Reflection from a friend in Iraq
November 22, 2004
IRAQ: Violence or Nonviolence in Fallujah?
by Cliff Kindy
Practical questions about handling a complex security situation often
confront peacemakers and warriors. Is violence more effective than
nonviolence? The city of Fallujah has been a burr under the saddle
US occupation. Players in that drama chose their tools of change.
Some precedents place the options on the table. Najaf and the
Sadr militia groups guarding the shrine presented a complex problem
U.S. occupation. The U.S. Military decided to take control
major air support and tanks and soldiers on the streets. Ayatollah
instead, called on Muslims to go to Najaf. That massive nonviolent
enabled the militia groups to withdraw without losing face and the US
military to concede their tactics honorably. The friction de-
the situation has achieved some normalcy.
In Sadr City, resistance to the U.S. occupation reached crisis
as U.S. patrols and Shia militia groups fought over the city with
bearing the cost. The Iraqi government creatively offered money for
calm came to Sadr City.
U.S. forces invaded Fallujah in April 2004. The situation did not
because a former Iraqi general took responsibility for security in
As the violence escalated in recent weeks, a committee of religious,
civilian, and military persons approached the United Nations to work
nonviolent alternative to a U.S. invasion. The Iraq interim
the U.S. occupation rejected this invitation as unworkable, so the
proceeded with accompanying deaths of civilians, resistance
U.S. soldiers. The city is in shambles and charges of human rights
What are the alternatives? First, a sustainable society at peace will
require economic justice and personal rights such as life, health,
education, freedom to participate in the political process, and
The focus for coalition forces in Iraq has been security. Seventy
unemployment, a devastated infrastructure, and dismal prospects for a
election overwhelm the future. The basis for a sustainable peace is
missing. Energies must be invested in rebuilding the society.
Nonviolent options continue to be viable in all arenas. Those
options have the added bonus of NOT eliciting heavy casualties and NOT
building communication barriers between conflicting parties.
Nonviolence can transform conflicts as it reduces the power of armed
and increases the power of nonviolent actors. Analysis can identify
groups within the violent structures, and nonviolent actions can
changing the attitudes and activities of those groups. Coalitions of
nonviolence can develop the direct actions that take the initiative
armed actors and empower those who nurture a society at peace. These
coalitions must also take control of the decisions that affect their
Nonviolence is viable and effective when based in the local community.
Violence is often the choice of those who fear they don't have the
support to act as they wish. "Choose life that you and your
live" (Deuteronomy 30:19.)