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World needs America to lead for peace

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In old stories of peacemaking among Native nations, the need to break the cycles of violence and revenge is central. Somewhere along the line, someone must make a decision to go beyond hatred and retribution. The call is for the use of reason, rather than emotion, to endeavor to prepare a field of peace. Among Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee, the Condolence ceremony is a guiding concept.

The speeches of the Condolence pay attention to the need to wipe the eyes clean of tears and other obstructions, to clear from the throat the thickness of non-communication, to unplug the ears so good things may be heard. Thus is an aggrieved person or family, clan or nation assisted in reaching a state of balance, from which the future good of all can be considered and peace constructed.

The concept may seem simple to some, although it is often difficult to apply, but today's world could much use its consideration ? from within each culture and nation and among all nations. The world today has the United Nations and it is hugely important. More than ever, the world needs its only international forum and organization. The United Nations is the proper place for discussion and for resolution of issues between and among the nations of the world. Peace and conflict resolution, incipient in global affairs as full-fledged policy, must gain a foothold.

We believe in the rule of law. The sovereignty of nations is inherent in the history and culture of each people. This is the basis of all respect. It is an idea particularly important for American Indians and for all relatively small nations of the world, whether fully independent or living within larger nation-states. It is precisely the commitment to respect the rule of law that makes it possible for small nations to survive and prosper. Respect for the sovereignty of all peoples should be part of the United Nations mission.

U.S. President George W. Bush made the right move by going to the United Nations to lay out his case on Iraq. Certainly, the Iraq of Saddam Hussein is a society living in a severe state of repression. Saddam Hussein is a brutal, murderous dictator. And it is understandable that after the events of Sept. 11, the United States would do everything in its power to strike at those it perceives as harboring the intent to do it harm. There is great danger, however, when the world's sole superpower is aroused to the point of seeking to initiate unilateral violence. The heat of human passion and the quest for even greater international power takes over at such times and can precipitate actions with unpredictable and dangerous consequences. A public angered and frustrated by senseless death and mayhem caused by an obscure enemy can be drawn into supporting actions that create their own problems.

Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida terrorist network have done horrendous damage to the quest for world peace. With the brutal suicide attacks of little over a year ago, the terrorist mastermind not only destroyed the lives of some 3,000 people and their families, he set in motion a mentality and a pattern for an ideologically-driven 'war without end' the likes of which have not been seen before. Not even the Cold War had such potentially drastic results, as nation-states ultimately came to see mutual hostility as mutual destruction. But 'pre-emptive strikes' and wars of 'regime change' now become current concepts that seem to roll forward on their own. Once unleashed, they may land like thunder-bombs across a major geographic plain. We believe the task of coalition building, peacemaking, slow and arduous, is the preferred route. The rule of international law should be upheld. Active peacemaking, while rooting out the specific enemy, is much advised. And should regime change in Iraq ultimately prove necessary, great consideration must be given to how a fully functional democratic society would be established.

We urge President Bush and his advisors to continue to press the war to Al Qaida, as it constitutes a ruthless, intertwined network, absolutely committed to mindless death and destruction and the organizing of a membership with no apparent instinct for self-preservation. But we also hope the United States will continue to pressure Iraq and other rogue nation-states within a United Nations context. We equally urge the U.S. to greatly increase its commitment to peace by actually hearing what other nations have to say, and by retooling through democratization its international assistance program. As various regions of the world struggle with modernity, not all is a calm reflection of U.S. society, all clean and suburban, as most television images would suggest. A big ship of state, such as the United States, always leaves turbulence in its wake. Certainly this is evident today.

American Indian peoples have long known what it is like to live in the footprint of the world's greatest superpower. More pronounced in North America and of course, in the United States, this holds true only slightly less for the rest of the Western Hemisphere. We have witnessed the growth of the American nation since its birth. Sometimes (perhaps increasingly), we have adapted and even benefited from this reality, long layered upon Indian country lands, lives and cultural influences. All too often, however, American Indian nations have been run over, pushed aside, attacked militarily and economically and misunderstood culturally and spiritually. Most of us have accepted the reality of that history, one that also had global origins.

Adaptation followed and increased our awareness of the new existence, what used to be called civilization and has now come to be known as 'modernization.' For American Indian people, still living upon or with access to homelands and guided by traditional cultures that are intensely life-enhancing, this historical and yet active pain has hardly turned to political or religiously motivated violence and certainly not to terrorism. Protest, confrontation, public debate and awareness, quiet cooperation and alliance-building and electoral politics have been the various and successful tools of American Indian survival and renewal. This is not true or possible in all cultures and places. Some adherents of Islam in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere, as everyone knows, have turned to preaching hatred and death as a form of worship. This too we condemn. We are the first to celebrate our distinctiveness, but always in the context of universal humanity.

Perhaps the worst piece of the turbulence has been the denial of the chance to tell our side of the story, the difficulty in getting mainstream America to listen and understand how various global and national politics can affect tribal nations and communities. Without denying the positive in the modern world, we reassert that the process of contact and conquest and colonization ? apparent precursors to modernization ? can bring forth great suffering to peoples who are living on their own lands and based in traditional societies. Real understanding of this important factor is crucial to creating a more stable and prosperous world. This piece of the global reality America needs to hear. It needs to know and contemplate it, to ponder and discuss it, even as it presses its military boot crushingly down on Al Qaida's neck, even as it necessarily identifies, studies, seeks and destroys all forms of international terrorism.