Donald Rumsfeld comes to the Springs in just over a week to meet with the heads of the North American Trade Organization. His goal, many believe, will be to pressure NATO to side with the Bush administration's wars and commit troops or resources to them.
Needless to say, if Secretary Rumsfeld does intend to pressure NATO, his motives, like those of President Bush, are rash and unjust. They are rash because they undermine the international and truly multilateral order built over four centuries of international law and one century of our own American constitutional internationalism.
This internationalism was begun by President Wilson and his League of Nations and developed into the United Nations, which we -- appropriately -- host. Secretary Rumsfeld's motives would be unjust because every single country in the world has a right to its unpressured voice in a world democratic order, and no one country should be allowed to pressure others into going along with its aims -- especially military ones where human life is so much at stake.
What concerns me beyond the aim of the meeting is its location in the Springs, a military city and a future home of "Homeland Security." It is also the site of violence against demonstrators -- one of the only two places in the world where police unleashed gas on the worldwide day of protest last year, Feb. 15 (the other was Athens, Greece, and the protesters were lobbing bricks).
The Bush administration has not only abused the international community under the license to "fight terrorism," it has abused American citizens and instilled a culture of oppression and fear in our people-governed and hopeful land. It has abused our soldiers, men and women who give their lives for a country founded on the universal right of all to enjoy a life free from violence and with a decent hope of happiness. It has used them to fight questionable and unjust wars and to colonize countries while major corporations make a buck. It has tacitly sanctioned the repressive use of force by police to stop freedom of expression critical of the government.
Just as the Bush administration bullies others, it has also bullied us, especially our citizens taking an active democratic role, and especially our soldiers giving their lives for universal principles that are in no way upheld by the fighting they are ordered to do.
I am worried that the Colorado Springs Police Department will cave into the power structure of the Bush administration and the "prestige" of hosting a high-level event and will once again overreact to protesters. I am worried that Colorado Springs citizens will unreflectively take sides with the police and not with democracy and active citizenship. At the same time, I am worried that protestors will see the police as agents of violence, instead of seeing the police as who they truly should be: decent citizens who risk their lives to uphold fair laws and the civil rights of all of us. I worry that another casualty of President Bush's "war on terrorism" is the breakdown of community surrounding active democratic protest.
We cannot allow this. One of my best memories of the Colorado Springs Police Department is from the protest against Vice President Cheney's appearance at Colorado College last fall. Student protesters did a good job of communicating with the police and vice versa. One of the officers told me as I tried to make sure people were cooperating with police orders, "I served in the Marines so that you could speak your mind! Blast away! (i.e., Say what you have to say!)" This officer made me proud: He understood the relationship between the military, the police and civil, human rights.
We must remember that the rule of law is justified only when it supports human and civil rights, and we must respect every person who puts himself in harm's way to support the law of such rights.
Manipulative people make good people fight against each other. It is much easier to do dirty work when your potentially opposing community has broken down. I believe that the Bush administration and Secretary Rumsfeld want to create a breakdown of community internationally and domestically. They want the United Nations to lose power, and they want police and protesters to go head-to-head. Their aims are immoral.
Jeremy Bendik-Keymer is an assistant professor of philosophy at Colorado College. He is a member of the Colorado College Peace Project, a new campus project designed to promote long-term thinking and action toward a culture of peace.