ONLINE Edition of the Fall 1996 Newsletter
|A Power Greater than Ourselves|
The Peace Tax Fund Bill and Election '96
Door Closes on Hearing for This Congress but Opens for Next
On the Trail: News for the Campaign
The Costs of Learning to Kill
Your Taxes at Work
Past Newsletters:Summer 1995, Fall 1995, Spring 1996, Summer 1996
A Power Greater than
by Rosa Covington Packard
Rosa is an educator, counselor and Board member for the Campaign
When we speak or act from conscience based on truth and love, we move into a realm of higher power and we can expect to be supported by that power.
Marian Franz quotes a Life magazine editorial about the bombing of Hiroshima which asserts that the only power as great as that of the atom is that of the individual conscience. What does this mean?
It may mean that we clarify the stirrings of truth and love in the minds of others. It may mean that our own despair and fears lift so that we become freer. It may mean that we tip the balance toward a new group consciousness. It may mean we understand more deeply as each act of conscience opens the way for the next. It may mean others who practice the same values recognize us as companions.
It may also mean that when we cannot pay for war through taxes, investments, or employment or cannot cooperate with war by meeting military requirements such as registration, the draft, or specific orders within military duty, we threaten the military culture. Why is this? Why are militarists threatened by a minority and even by a single person?
Military training all over the world, as the Canadian military historian Glenn Dyer has written, is a kind of brainwashing. It requires killing, on command and without question, those who have been identified as the enemy. This programmed response is achieved through re-education based on fear and humiliation. The methods of the criminal-deliberate stress, doubletalk, threat, harassment, and punishment-are legitimized by the state in order to create military force. If you don't kill, you will be killed.
Protest and expressions of suffering are suppressed. Breaking a man down is called making a man of him. A woman also experiences the Tailhook pattern of abuse.
When someone says no to military culture, it is like the child noticing the emperor has no clothes. Those who choose brutality for vengeance, deterence or gain feel rage when even one person is clear that killing is wrong. Veterans tell me that if a soldier in a unit under fire shows signs of doubt, he is not just passed by or harassed; he is cut out or even killed to preserve the group's solidarity. To kill in war is to be afraid you will be killed. Fear is not only of the enemy but also of "friendly fire." The chain of command helps maintain this heavy pressure. In the military, the worst transgression is to refuse an order-to dissent. Many families, schools, and even churches are organized around this military ethic.
Before the Gulf War, while Congress debated military intervention, almost half the Congress dissented. Every moral argument possible on both sides was articulated. When a close majority voted for military intervention, many dissenters reversed themselves. This implied more than supporting a group decision or supporting our troops. Many members of Congress have military training. Therefore, once in a military mode, the President is no longer a civilian but a commander in chief to be obeyed. In a war mode, dissent becomes, for the brainwashed, heresy and treason, and the leader becomes a god. Thus Congress punishes nonregistrants by taking away their college loans and other benefits. Registration is not just a signature on a piece of paper. It is Caesar's pinch of incense.
When we say no to the tyranny of the military system even in small ways, we reveal the root on which it is based-fear. True power is discovered when we are freed from fear by acting in truth and love. Then attempts to brutalize or numb us may result in suffering, but brutalization and numbing cannot have their way, and suffering can eventually be transformed into new life.
How do we respond to military tyranny in our family, our school, our work, our country? Ghandi's word "satyagraha" means "truth force." Martin Luther King's word was "nonviolence." It means embracing dissent and diversity; loving enemies, neighbors, and ourselves; acknowledging our own dark side; trusting in eternal principles; publishing the truth that we know; working together in caring communities; studying peacemaking; and overcoming fear to take risks for the sake of love. When the time comes, as it does for all of us, it means not only living out of love rather than fear, but dying out of love rather than fear.
With the 1996 campaigns in full swing, the election will dominate much of the political landscape through November. Even though many voters are skeptical about the political process, the elections do present an opportunity for Peace Tax Fund supporters to educate candidates and the public about issues of conscience and war.
What do the parties have to say? Only the platform of the Green Party specifically mentions the Peace Tax Fund Bill. (The Greens support the Bill.) However, the basis for dialogue exists with candidates in all parties because few would deny the need to protect religious liberty or to work for peace. It is from these and other ideological points that activists can work to build bridges and gain unlikely allies. Our first task is to let candidates and parties know that this issue exists, that it is important, and it will not go away.
There are many ways Peace Tax Fund supporters can work to educate candidates and the public. Below are three you might try.
