Opinion

Currently it appears that the United States has a “Department of Offense” rather than a Department of Defense, as the rhetoric for preemptively attacking Iraq continues. For those who are not against government altogether, there may be some hope.

On July 11, 2001, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced HR 2459, a bill that called for the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Peace. On his website, Kucinich states “violence at home, in the schools, in the media, and between nations has dragged down humanity. It’s time to recognize that traditional, militant objectives for peace are not working, and the only solution is to make peace the goal of a cabinet level agency.” The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness, where its life was ended in the 107th Congress.

The bill had 44 sponsors, most, if not all, members of the Progressive Caucus. One of the more outspoken sponsors of the bill was Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who represents the Berkeley and Oakland areas. Lee stated that “the establishment of this new Federal agency will provide us with the tools and resources necessary to move towards peace in our communities and worldwide.” Lee later received national attention for being the only representative in Congress to vote against giving Bush unlimited powers in the war against terrorism.

The bill called for the creation of a Secretary of Peace. Under the Secretary would be Assistant Secretaries for: Peace Education and Training, Domestic Peace Activities, International Peace Activities, Technology for Peace, Arms Control and Disarmament, and Human and Economic Rights. The department would also have a General Counsel.

Similar to the recent creation of the Department of Homeland Security, existing departments would be shifted to the newly created department. The departments affected by the creation of the Department of Peace would be the Peace Corps; the United States Institute of Peace; the Office of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs of the Department of State; the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the Safe Futures program of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the Department of Justice.

Other notable parts of the bill were the creation of a Peace Academy and a national peace day.

Being a part of the cabinet, a Department of Peace would be influenced by the current administration like any other cabinet-level department. But Colin Powell demonstrates that cabinet members or departments do not always toe the line of the President’s view. Aside from countering the Department of Defense, this department, if created, would have a strong impact by supporting peace education in the schools. Conflict-resolution education in the schools would create a populace less likely to support violence as a way to solve problems. For all those who yearn for greater honest peace in this world, and not merely the absence of war, this bill gives hope. As evidenced by the mere 44 co-sponsors, this movement is in its infancy. I personally would like to see the creation of the department so that I could have a civil service job working for peace, every day being present to challenge the President to work for honest peace while earning at least a living wage.

For those who want to see such a department, the job is simple. Contact your representatives and ask them to support new legislation calling for the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Peace. Your representative can be found at www.house.gov. Barbara Lee states it well: “Just as we have trained soldiers to wage war in the past, we must begin to raise up a new generation of leaders committed to peace and justice.”

Christopher Eberhardt is a recent college graduate living in Blue Island, Ill. He can be reached at chardt17@yahoo.com

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