Democratic War

John Bacher's article "Democratic Peace"(Mar.) is one of the worst articles I've ever read in your excellent magazine, to which I've subscribed for many years. Its shallow simplification of the causes of war is disturbing. There is no mention of why so many countries have not yet attained the level of democracy to be considered "democratic." What about the centuries of pillage and exploitation of their colonies by today's so-called "democracies"? Extremes of wealth and poverty do not encourage democracy. These extremes are largely the legacy of British, French, Dutch, Spanish, and U.S. imperialism. Just the countries that are the core of NATO.

NATO is a military alliance whose goal is to project the interests of its members - the richest and most powerful countries of the world. It is not a part of the United Nations. The United Nations is universal but weak. NATO is strong like a vigilante group of wealthy landowners.

There is a racist tone in Bacher's article. (Our) democratic governments are less likely to kill their own people than (their) dictatorships. Was not the brutal bombing of Cambodia by a "democracy" a factor in the take-over by the extemist Pol Pot dictatorship? "Democratic" bombs kill people.

R. N. Piper

Hull, Quebec

Bacher Replies

None of Piper's arguments or facts challenge my two essential points: (a) that democracies do not go to war with each other, and (b) that they are not prone to civil war or acts of genocide against their own citizens.

I have written in a later issue of this magazine (June) about the causes of dictatorship, notably the ability of autocratic elites to cling to power through controlling oil and/or mineral wealth. The fact that dictatorship can be caused by greed does not, however, diminish its close relationship to war and genocide in the world today.

There is no racism in my article. As I pointed out, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) is becoming an effective regional security body for the U.N. It has filled in for the U.N. after its botched Somalia intervention by facilitating democratic transitions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The OAU, with the encouragement of Nelson Mandela, a democratic statesman who was imprisoned for years by the apartheid dictatorship, has become a successful agent of a global transition to democratic peace. The anti-democratic apartheid regime of South Africa was typical of an aggressive dictatorship involved in both civil and international wars. Since South Africa has democratized it no longer suffers from internal civil wars and is at peace with its neighbors.

It is true that the brutal bombing of Cambodia was an action by a democratic state, which had tragic consequences. This does not alter the fact that the genocide by the extremist Pol Pot was typical of the crimes of dictatorships. Pol Pot was not supported by NATO, but by Communist China, the same dictatorship that is kept in power today only by massive repression of its own democracy movement.

I hope the clash between Mr. Piper and me will encourage more readers to notice the close relationshp between democracy and peace, which is frequently obscured to appease business groups in pursuit of profit. Today this is most evident in the Canadian government's silence on human rights abuses in oil-rich repressive Mexico, despite the massacre of Catholic peace activists in Chiapas.

John Bacher

St. Catharines, Ontario

Iraq Demo

A protest is planned for the fall against the genocidal sanctions on the people of Iraq. Meanwhile 5,000 children will die each month from the sanctions - around 166 children per day. We should organize a Children's Crusade to save the children of Iraq. One hundred and sixty six children could be taken to Parliament Hill or any public place to which the media have been invited. Spokesmen of the older children could tell how children are dying from lack of childhood inoculations, from contaminated water, from malnutrition, from infections due to lack of antibodies and from cancers caused by the bombing. There are no cancer or heart medications and no pain killers, so children dying of cancer experience terrible agony.

Adults accompanying the children could stand vigil wearing black, holding pictures of children in Iraqi hospitals.Then the younger children could be brought in and all 166 children could lie on the ground to symbolize child victims dying on that day. Perhaps several cities could have these demonstrations, adding to its impact across Canada.

Carol Winter

Peterborough, Ontario

Peace Magazine Jul-Aug 1998

Peace Magazine Jul-Aug 1998, page 5. Some rights reserved.

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