Vote Smart. Before you pull the lever for any House, Senate, or Presidential candidate, find out where they stand on the Peace Tax Fund Bill. Candidates care deeply about what voters think - especially in an election year. Few voters ever take the time to contact candidates, so even one persuasive letter can make a difference. Call or write the campaign office of every candidate running. Your appeal as a concerned voter can help lift up issues of conscience and war.
Give Smart. Before you give money or volunteer to work for a candidate or a party, tell them why the Peace Tax Fund is an important issue to you and find out where they stand. Factor their reply into how much and to whom you give time and money this campaign season.
Recently, Peace Tax Fund activists in Michigan sent a contribution to a Senate candidate. They enclosed a copy of the Peace Tax Fund's brochure and a note about their interest in this issue. The candidate replied seeking more information, and was directed to the national office. This does not guarantee that the candidate will support the Peace Tax Fund Bill if elected. It does mean the Senator will have a far better grasp of issues of conscience than others.
Act Smart. Town meetings and candidate forums present opportunities to make a personal appeal. Take the opportunity to ask a short yet well thought through question at these events. Be clear about why this issue is important to you. Be sure to have a follow up question ready. Listen to the candidate's response carefully, so that your follow-up question highlights one of their points.
Bob Runyan, a Peace Tax Fund activist from Nevada, attended a town meeting with Sen. Bryan (D) and an audience of 50 people. Bob had written Sen. Bryan several times asking him to co-sponsor the Peace Tax Fund Bill, only to receive a polite yet non-committal response. At the forum, Bob reminded Sen. Bryan of his letters and asked him to talk about his position. The Senator responded that he was not familiar with the Peace Tax Fund Bill, and asked for the details. Though nervous, Bob explained the legislation. Sen. Bryan said it sounded like a good thing for him to look into. The next day, Bob contacted the national office and the Senator to set up a meeting.
These are just three ways to get leverage during this campaign season to help advance the Peace Tax Fund Bill. Other opportunities will present themselves if you think creatively. Our goal is to engage in essential education of candidates and the public, not to tell anyone how to vote. We don't need one-issue voters, even on our issues, but we all do need to know where policymakers stand.
When the 104th Congress adjourns, there will have been no Senate hearing on the Peace Tax Fund Bill. This news was conveyed to Peace Tax Fund Bill lobbyists by a tax aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) during a meeting the last week of August.
The Campaign made a Senate hearing on the Bill its top priority for 1996. Supporters believed that the desires of retiring sponsor Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Oreg.) and the stated support of Sen. Hatch, the chair of the Finance Subcommittee on Taxation, made a hearing possible.
While this has proved not to be the case, the August meeting seems to have opened the door for a hearing in the next Congress. Campaign lobbyists, based on their conversation with aides from Hatch's and Hatfield's offices, believe that Sen. Hatch continues to support the Peace Tax Fund Bill and that he may actively participate in seeking a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress.
LEADING UP TO THE MEETING
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Hatch is viewed as a champion of religious freedom. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was pivotal to its passage in 1993. Campaign lobbyists, seeking the same bipartisan support that RFRA enjoyed, sought Sen. Hatch's support as well. During a meeting with Sen. Hatch in September 1994, the Campaign seemed to have gained it. "Frankly, I like the idea," Sen. Hatch told lobbyists. "...every religious person should have this right." With those words, Bill supporters believed they had taken a significant step down the road RFRA had followed to passage.
In the 104th Congress, Sen. Hatch was a member of the committee which had jurisdiction over the Peace Tax Fund Bill, Senate Finance. He also chaired the Subcommittee on Taxation, the logical place for a hearing on the Bill. The Campaign thought Hatch's support as well as calls for a hearing from other Senators and the public might be enough to get a green light from Senate Finance chair William Roth (R-Del.).
However, by midsummer lobbyists for the Bill were wondering if they could still count on the support of Sen. Hatch. Eight Senators, at the urging of the Campaign, wrote letters to Sen. Roth and Sen. Hatch asking for a hearing on the Peace Tax Fund Bill. Short of new cosponsors, these letters were the best sign of interest and support for the Bill. Many of theseSenators would cosponsor the Bill, Campaign officials believed, after a hearing. The Campaign waited for a reply from Hatch and Roth. July came and went. There was no response.
At this point, the Campaign knew its shot at a hearing in 1996 was in trouble. Peace Tax Fund supporters sought a meeting with staff from Sen. Hatch's and Sen. Hatfield's offices. The Campaign's goal was to see if there was any chance to secure a short, possibly one-hour hearing in September or to push for a hearing early next year. Sen. Hatch's tax aide advised the Campaign not to try to sandwich a hearing in any more this year, primarily because there is so little time for Sen. Hatch to get ready for a hearing. The aide also said a hearing between now and the elections might not be helpful because it would be highly politicized.
