high moral ground, instead of responding to what others have done, it makes a clarion statement as to what our stance is. It also invites constructive ways forward among those who have genuine grievances (many of which US citizens would agree with), so it would take the wind out of the sails of those appealing for violence out of concerns for justice.
While I understand the general concerns that Ken shares here, it seems to be that Paul’s response is correct: Wouldn’t any acceptance of such an offer equate to some form of success? Wouldn’t it raise our standing with the eyes of other nations? Could it possibly deter future enemies of our State from seeing us as the enemy?
As to Ted’s comment, I think more Americans would be ready for such a truce that we realize. We are tired of war. We are tired of seeing billions spent on policing the world. While some misguided Americans may cause trouble I think this would be the most morally courageous thing the President and Congress could do.
But I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime. Sadly, America is as bloodthirsty as the next country.
I read this earlier, but I would like to add a couple of thoughts after re-reading.
It does not go far enough. It does not address the history of empire, and sort sounds like an apology for what we have did only in the past 10 years, when this “war” is not about that at all.
This quote from the statement shows this:
“I encourage President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to issue a Declaration of Amnesty to all self-identified enemies of the United States willing to renounce violence and to agree to address grievances and concerns through conventional and political means.”
Conventional means, and whose politics is that? I would assume that West’s way of doing politics, no? What prevents diplomacy from being “open and democratic” is a lack of transparency, i.e., honesty about all of our violent histories. It is this untruth (in the Christian tradition of Bonhoeffer, I submit) that leads to more violence. I am all for peace, but I cannot see this as a “good faith offer” without addressing the grievances of both parties; it seems quite one-sided, honestly.
Even the welling position, “the United States and its allies will act upon all information acquired by recent discoveries, and no place on earth will be safe for those warring against her people and her interests” smells of defending imperial actions abroad in defense of the nation-state. And let’s not forget the inherent gender-bias with its history in considering political bodies “her” or “she.” That’s another conversation in itself. Even imperialism in self defense is still imperialism in the worst way, and offends both the U.S. Constitution, the guiding principles there of, as well as the Christian Gospel, which is all about the Empire of God/YHWH.
the quote “even the welling position” should be “even the well meaning position”
Good points, Rod. I do not believe that America “should” resort to violence; I am personally committed to nonviolence and wish our nation would be also. Realism, however, suggests that new targetings of terrorists will increase, given the trove of information on their identities and whereabouts; granting amnesty allows people an honorable way to avert being targeted.
I also believe that America should increase its commitment to honesty, openness, and democracy; we need to change, as well. And, if those changes were genuine, that could also make a difference in terms of international opinion (as one who has lived overseas for over 10 years of my life).
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