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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Floor Statement by U.S. Senator Mark Dayton Introducing Department of Peace and Nonviolence Legislation


September 22, 2005
Contact: Press Office, 202.224.3244
Press Release

Floor Statement by U.S. Senator Mark Dayton Introducing Department of Peace and Nonviolence Legislation

Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation to create a Department of Peace and Nonviolence, headed by a Cabinet-level Secretary of Peace and Nonviolence. While I am loath to add another agency to the already-oversized Federal bureaucracy, it is imperative that we elevate peace to at least the same level as war within the Federal Government, inside the President's Cabinet Room, and in our national policymaking.

The Department's mission is set forth in Section 101 of the proposed legislation. It says:

The Department shall hold peace as an organizing principle, coordinating service to every level of American society; endeavor to promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights; strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking; promote the development of human potential; work to create peace, prevent violence, divert from armed conflict, use field-tested programs, and develop new structures and nonviolent dispute resolution; take a proactive, strategic approach in the development of policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful resolution of conflict, and structured mediation of conflict; •address matters both domestic and international in scope; and encourage the development of initiatives from local communities, religious groups, and nongovernmental organizations.

The legislation mandates that an amount not less than 2 percent of the Department of Defense's annual appropriation be expended for those peacemaking and peace-advancing efforts, which does not affect the Department of Defense's level of funding. Now is clearly the time to create a Department of Peace and Nonviolence. The continuing war in Iraq, a war which I opposed, a war initiated before all attempts at peaceful resolution had been made, should teach us again that war is not the answer. Despite the incredible heroism of the men and women in our Armed Forces who have fought, patrolled, and helped so well and for so long in Iraq, 138,000 of them are still there with no end in sight. More of them are wounded, maimed, and killed every day. Terrorism activities against our troops and against Iraqi citizens are continuing and even increasing in their lethality. Tragically, wrongly, but unavoidably, anti-American hatred also continues to grow throughout the Arab world. Who can doubt that some of the sons and daughters of Iraqis killed during the past 2 ½ years of war will grow up to become vicious terrorists, hell-bent on revenge against America. Our leaders did not intend to create this anti-American backlash, what the CIA calls ``blowback.'' However, they are ignoring it at our peril. Our Nation possesses a military might that is unprecedented in the world's history and unparalleled in the world today. We must remain so. Yet, if we are to remain the world's leader, and if we are to lead the world into a more secure and a more prosperous future, we must become better known and more respected for our peacemaking successes than for our military forces. Peace is far more than the absence of war, although that is the starting point. Peace, to have any lasting value, must be advanced, expanded, and strengthened continuously. Doing so requires skill, dedication, persistence, resources, and, most importantly, people. We need thousands of American emissaries of peace at home and abroad. We need our embassies to become centers for peaceful initiatives worldwide, and we need advocates for peace-promoting policies here in Washington. This country was founded by a Revolutionary War, a necessary war for independence. But our nation's Founders wanted this to be a nation of peace. President Thomas Jefferson said, in 1801: "That peace, safety, and concord may be the portion of our native land, and be long-enjoyed by our fellow-citizens, is the most ardent wish of my heart, and if I can be instrumental in procuring or preserving them, I shall think I have not lived in vain." Mr. President, 158 years later President Dwight Eisenhower, himself no stranger to war, said: "I think people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." To further that goal, in 1984, Congress passed legislation, and President Ronald Reagan signed it into law, creating the U.S. Institute of Peace. Today, the Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan organization funded by Congress to promote peace and curb violent international conflict. The last 20 years have shown that the Institute, and all of us, have much more to do to create and to sustain a peaceful world. As with Thomas Jefferson, peace, safety, and concord for our fellow citizens is the most ardent wish of my heart. If I can be instrumental in procuring or preserving them, I think that I shall not have lived in vain. A peaceful world, inhabited by people throughout the world who have learned how to keep peace better than how to make war, who want peace, who know its benefits, and who insist that their governments let them have it--that would be the best world and the greatest inheritance we could give to our children and our grandchildren and generations that will follow them. Without it, nothing else is reliable. With it, everything else is possible.

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