Hatch and Hatfield's aides then suggested a change of strategy. Since the Peace Tax Fund Bill is so clearly a religious liberties issue, the Campaign should try for a hearing early next year in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Orrin Hatch will chair this committee. There he would be in a better position to help. The aides and the lobbyists strategized on how to get the Bill referred to the Judiciary Committee as well as the Finance Committee. It would require some work to make the Bill attractive to the Judiciary Committee, but those at the meeting agreed that such a joint referral was the best route.
Lead Campaign lobbyist Marian Franz was pleased with the outcome. "At this point, we think our strategy for a hearing in the future is preferable to a rushed hearing this year." Ms. Franz said this plan will draw on the Campaign's strengths by increasing the focus on the First Amendment aspect of the issue and decreasing the emphasis on mechanics of the tax code.
Campaign officials began to plan how to organize around the new strategy. "We will do all that we can to make a Senate Hearing on the Peace Tax Fund Bill in the next Congress a reality," said Campaign chair William Galvin. "We are beginning our work today."
The campaign to pass the Peace Tax Fund Bill will move forward, informed by the lessons of this year, benefiting from the focus on a hearing and the work of Campaign members to achieve this goal. Many attempts to get a House hearing were required before that dream was realized in 1992. Nothing for the Peace Tax Fund Bill comes easily, but each effort builds on previous ones. The Campaign moves forward in hope that the next Congress will be the one to hold a hearing on the Bill. We hope a hearing will break the log jam and gain the bipartisan support for the Bill that RFRA achieved. The Campaign goes into 1997 believing that the next Congress may be the one that passes the Peace Tax Fund Bill.
Revised Brochure Now Available
A revised version of the Campaign's basic brochure is now available. The brochure highlights the struggle for freedom of conscience in the United States and gives information about the Peace Tax Fund Bill and the Campaign. Contact the national office to order your copies. Bulk rates are available.
In Memoriam: Franklin Zahn
Franklin Zahn of Los Angeles, Calif., a long-time war tax resister and Campaign member, passed away in June at age 88. A pacifist since the 1930s, Franklin Zahn pioneered one of the early efforts seeking legislative relief for military tax objectors. In 1961, he and the Peace Committee of the Pacific Yearly Meeting of Friends drafted the Civilian Income Tax Act designed to establish an alternative, peacemaking use of income taxes paid by individuals who conscience does not allow them to give any support to military preparations.
Nominations for Board Accepted
Nominations are now being accepted for the board of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund. The board serves as the policy-setting and oversight body of the Campaign. Board members must be members of the Campaign, able to attend two board meetings a year, and complete committee assignments. New board members will be installed at the annual meeting in the spring of 1997. For more information, contact the national office.
The Sixth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns will be held in London, England from November 29 through December 1, 1996. The conference is being hosted by the English organization Conscience: the Peace Tax Campaign. The conference will focus on legislative advocacy, war tax resistance and peace taxpaying. The conference will close with a symbolic action for Prisoners of Conscience Day on December 1. The names of individuals in prison for resisting conscription or payment of war taxes or other peace activities will be written on streamers and delivered to the London embassy of the respective country. The last conference was held in the Basque Country of Spain in 1994 and hosted 60 participants from four continents.
Portuguese Campaign Begins
Peace tax legislation is being drafted by the Portuguese group Assciacao Livre dos Objectores e Objectoras de Consciencia (ALOOC). Beginning in October, ALOOC hopes to promote the legislation as part of a strategy to educate the public about conscientious objection to physical and financial support of the military. Presently, twelve countries have active peace tax campaigns.
The Affinity Program
Thanks to all Campaign members who enrolled in the Affinity Fund long distance telephone service. As long as you use Affinity, the Campaign will receive 5% of your monthly phone bill. This program will mean a significant financial contribution for the Campaign as well as allow us to send monthly information updates on your phone bills. For information on how you can participate, contact the national office.
Maine Couple to Stay in House
Efforts by the IRS to seize the home of Elizabeth Gravalos and Arthur Harvey of Hartford, Maine have ended. At an IRS auction in July the Gravalos/Harvey house was sold to Elizabeth's mother for $15,600. Three other pieces of land used by the family for farming were sold at a previous auction. The family will remain in their home. Arrangements are being made to allow the couple to continue to work the three parcels. In a letter delivered to the IRS before the auction, the couple stated that "it is not acceptable to our moral and religious beliefs" to pay taxes for the military.
The Campaign has a job opening for an administrative assistant/office manager. It is a fulltime, salaried position with a benefits package. We expect to fill this position by January 1997. Contact the national office for more information.
The vast majority of soldiers in war do not try to kill the enemy. Throughout history the majority of men on the battlefield would not attempt to kill the enemy even to save their own lives or the lives of their friends. It is a simple and demonstrable fact that most people have an intense resistance to killing their fellow humans. The compulsion not to kill is stronger than drill, stronger than peer pressure, even stronger than the instinct of self-preservation. This is the contention of Lt. Col. David Grossman, a college ROTCinstructor, Army psychologist, and former instructor at West Point.
In his book "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" [Little, Brown & Co, 1995], Grossman presents these important hypotheses: 1) humans possess a reluctance to kill their own kind; 2) this reluctance can be systematically broken down by standard conditioning techniques; 3) as killing ratio increases, so does Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome; and 4) the media replicates the army's conditioning techniques and contributes to our society's rising rates of murder and violence.
Making the Case on Killing
In World War II, according to Grossman, only 15-20% of combat infantry were willing to fire their guns. Those who would not fire did not run or hide. In many cases they were willing to risk great danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages, but they simply would not fire at the enemy.
"A firing rate of 15-20% among soldiers," says Grossman, "is like having a literacy rate of 15-20% among proofreaders." Therefore, modern armies have learned to overcome the reluctance to kill. In Korea, about 50% of combat infantry were willing to shoot, and in Vietnam the figure rose to over
90%. Conditioning techniques, especially the use of human-shaped pop-up cutouts in live fire exercises, overcame soldiers' inhibitions against killing. Grossman points to the desensitization techniques used by the military - the brutality and disorientation of basic training, the use of punishment and reward for previously unfamiliar behavior - as a classic example of psychological conditioning.
Among the things needed for successful conditioning are: constant praise and assurance to the soldier from peers and superiors that he "did the right thing;" parades and monuments; and an unconditionally admiring welcome by friends and society, with the proud display of medals. There is constant danger that combatants will get to know and acknowledge one another as individuals, and subsequently may refuse to kill each other. Therefore distances are important: emotional distance ("They were less than animals"); cultural distance (names like "Gook" deny the enemy's humanity); mechanical distance ("I see figures, not people, through night vision glasses"); and moral distance ("If my cause is holy, how can I sin?"). In Vietnam the process was assisted by a body count. The result of a more efficient killing rate, however, is vastly increased cases of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The Vietnam War produced more psychiatric casualties than any other war in American history.
There is also a terrible domestic cost of training reluctant soldiers to kill. High-body-count movies, television violence, and interactive point-and-shoot video games are dangerously similar to military training programs that dehumanize the enemy, desensitize soldiers to the psychological ramifications of killing, and make pulling the trigger an automatic response. They are conditioning our children to kill. A culture raised on Rambo and James Bond is led to believe that combat and killing can be done with impunity, that the soldiers will cleanly and remorselessly wipe "the enemy" from the face of the earth.
"If we had a clear-cut objective of raising a generation of assassins and killers who are unrestrained by either authority or the nature of the victim, it is difficult to imagine how we could do a better job," Grossman says. "We are reaching that stage of desensitization at which the infliction of pain and suffering has become a source of entertainment: vicarious pleasure rather than revulsion. We are learning to kill, and we are learning to like it."
Our prophets have been right. If we threaten to kill and make good that threat through military production and training, our violence will surely turn back on ourselves. The startling examples of de facto conscientious objection in this book are far from unique. We are all conscientious objectors at heart and the costs of "learning war" ravage all sides.
As we go to press, Congress is putting the final touches on spending bills for 1997. While conscience is not driven by budget percentages, these spending priorities have moral implications.
Two voices spoke to this during the recent debate. The first comes from Peace Action: "President Clinton and Congress recently got together on a welfare bill that cuts $27 billion over 6 years from the food stamp program affecting 14 million children and their families. That and other changes will throw one million additional children into poverty... Just weeks after signing the welfare overhaul bill, President Clinton has announced he will sign a military spending measure (of $265.6 billion) giving the Pentagon an $11.2 billion bonus in 1997. This comes after Congress and the White House gave the Pentagon a $7 billion increase in 1996."
The second from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.): "Mr. President, is war so glamorous, are weapons of war so beguiling, that we must turn a blind eye to the domestic cares? Must our schoolbooks fray and our bridges crumble in order to slack an unquenchable thirst for unnecessary tools of destruction? History will not judge us on our military might alone. It will also cast a critical eye on our wisdom, our learning, and our music and our arts. It will look upon our families, and the way we treat our children."